China’s white coated angels, a messenger of friendship

"White-coated angels" from China, messenger of friendship

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Flag of China
Flag of China

In the west African country of Benin, the local word “yaba” is used by local people to refer to friends. Today, the term is closely associated with a group of people that have come from afar — members of the Chinese medical teams.

Lang Zhicun, a pediatrician from the First People’s Hospital of Yinchuan, China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, worked for two terms with the Chinese medical team. During his first term in Lokossa, Benin, Lang not only provided treatment for local children, but also taught local doctors acupuncture.

Like Lang, many selfless Chinese doctors have contributed to the advancement of global health by joining medical teams and aiding less-developed parts of the world. Since dispatching the first medical team abroad in 1963, China has dispatched more than 30,000 medical personnel to 76 countries and regions worldwide, providing more than 300 million treatments to locals.

With their tested professional knowledge and humanitarian spirit, they have built bridges of hope and friendship between the peoples of China and the recipient countries and regions.

GUARDIANS OF LIFE

As a result of their limited development, many countries and regions that receive medical aid only have basic medical service capabilities. Under such conditions, the help provided by Chinese doctors can sometimes be vital to a patient’s fate.

A midnight in August 2001, in Algeria, an emergency phone call summoned doctor Xu Changzhen to the bed of a pregnant woman. The patient was suffering from hypovolemic shock caused by stillbirth, and was struggling for life.

When Algerian medicals determined that the patient could not be saved, Xu refused to give up. After stopping the bleeding through ligation, giving the patient blood transfusion and removing the broken uterus, the patient ultimately woke up from the coma.

“My second life is given by Chinese doctors,” said the grateful patient afterwards.

Algeria was the first country China dispatched medical team to. Since 1993, Xu has been stationed there four times. The doctor’s experience is a prime example of how Chinese medical personnel safeguard the life and health of local people with love and skills.

REACH OUT IN CRISIS

Regular medical service is only one aspect of the assistance that Chinese medical teams provide. In the face of devastating incidents, Chinese medical personnel never hesitate to take up their due responsibilities.

In 2011, a passenger and cargo ship capsized and sank in the waters of Zanzibar, Tanzania, causing heavy casualties. Upon learning of the situation, Lu Jianlin, leader of the 24th Chinese medical team to Zanzibar, immediately contacted local health authorities, noting that Chinese medical team stood ready to provide medical assistance.

The Chinese medical team immediately formulated contingency plans for treatment, prepared sufficient medicine and equipment, and established a 24-hour response system. With all-out efforts, many of those who suffered injuries from the accident made a full recovery.

“We will always remember you.” The timely response and professional treatment from “good doctors from China” won the earnest praise of local people. Throughout China’s history of dispatching medical teams, over 2,000 national-level awards of recipient countries were presented to Chinese medical team members for their outstanding service.

“FISHING ROD INSTEAD OF FISH”

As the old Chinese saying goes, “It is more helpful to teach people how to fish than to just give them fish.” While providing much needed medical assistance, Chinese doctors have also passed on the “fishing rods” of treatment methods to local medical personnel, enabling them to continuously improve the efficiency and quality of local medical services.

During an Ebola outbreak in Africa in 2014, China’s 24th medical team to Guinea, headed by Wang Zhenchang, worked closely with experts from Beijing to train local authorities in safeguarding public health, in order to enhance their capacity of virus prevention and control.

According to Wang, the team trained more than 1,600 public health workers. “The training played an important role in bringing the Ebola epidemic under control. More importantly, it provided new ideas and professionals essential for the building of the local public health system in the post-Ebola period,” said Wang.

Statistics from China’s National Health Commission indicated that, China has so far initiated pair-up cooperation with 46 medical institutions in 41 countries and regions. Although the medical teams cannot stay there forever, the methods and technologies they provide continue to benefit the local people.

In 2019, Lang returned to Benin. This time, he brought the cutting-edge technology of remote diagnosis to the central hospital in Lokossa, which allows experts to provide remote consultations.

Six decades later, the determination and spirit of Chinese medical team members have been passed down through generations. Currently, in 56 countries, Chinese medical teams continue the legacy of mutual assistance between China and other developing countries.

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