Doctors from the 29th Chinese medical team to the Republic of the Congo provide physical exam for children at an adoption center in Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo, May 30, 2023. [Photo by Guy-Gervais Kitina/Xinhua]
China plans to ramp up its foreign medical aid drive, including mobilizing resources from public and private sectors, providing assistance in public health and traditional medicine, as well as nurturing more talent, a senior health official said recently.
Ma Xiaowei, minister of the National Health Commission, made the comments in a signed article published on Monday as this year marks the 60th anniversary of China sending its first medical team abroad to Algeria in 1963.
"By the end of 1978, China had dispatched medical aid groups to over 30 countries in Asia and Africa, and funded the establishment of more than 20 hospitals or medical centers overseas," he said in the article published in People's Daily newspaper.
Since the launch of its reform and opening-up policies in the 1970s, China has expanded the scope of its foreign aid programs. By the end of 2012, the number of countries or regions that saw Chinese aid teams rose to 66 and the number of China-funded hospitals increased to 80.
Ma said that over the past six decades, China has sent a total of 30,000 medical aid workers to 76 countries and regions overseas and helped set up more than 130 medical facilities.
"They have provided diagnosis and treatment for 290 million patients and saved countless lives," he said, adding that over 50 Chinese medical workers lost their lives overseas and more than 2,000 received national-level honors conferred by overseas authorities.
Ma said that Chinese teams have also helped train over 100,000 medical workers and built paired assistance programs with 46 hospitals in 41 countries and regions overseas. "Meanwhile, 25 clinical centers that specialize in particular disciplines have been established, introducing thousands of technologies previously unavailable locally overseas," he added.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, China also launched its largest global emergency humanitarian aid mission since 1949.
"The country sent 38 anti-COVID expert panels to 34 countries and supplied over 2.2 billion vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organizations," he said.
"China's foreign aid drive has shifted from the mode of 'blood transfusion' to the sustainable method of 'blood-making'," he said, referring to the transition from merely giving medical assistance and donations to helping nurture local doctors and expanding local medical capacity.
While China's growing economic prowess and rapidly developing healthcare industry have laid a solid foundation for continuing foreign aid, and its medical experiences are easier to promote in developing countries, Ma said that challenges have also emerged due to rising difficulties in global cooperation in the health sector.
Ma suggested gathering resources from governments, industries and social organizations to beef up power dedicated to foreign aid, promoting domestically-made medical equipment and Chinese standards overseas.
He also called for sending both long-term medical teams as well as short-term expert panels, incorporating assistance in the fields of public health and traditional medicine, and supporting the establishment of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"More talent, ranging from health diplomats, medical aid workers, public health specialists and global health specialists should be cultivated, and special attention should be paid to improve their treatment and salaries," he said.