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Building a community of shared health

By WU CHUANHUA | China Daily | Updated: 2020-04-28 07:51
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COVID-19 highlights the importance of strengthening public health cooperation between China and Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the shortcomings of global public health governance in Africa, highlighting the urgency of strengthening the construction of a global public health prevention and control system. Most African countries have fragile and weak public health systems, and the impact of the pandemic on Africa is particularly worrying.

After the outbreak of the pandemic, China and Africa have supported each other and worked closely together, showing their traditional friendship and their solidarity, embodying the spirit of a community with a shared future for mankind as well.

Medical and health cooperation is an important part of China-Africa relations. The Chinese medical team for Africa has a history of 57 years, and there are still 973 Chinese medical staff in 45 African countries at present. After the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, China launched the largest medical and health foreign aid operation in history. The COVID-19 pandemic further highlights the importance and urgency of strengthening medical and health cooperation between China and Africa, especially in the field of public health security.

China-Africa public health cooperation is conducive to dealing with major public health emergencies. Both Ebola and COVID-19 show that viruses recognize no national boundaries. Public health security is a common challenge for all people, and the international community should join hands to fight against the pandemic. In this aspect, China and Africa have always supported and helped each other, strengthened their cooperation, demonstrated the strength of solidarity and set a model to jointly cope with major public health emergencies through unity and cooperation.

Cooperation between China and Africa is conducive to improving the medical and health level of both sides. For historical reasons, Africa's medical and health systems are fragile, and their ability to deal with infectious diseases and major public health emergencies is weak. Strengthening China-Africa public health cooperation will contribute to improving the medical systems in Africa, and enhance the ability of African countries to guarantee people's health. In this process, China's ability to participate in international health cooperation has also been strengthened, which plays a positive role in promoting domestic medical and health services.

China-Africa public health cooperation is also conducive to comprehensively developing China-Africa relations. Improving the public health systems of African countries, strengthening their prevention and control capabilities, and developing their public health industries will not only improve the health and well-being of African people, but also lead China-Africa cooperation to a more comprehensive, deeper and higher level development. Meanwhile, their cooperation is also contributing to deepening mutual understanding, promoting people-to-people exchanges, and consolidating the foundation of the long-term friendship between China and Africa.

Public health security has become a prominent global issue. To ensure global public health security through cooperation has become one of the important issues of global governance. Africa is in a marginal and vulnerable position in global public health governance. In line with the global governance concept of "extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits", China has strengthened public health cooperation with Africa, and promoted the global public health governance in the direction of co-governance and good governance, which will benefit China and Africa as well as the world.

In view of the above, China-Africa public health cooperation should be strengthened in the following aspects. First, improve the public health system in Africa. So far, most African countries have not established a sound, responsive and effective public health prevention and control system, which poses a great challenge to health security in Africa. China supports African countries improving their public health system and it is providing Africa with more assistance for the prevention and control of the human immunodeficiency virus, malaria and tuberculosis, as well as in the key public health fields, such as maternal and child health and reproductive health. Such cooperation is very significant for enhancing Africa's health security capacity and promoting medical and health services in Africa.

Second, promoting the construction of public health software and hardware in Africa. In terms of hardware, China will vigorously support the construction of the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and continue to build some hospitals for African countries. In the long run, China and Africa need to actively explore ways to cooperate in the construction, management and operation of hospitals. In terms of software, much importance should be attached to the application of technology in the provision of medical services and healthcare.

Third, strengthen public health talent training in Africa. The shortage of trained medical personnel is one of the bottlenecks for the development of medical and health services in Africa. China has trained a large number of medical and health professionals for Africa over the years, but that has been far from meeting the needs of African countries. In the future, human resource development and training should be strengthened particularly in China-Africa public health cooperation. More training of management and medical staff and more transfer of technology will help African countries to improve their self-reliance in public health.

Fourth, promote China-Africa medical and health cooperation should gradually broaden its cooperation mode. Assistance should be combined with investment. The development of the medical and health industries in African countries should be combined with their industrialization. Therefore, it is necessary to support Chinese medical and health enterprises to invest in Africa, and encourage Chinese medical and health institutions to open hospitals, produce drugs and provide medical services in Africa. Deepening cooperation will not only help Africa to enhance its healthcare capacity, but also help China's medical and health industry to go into Africa.

In conclusion, to strengthen China-Africa public health cooperation and build a new type of cooperative relationship will not only be beneficial to both sides, it also has important significance for safeguarding global health security and improving global health governance.

The author is a research fellow with China-Africa Institute, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and executive editor-in-chief of the Journal of China-Africa Studies. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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