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China-donated lab breaks ground in Sierra Leone

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-11-21 08:58

FREETOWN - Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma on Thursday ceremonially broke ground on a China-donated permanent fixed bio-safety level III laboratory aimed to test bacterial and other fungal diseases in the country.

Speaking before turning the sod, Koroma said what "we are witnessing today is the nucleus for our own Center for Disease Control (CDC)," which he hoped will "serve not only Sierra Leone but the entire sub-region."

He underscored that the Chinese have not only committed the provision of medical personnel to man the laboratory but also pledged to train local staff to eventually take over.

This is the beginning of the transformation "of our health care system," said the president, whose country was one of the hardest hit by the worst outbreak of Ebola on record this year.

Koroma recalled that when the Ebola disease broke out in the West African country in May, the Chinese ambassador was one of the first diplomats to commit his country's support in the fight against the deadly virus.

From that moment, he said, the Chinese have demonstrated their commitment with the dispatching of four batches of consignment of support, including medical materials, food as well as medical personnel.

In his statement, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Yanbo said China not only focused on responding to the current Ebola crisis but on transforming the country's health system in the long run.

The construction of the laboratory is one such endeavor, he said, expressing hope that the laboratory will play an important role in helping Sierra Leone improve its public system and strengthen epidemic prevention and control capability.

He promised that the Chinese government will airlift the core components of the laboratory in mid December, voicing hope that the lab will be completed in three months to serve not only Sierra Leone but the entire sub-region.

He informed the audience that the Chinese government dispatched 11 anti-Ebola public health experts to Sierra Leone to train doctors, nurses, local health workers on how to deal with infectious disease.

He disclosed that they "will train 4,000 Sierra Leoneans."

The multi-million dollars laboratory will be located behind the Sierra Leone-China Friendship Hospital which has now being transformed to a 100-bed holding center.

Ebola has killed more than 5,400 people in the three West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Some 168 new cases were confirmed in a single week in Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown recently, according to a WHO report.

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