China and the United States will increase their cooperation in health assistance to Africa, including helping to build the first disease control and prevention center on the continent, according to a top Chinese public health official.
“Public health is one area in which China, the United States and Africa can reach cooperation agreements most easily, because it is in everyone’s interest,” said Liang Xiaofeng, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
China, the US and other international parties worked well together, with excellent results, on Ebola prevention and control in West Africa in the past two years, paving the way for future cooperation, Liang said.
An African CDC headquarters will be built in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, he said. Five additional national CDCs will be built in other countries, including Egypt, Kenya and Zambia, to help the continent to fight infectious diseases, he said.
The Ebola epidemic began in early 2014 and ended late last year, striking mostly West Africa, but cases were found as far as the US and Europe. More than 10,000 people died in Africa.
Liang said China will help mostly with building the infrastructure. It will also cooperate with the US in establishing the infectious diseases report system for the CDC, he said.
China will send public health experts to the center to work and help ensure its normal operation. China has provided $2 million and the US $10 million in assistance to the CDC, he said.
The timetable for building an African CDC has not yet been established, Liang said, and many obstacles still must be worked out.
China and the US are also cooperating on some other African projects, for example on Ebola prevention and control in Sierra Leone, he said.
The project involves testing the blood and body fluids of Ebola survivors, he said.
Other African projects involving Chinese and US cooperation are being discussed, such as one promoting hepatitis B vaccination of newborns in Sierra Leone, he said.
“China and the United States, as large countries, have responsibilities to provide health assistance to poorer countries,” he said. “Ebola has proved no countries can be exempt from the threats of infectious diseases, and international cooperation is necessary for their control and prevention.”
“China is lagging behind the US in public health,” he said. “Through cooperation we can also borrow good experiences from the US.”
China has rich experience in infectious disease control and prevention, and Africa, as a continent with a large number of developing countries, resembles China much more than the US, and China’s experiences and assistance may be more useful to Africa in fighting infectious diseases, Liang said.