The life changing care Chinese doctors bring to Africa over the years

From hopeless to hopeful: Six decades of Chinese medical teams bringing life-changing care to Africa

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Two South Sudanese students of midwifery demonstrate cardiopulmonary resuscitation skills as Chinese doctors look on in Juba, South Sudan, on May 18, 2022. Sixty South Sudanese students at the Juba Teaching Hospital College of Nursing and Midwifery are receiving specialized training by members of the ninth batch of the Chinese medical team dispatched to the world's youngest nation.TO GO WITH "Chinese medics boost capacity of South Sudanese peers to treat heart ailments" (Photo by Denis Elamu/Xinhua)
Two South Sudanese students of midwifery demonstrate cardiopulmonary resuscitation skills as Chinese doctors look on in Juba, South Sudan, on May 18, 2022. Sixty South Sudanese students at the Juba Teaching Hospital College of Nursing and Midwifery are receiving specialized training by members of the ninth batch of the Chinese medical team dispatched to the world's youngest nation.TO GO WITH "Chinese medics boost capacity of South Sudanese peers to treat heart ailments" (Photo by Denis Elamu/Xinhua)

Zhang Youming, a Chinese gynecologist, once performed several surgeries in Algeria. She spent two and a half years there, helping bring newborns into the world.

When reflecting on her stay in Algeria, the elderly woman never forgets the herder in the area who went through a challenging childbirth that led to bleeding and shock.

But Zhang swiftly resolved the crisis. “You’re the one I trust the most,” the herder said after Zhang saved her.

The incident demonstrated strong trust between China and Algeria because of individuals like Zhang.

DESTINIES OF CHINA AND AFRICA INTERTWINED

Zhang was among the 13 members of the first batch of the Chinese medical team sent to Africa. In the early dawn of 1963, the team traveled for 10 days through Moscow, Belgrade and Rabat to finally arrive in Saida, Algeria.

Carrying the mission to resurrect Algeria’s then-war-ravaged medical and health system, the team consisted of top-notch doctors from Beijing and Shanghai.

Xue Jin, a doctor from central China’s Hubei Province, took up the baton from Zhang and worked there from 1965 to 1968. During this time, Xue recalled that only one doctor and nurse had returned from studying in France, leaving the team with a skeleton staff.

Saida’s natural environment was also harsh, with frequent sandstorms, drought and intense sunlight, making it difficult for vegetables to survive.

Despite the numerous challenges, Chinese doctors have persevered to save lives, treat illnesses, forge new friendships and promote goodwill throughout Africa.

Since the 1960s, China has dispatched about 30,000 medical personnel to 76 countries and regions across five continents, primarily in Africa, and provided 290 million diagnoses and treatments, according to the National Health Commission of China.

A GLORIOUS MISSION

In the early morning of Oct. 11, Gao Lingling, a doctor from the 33rd batch of the Chinese medical team in Tanzania’s Zanzibar, rushed to the Mnazi Mmoja Hospital in Unguja to attend to a patient with an abdominal infection, resulting in a purulent and split womb while her small intestine was exposed and swelling.

In preparation for the emergency surgery, the local doctor on duty told Gao that the patient was also infected with HIV. Together with Jiang Guoqing, the leader of the Chinese medical team and an expert in general surgery, they completed the operation.

Jiang continued to help complete the operation on the HIV-infected patient despite having a bruised finger on his right hand. It was the first time both Gao and Jiang had operated on an HIV-infected patient.

“The focus in a doctor’s eyes can mean life or death for a patient. What may seem risky can save lives,” said Yang Lingling, a member of the 16th Chinese medical team in Francistown, Botswana.

Besides the risks during surgery, Chinese medical teams in Africa also confront challenging natural environments and complex medical conditions.

“It’s tough here compared to home. But our team members overcame all obstacles and quickly adapted, earning the respect of locals,” said Su Yong, a team member in the Comoros.

Every day, they endured a 45-minute mountain trek to the hospital, sometimes through heavy rains, mudslides and landslides. The team persevered despite initial uncertainty, fueled by a determination to represent China and help others.

LOFTY CAUSE

China has partnered with 46 hospitals in 41 countries and regions, establishing 25 specialty medical centers and addressing various technical gaps.

At Djibouti’s largest public hospital, Chinese doctors Zhou Naizhong and Lian Xinguang have set up the acupuncture department. They treat 20 to 40 patients daily with Chinese traditional medicine involving acupuncture and massage.

Because successive medical teams have popularized acupuncture and massage, awareness of traditional Chinese medicine in Djibouti is growing.

To benefit more people in Djibouti, the Chinese medical team in November 2022 carried out the country’s first acupuncture and massage training courses and selected 13 medical personnel to participate in the program.

For 60 years, Chinese medical teams have had a long-lasting influence in these countries. A Chinese doctor performed surgery on a patient named Keddaoui Anurni to remove her ovarian cysts using minimal incisions. The procedure inspired the 14-year-old to pursue a career in medicine.

Chinese medical teams have shifted their focus from offering short-term aid to fostering sustainable medical development. Their efforts have saved countless lives, enhanced medical expertise in these nations and trained over 100,000 healthcare professionals, producing lasting outcomes.

As China and Africa work towards building a community with a shared future in the new era, including a global community of health for all, the Chinese doctors serving on aid missions in Africa have become shining exemplars in this lofty cause.

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