Chinese medical donations to Pakistan save lives, help frontline fighters against COVID-19

Source:Xinhua Published: 2020/5/19 13:30:35

Photo taken on March 29, 2020, shows China-aided anti-coronavirus supplies at Noor Khan Air Base near Islamabad, Pakistan. (Xinhua/Liu Tian)

Gilgit Baltistan region in northern Pakistan is a world-recognized Shangri-La for its astonishing mountainous landscape, but the current COVID-19 pandemic does not let it be free from the virus as some 500 people have been infected in the remote area that is short of medical materials.

Timely assistance to save lives

Arshad Ayub, 22, is a student in the region. When doctors at a hospital revealed the spine-tingling news of his father being infected with COVID-19, he got so scared. What more horrifying for him was that his old man's condition was worsening, but hospitals there did not have enough ventilators to give life support if his dad's health further deteriorated.

"I can't forget the agony and panic my family went through. My father was isolated at hospital. We were isolated at home and doctors are telling us everyday that they are trying to arrange the 'sophisticated medical machinery' to help my father and other possible serious patients defeat the disease, but our only concern was, what if they fail to arrange the ventilator?"

According to Faizullah Firak, spokesperson of the Gilgit Baltistan local government, the whole region, which is home to about 1.8 million people, had only five to seven ventilators in its public hospitals, which were not enough to deal with the pandemic. Other medical supplies including masks and personal protection equipment (PPE) for the frontline medical staff were scarce and the local government was also in shortage of testing kits to identify patients.

Workers carry donated face masks at Chinese Embassy in Pakistan on March 20, 2020 in Islamabad. (Xinhua/Liu Tian)

At the request of the local government, China was quick to respond to the call and helped the region by sending medical supplies including ventilators. "China helped us like ever, rekindling the everlasting friendship between the two countries," Firak told Xinhua.

After the timely assistance, fortune smiled on Ayub's father. Local officials came to the family with good news that they've got ventilators and other medical supports from brotherly neighbor China to help people like them in the hour of need. "It was not less than a miracle for us, with the medical support my father's condition got better and now he is back to a healthy life," Ayub told Xinhua.

The local government spokesman said that the Chinese medical supplies are enough in the region's battle against the disease for a long time till they become self-sufficient of the medical equipment.

Project frontline medics

Pakistan registered its first COVID-19 patient in the end of February, and the cases saw a spike in the following months. According to the recent figures by the country's health department, Pakistan has over 40,000 confirmed cases and it registered over 800 deaths across the country.

Though health departments and hospitals were prepared to face the challenge, medical necessities, including PPEs and N95 face masks, for the frontline staff were quickly consumed and became insufficient to protect the medical staff working in screening and managing the disease at hospitals. Hundreds of them contracted the disease due to non-availability of the protection equipment in the country.

Photo taken on April 26, 2020 shows medical materials donated by China Three Gorgers Corporation to Pakistan arrive at Islamabad International Airport. (Xinhua/Li Hao)

 President of the Young Doctors Association of Punjab province, Salman Haseeb, who has fought in the frontline against the pandemic, told Xinhua that doctors were afraid to go on duty due to non-availability of the PPEs. "In this situation when there is a lack of necessary equipment, going to the hospital is just like going to a warfront," he said.

Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad is a designated hospital to treat the coronavirus infected patients and is also one of the many hospitals in the country which got medical donation from China to enable its frontline staff prevent themselves from contracting the disease.

In a conversation with Xinhua, Anser Maxood, executive director of PIMS, said that not only the Chinese government, but also Chinese people and companies working in Pakistan extended help to them through donations which his hospital got from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). The donations are enough to protect 4,000 medical staff in PIMS against the disease.

"All the PPEs being worn by the medical staff and health workers in PIMS are a donation from China which is a great help from Chinese brothers and government. China is a very dear friend, and pandemic gave us the chance to see how close the China-Pakistan friendship is and how China is helping Pakistan in the hour of need," said Maxood.

Real friends in testing time

Pakistan is among the first to show its solidarity with China since the outbreak of COVID-19. Besides a batch of medical materials sent to China, the country's Prime Minister Imran Khan had phone talks with the Chinese leadership and President Arif Alvi has paid a visit to Beijing amid the pandemic.

Workers unload the medical materials which arrive with the Chinese medical expert team at the Islamabad International Airport in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, March 28, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Tian)

 Pakistan is also the first country in the world that get testing kits from China. Later on, through different channels, medical assistance and expert teams from China constantly reached Pakistan in an effort to jointly curb the spread of the pandemic in the country.

"China came with help at the time when we were facing a lot of trouble even to find ordinary surgical masks which were either not available in the local market or were being sold at very inflated prices," NDMA Chairman Lieutenant General Muhammad Afzal told Xinhua.

The only help during the testing time of the initial spike during the pandemic came from China, he said. "Our brothers in China stood by us and helped us in a big way to fight against the disease, specially during the critical time of the outbreak of the disease, enabling us to take the initial on start and give the initial cushion to recover from the shock of the disease."

Pakistani experts said that Pakistan and China have always supported each other at every front, and China's help in Pakistan's fight against COVID-19 is the recent example of their deep-rooted friendship.

Kalsoom Sumra, assistant professor at Centre for Policy Studies in Comsats University Islamabad, said that upon the peak of COVID-19 in China, Pakistan extended help to China but China returned the favor in a big way when the outbreak happened in Pakistan.

"By the medical donations which are still being received by Pakistan, China has not only helped Pakistan save lives of the COVID-19 patients and protected its medical staff from contracting the disease, but also won the hearts not only of the people who are directly related to the patients and the doctors, but also of the whole country by showing Pakistanis once again that their Chinese brother will never leave the country alone in crisis."

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