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Fighting disease in Africa will get a boost

Wang Xiaodong
Updated: Aug 18,2018 7:39 AM     China Daily

China plans to intensify cooperation with African countries on public health to help fight infectious diseases, a senior health official said on Aug 17.

China will support the building of the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and help African countries to establish public health systems that suit their own national conditions and development, Cui Li, deputy head of the National Health Commission, said at the High-Level Meeting on China-Africa Health Cooperation, which opened on Aug 17 in Beijing.

In addition, China will accelerate carrying out public health projects it has committed to in Africa, including a research center for control and prevention of tropical diseases in Sierra Leone, and a reference lab in Liberia with elevated ability to test for and diagnose infectious diseases, she said.

“China has successful experiences and technologies in the control and elimination of infectious diseases, such as malaria and schistosomiasis, a disease caused by a parasitic worm that is more common in hot and humid climates,” Cui said. “China would like to cooperate with Africa to help fight these diseases in Africa.”

The country is also willing to help train more African health professionals, and will establish a national scholarship program to support African students who study medicine in China, she said.

As a major effort to help Africa improve its public health system to better cope with infectious diseases, following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, China and some other countries, including the United States, pledged to build the Africa CDC in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, which is the site of the African Union headquarters.

Speaking at a sideline forum on Aug 17, Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said detailed plans for the Africa CDC will be released soon, and experts from the China CDC are working with health experts in Africa to prepare for the center’s opening.

“China, the US and Africa will work together to build the center,” he said.

Feng Yong, deputy director of the international cooperation department at the National Health Commission, said progress has been made quickly on the Africa CDC. “I think construction of buildings can start before the end of the year, if everything goes well,” he said.

John Nkengasong, director of the Africa CDC, said the center will strengthen the capacities and partnerships of Africa’s public health institutions to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks.

“It will contribute to a safer, healthier and prosperous Africa,” he said.

Public health has become a top priority for China-Africa health cooperation following the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which exposed the lack of an effective public health system in Africa. The outbreaks, which occurred in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, caused more than 11,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.