SHAN JUAN
Displayed with permission from China Daily

Diseases come and go in Africa, but China’s help continues, with such efforts as the public health center it launched in Sierra Leone during West Africa’s Ebola crisis in 2014.

Diseases come and go in Africa, but China’s help continues, with such efforts as the public health center it launched in Sierra Leone during West Africa’s Ebola crisis in 2014.

Although Ebola has faded, the China-built public health center, the only one in the country so far, is being made permanent to support local epidemic control, a senior health official told China Daily.

Wang Yu, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said five Chinese CDC specialists now work in the facility in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

« More Chinese doctors are planned, » he said.

Tasks of the public health center include surveillance and detection, lab work and regular immunization against infectious diseases.

Thomas Samba, a regional director of Sierra Leone’s National Public Health Agency, said that with China’s help, the nation can train more public health workers and be better equipped to defend itself if there ever is a comeback of Ebola or other infectious diseases.

During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, China sent aid worth $120 million and dispatched more than 1,200 medical workers, including public health specialists, to 13 affected countries, including Sierra Leone, to help combat the disease.

Wang of China CDC said that « it’s important to empower Africa » and to let it accumulate local capability, because there’s no telling when Ebola or another infectious disease might make a comeback.

Samba said there was a lack of public health services before the Ebola outbreak. In the country of 7 million people, there are only 20 to 30 public health specialists, nearly all trained abroad, although China is helping to improve the situation, he said.

« The concept and procedures to contain Ebola fit all other emerging pathogens as well, » Samba said. « Capacity-building in public health is a major part of our nation’s full recovery plan. »

According to Wang, the West African countries hit hard by Ebola, which killed more than 11,000 people in the region, have all seen their development process wobbling, if not entirely halted. So « any small help can make a whole world of difference, » he said.

After the Ebola crisis, China made an offer to the African Union to help build a disease control and prevention center in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, where the organization has its headquarters.

The center will cover 54 countries in Africa, many of which have no functional public health system, he said.

« It’s a project endorsed by the presidents of China and the US and carried out by personnel from both countries, » Wang said. More Chinese specialists will soon be commissioned to aid the operation of the African Union’s CDC.

China also helps itself by helping others, said Gao Fu, deputy director of China CDC. « Our experience in Africa helps us make our disease prevention more effective. »

Gao also urged the Chinese government to build a new lab of the highest biosafety level, known as p4, in North China.

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Copyright 2016 actualité africaine