China will assist the African Union in building its own centers for disease control and prevention, a move that is expected to greatly increase African nations’ capacity to fight infectious diseases.
“We are very likely to help African countries build several CDCs,” said Wang Liji, vice-director for international cooperation at the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
The African Union proposed building its own centers following the Ebola epidemic, which caused about 10,000 deaths in several West African countries after last year’s outbreak, he said.
Wang made the remarks on March 24 following an awards ceremony recognizing 10 Chinese doctors and nurses who were sent by the government to other developing countries to provide medical assistance in the past few years.
China has provided $120 million in assistance to African regions hit by Ebola and sent about 1,000 medical experts to help fight the deadly disease.
China will continue to support African countries in building health systems, intensifying health and medical training and supporting the African Union’s effort to build disease control centers, said Cui Li, vice-minister in charge of the commission, during a two-day international academic conference on the Ebola virus that concluded on March 24 in Beijing.
Wang, the commission vice-director, said many African countries lack CDCs and public health workers, which means they have limited ability to diagnose or control major infectious diseases.
“For them to build CDCs, it’s almost like starting from scratch. Huge challenges lie ahead,” he said. “It needs a huge amount of capital, and a lot of time.”
Some other countries have also pledged support to Africa in building such centers, including the United States, Wang said.
According to Lu Hongzhou, a professor at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, the lack of CDCs and public health workers was a major reason for the seriousness of the Ebola epidemic last year in some African countries.
“In Sierra Leone, for example, there is not a single center for disease control and prevention,” said Lu, who stayed in the country for two months last year. He was a member of a medical team sent by the Chinese government to Sierra Leone to help the country cope with Ebola in November and December.
The commission’s Wang said that in addition to helping African countries build centers for disease control and prevention, China will devote more resources to cultivating health and medical talent, as many African countries are in dire need.