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China's medical aid benefits 48 African countries

02-22-2012 15:24 BJT

JINJA, Uganda, 21 (Xinhua) -- Janet Kanene, aged 60, went to different hospitals in Uganda in search of medication to her hurting back that has been aching for years.

According to her the medication she got could not provide the much needed help until she went to Jinja Referral and Regional Hospital located here in the eastern Ugandan district of Jinja.

On recommendation from a friend, she met a team of Chinese doctors who administered acupuncture treatment.

"I came here when I could not even walk but as per now I can seat, I can walk, so I thank the Chinese government for the treatment which they are giving us for free," she told Xinhua outside the ward where a Chinese doctor was waiting to treat her.

Although much has been made about China's increasing trade with Africa, less is publicized about the much needed medical aid it is giving to millions of Africans for the last over half a century.

Through this medical aid, the Asian country is directly creating stronger bonds with the locals in many African countries who cannot afford to get treatment for their ailments because of the dire poverty situation they are in.

China's ministry of health statistics indicate that by the end of 2010, China had sent 17,000 medical workers to 48 African countries, treating 200 million patients.

In Uganda, for the last about 28 years, there has been a Chinese medical team at Jinja hospital which serves approximately 2,000 patients daily from 13 neighboring districts.

Each team which has worked here on a two year basis before being replaced is composed of highly specialized doctors.

These doctors who are directly remunerated by the Chinese government provide free treatment to the locals, relieving the workload on the thinly staffed hospital.

"If you have a specialist who sacrifices to serve in a rural setting like Jinja, that is a very big sacrifice and it has been grossly welcomed by us," Michael Osinde, the Jinja Hospital Director told Xinhua in an interview on Feb. 16.

"The people of this region have enjoyed the privileges of even modern technology when it comes to equipment which we have received from China. It is something that we have enjoyed from the tax payers of the Chinese government," he added.

Apart from the medical teams, elsewhere in Uganda, China has donated malaria medicines and above all a just freshly constructed 100 bed general hospital.

The hospital dubbed China-Uganda Friendship Hospital located in the capital Kampala is expected to provide Ugandans an alternative to the over crowed Mulago Hospital, the country's main referral hospital.

China's aid vis-à-vis western aid has always been a matter of heated debate. While western aid has many strings attached, the Chinese aid has almost no strings. This at times puts analysts on a collision course.

Zou Xiaoming, the economic and commercial counsellor at the Chinese embassy here argues that both the Chinese and western methods of giving aid has advantages.

He argues that unlike aid from western countries, China's aid has got a short execution time eliminating the rigors of first establishing good governance and efficient execution ability which takes a long time given the appalling economic and social status in African countries.

"The western method may cause a low execution efficiency and undesirable value for money conditions. The Chinese way of executing grants have some advantage under the current situation. First, it definitely meets the need of grant receiving countries because China and the grant receiving countries jointly decide which projects will be provided through grant channels," said Xiaoming.

Okello Oryem, Uganda's minister of foreign affairs argues that China's aid is increasing preferable because it follows the needs of the recipient countries without putting stringent conditions.

"The difference here is the aim to meet the purpose, whereas the aid we ask from China directly relates to our wishes and intentions, some of the aid from the West are predetermined at base say in London or Washington," said Oryem.

In the medical field, China may be the only country that sends government paid medical workers to work and stay in Africa for extended periods. Other medical organizations working in Africa are sponsored by charities not governments.

Unlike the West which gives African countries expensive medical equipment, China provides low cost and yet effective equipment, according to Osinde, the Jinja hospital Director.

He also argues that for China's medical aid to create a wide impact, the Asian country should venture into other areas that the western countries have been slow to enter

He said whereas sending medical teams is critical in the short- term, in the long run, China and the Ugandan government can venture into making regional referral hospitals accredited centers of training of universities.

Each referral hospital would specialize into specific areas in the medical field for instance pediatrics, orthopedics or urology.

He argued that whereas the western countries have been slow to implement this, China can come in to help so that the number of trained medics is increased in the country.

He said another way of boosting the training of medical workers; China can send visiting professors or have exchange programs of students or lecturers.

Uganda faces a serious shortage of medical staff. According to an AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation) research carried out in 2009, there are 2,209 medical doctors, 16,221 nurses, and 1,702 lab attendants in the East African country.

These are supposed to serve the population which is approximately 31.8 million people.

Even the available medical staffs are not well remunerated some of them to leave the country in search of better pay elsewhere.

Despite these challenges, China's little mentioned medical aid to Uganda is benefiting thousands of people especially in the rural areas.

The Chinese medical teams have provided apprentice to local medical workers.

The China-Uganda Friendship Hospital will be a sanctuary for thousands of sick people and the malaria medicines have saved some lives.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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