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No letup for Chinese aid in West Africa's Ebola fight

Source:China Daily USA

Wang Xiaodong

Updated: 2014-11-03

Response is country's most sustained to ease a global humanitarian crisis

China will continue to assist West Africa in fighting Ebola until the epidemic is eradicated in the region, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

China has pledged four aid packages to Africa since April to help contain the deadly disease. The response has been China's longest lasting, most intense campaign in response to a global humanitarian crisis, Lin Songtian, director-general of the ministry's department of African affairs, said at a media briefing.

As of Friday, more than 5,000 people had died of the Ebola virus, most of them in West African countries. Infections have also been found in the United States and some European countries.

Last week, China pledged a fourth aid package worth 500 million yuan ($82 million) to help West Africa fight the outbreak. That brings total Chinese aid to fight the deadly disease to 750 million yuan, covering 13 African countries and international and regional organizations such as the United Nations, the WHO and the Africa Union, according the ministry.

Nearly 200 health workers have been sent by the Chinese government to the region, and the total number of medical experts and staff will surpass 700 with the fourth package of assistance, Lin said.

No letup for Chinese aid in West Africa's Ebola fight

The new aid includes building a 100-bed treatment center in Liberia, one of the countries hit hardest by the epidemic. The center, expected to be put to use within 30 days, will be operated by an elite squad of the Chinese army that has experience in fighting SARS.

Once open, it will be the only treatment center in the three hardest hit countries - Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea - that is constructed, staffed and operated by a foreign country, Lin said.

"We will send 480 medical workers in three groups. The first group of 160 have been well prepared and will arrive in Liberia," Lin said.

The latest aid package for the three countries will also include 60 ambulances, 150,000 personal protection items and other materials such as hospital beds, pickup trucks and incinerators.

There are 2,500 Chinese companies operating in Africa, and more than 1 million Chinese work on the continent. None of the Chinese in Africa have been confirmed to be infected by the virus, Lin said.

China has adopted stronger measures recently to prevent Ebola from spreading to China. These include requesting that governments in affected West African countries intensify inspections and quarantines of outbound travelers and initiate onboard plane inspections and body temperature tests at Chinese ports of international arrival, said Chen Jing, director of the information office of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

Yang Peng, an expert in infectious diseases at the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control who was sent to Guinea in August to aid Ebola control, said the lack of basic medical facilities poses a great challenge for West African countries in fighting the disease.

"There are not enough hospital beds, and it is very difficult for patients to get separate treatment," he said.

Yang said incinerators are also needed to dispose of bodies safely.

"I feel the people in Guinea are very friendly to Chinese," he said. "They are really in need of international aid."

China's assistance accounts for a great share of the total aid received in Guinea, according to Lin of the Foreign Ministry. The epidemic prevention materials used in the 10 neighboring countries are almost entirely from China, he said.

Besides sending public health experts, China will launch a long-term plan for China-Africa public health cooperation to help African countries strengthen their public health systems and capacity, Lin said.

wangxiaodong@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily USA 11/03/2014 page4)

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