China has tripled its aid to Ebola-stricken Western African countries in a bid to tackle what the government has called “the most severe public health crisis to the international community in modern history”. The fourth batch of emergency assistance since April brings China’s total contribution to RMB 750 million (EUR 98 million), making it the second biggest donor country to date. Speaking at a press conference in Beijing on 30 October, Lin Songtian, the Director General of the Department of African Affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said the new pledge by China reflected the increase in intensity of the disease whose spread is “far from under control”, “the practical threat it poses to world peace and stability”, and China’s commitment to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the African people and the international community in times of crisis.
The latest round of aid will add another 500 medical staff and public health experts to the 200 Chinese nationals already dispatched to the region to treat patients and train local doctors and nurses. Within days of its announcement, construction already started on a 100-bed treatment centre in Liberia, where the epidemic is at its worst. The centre, expected to be operational within 30 days, will be run by an elite humanitarian-aid squad of the People’s Liberation Army who have already seen action in the 2003 fight against SARS. China will also provide Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone with 60 ambulances, 100 motorcycles, 10,000 health-care kits, 150,000 personal protection kits as well as other materials such as hospital beds, pick-up trucks and incinerators.
A Chinese mobile medical lab in Sierra Leone has helped improve the efficiency and effectiveness of treatment since it began testing blood samples of suspected Ebola carriers on 17 September. In Liberia, the Chinese contingent of the UN Mission is set to help build an Ebola Quarantine and Control Center in the capital city of Monrovia.
“400 Chinese peace-keepers in Africa are already helping people there in fighting the disease. China’s assistance will not stop as long as the Ebola epidemic [continues] in West Africa,” said Mr. Lin. As part of a long-term plan, he said China will also launch a programme of public health cooperation, to help African countries to strengthen their public health systems and capacity to deal with epidemics.
Mr. Lin also said that China is strongly committed to facilitating open and active international cooperation in the fight against the disease. China has donated US$ 6 million to the UN Ebola Response Multi-partner Trust Fund, and cooperates closely with the local, UN, African Union, U.S. and European teams on the ground. “We have seen a lot of tangible results from this cooperation, whether it is medical teams working side by side or the U.S. air force helping unload Chinese aid materials,” said Mr. Lin.
“We hope that all stakeholders will further enhance communication and coordination, as well as support the leading and coordinating role of the UN and the WHO to make the assistance more effective and targeted,” said Mr. Lin. It is urgent, he added, that all countries deliver on their aid pledges and mobilise yet more resources. “It is only by pulling together and working with greater synergy that we will be able to declare a final victory against Ebola,” he said.