China, Africa accelerate efforts to battle virus

By Joyce Chimbi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/17 21:53:40

An Ethiopian Airlines cargo flight filled with medical supplies donated to Africa from the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation arrives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 22, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

China-Africa joint efforts to combat the deadly novel coronavirus has been accelerated through an extraordinary China-Africa summit Wednesday on enhancing anti-COVID-19 solidarity and further promoting ties.

Cooperation between the African continent and the East is so critical. The summit that displayed solidarity against COVID-19 was held through a video link. 

In the past, Africa has looked East for much needed economic aid, support and guidance. Now in the midst of the most serious health crisis in modern times, the continent continues to look East. 

This important summit was jointly proposed by China, South Africa and Senegal, and will be attended by leaders across Africa and the chairperson of the African Union Commission. 

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, the secretary general of the United Nations and the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) will attend the meeting as special guests.

As of press time, a total of 252,544 COVID-19 cases have been reported across the continent with at least 6,779 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Fears that the continent is ill-prepared to contain this highly contagious virus are becoming a reality as countries struggle to contain it with a grossly underdeveloped health system. 

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rises steadily, it is proving difficult to isolate all patients in already constrained health facilities. Take Kenya for instance. The Ministry of Health has recently launched its home-based isolation and care guidelines for COVID-19 asymptomatic patients who will now be sent home for care and recovery. 

While this goes against WHO recommendations that any laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases be isolated and cared for in health facilities, the reality on the ground is that many African countries cannot cope with this virulent disease.

Against this desperate backdrop, the continent is in urgent need of medical and financial aid, support, and guidance to combat this pandemic. 

Fortunately, this summit is not the first outreach from China to Africa as the pandemic slowly gets out of hand in many African countries. 

On April 17, a joint proposal on Africa and China Working Together to Fight Against COVID-19 was released online in six languages including Chinese, English, French, Arabic, Swahili and Hausa. These are all commonly spoken languages across the continent. 

To promote international communication around accurate and timely dissemination of information about the novel coronavirus, a China-Africa media webinar was held on June 3. 

China remains proactive in boosting joint efforts to strengthen practical cooperation to address the significant threat that the novel coronavirus poses to the health of African citizens and the economy.

In April, China delivered medical supplies for 18 African countries through Accra, Ghana where the material was, within days, distributed to the other 17 countries. 

A sign of just how deep ties between Africa and China run, support has not been limited to the government as individuals and Chinese companies have not been left behind. Earlier in March, China's Jack Ma Foundation made massive medical supplies donations to 54 African countries. 

Chinese companies operating across the continent are now supporting infrastructure development to help curb this pandemic. In Zimbabwe for instance, Chinese companies, working hand in hand with the Chinese embassy, have mobilized more than $500,000 toward the renovation of Wilkins Hospital in Harare, the capital and the country's most populous city. 

This is an important hospital therefore, and is currently the designated main isolation and treatment facility for COVID-19 management. 

China's support to Africa has also included dispatching teams of medical experts. China has successfully contained the virus in a manner that has been lauded internationally, and African countries are eager to receive much needed technical support. 

One of the most outstanding infrastructure landmarks by China across the continent has been in its state of the art railway lines. It is therefore heartwarming that China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd sourced a group of medical experts, who arrived in Abuja, Nigeria on April 8. 

The medical team was equipped with experience from China and ready to assist local health experts to comprehensively, resolutely and effectively deal with this pandemic. 

Overall, African leaders including Namibia's President Hage Geingob has defined President Xi Jinping's efforts in China toward curbing the virus as outstanding leadership. It is this leadership that many expect to see replicated across the continent.  

The author is a Kenya-based journalist.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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