'You are the real angels', premier tells physicians

Updated: 2014-05-08 07:10

By Zhao Yinan and Li Lianxing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Xu Wei in Beijing (China Daily)

Comments Print Mail Large Medium Small

'You are the real angels', premier tells physicians

On three-day visit to Ethiopia, Li promises that medical aid will expand

This was the moment of truth for the patient, medical personnel and a special visitor who had a particular task to perform.

As the patches, wrapped in gauze, were gently removed from his eyes, Abebe Michial, who had undergone cataract surgery, responded unmistakably his eyesight had been restored. His surprise and delight were obvious when he realized that the person standing in front of him, and who had helped remove the patches, was Premier Li Keqiang.

"Can you see?" Li asked in English.

"Yes! Yes!" Michial cried out in a voice that trembled with emotion.

Cheers rang out and congratulations echoed around the room at the Alert Hospital in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Tuesday.

Li, who was on a three-day visit to the eastern African country, joined the celebration along with Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome.

Michial, 75, is one of 300 cataract patients in Ethiopia who regained their sight under the China-funded Brightness Action initiative.

The program, which has helped millions of patients in Africa over the decades, provides free cataract surgery and workshops for local doctors.

On this occasion, six surgeons from Peking Union Medical College Hospital arrived in Addis Ababa to give free medical treatment from May 2 to 15.

Li said that what lay behind his gesture of helping to remove the patches was the recognition of the hard work of both Chinese and African doctors.

"You are the real angels and the bearers of brightness," he said.

Li promised that the government will continue to send more medical teams to Africa, as well as the most advanced Chinese technology.

Wang Liji, deputy director with the Department of International Cooperation under the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said the free surgeries and workshops were part of China's long-term plan to improve medical standards in Ethiopia.

China has been sending doctors to Ethiopia for 40 years and helped establish the Tirunesh-Beijing Ethio-China Friendship Hospital in Akaki, about 25 km south of Addis Ababa.

"We are keenly aware that teaching people to fish is more important than giving them a fish," Wang said, adding that the medical aid program will emphasize the training of local doctors so that they can treat cataract patients.

Located high on a plateau, Ethiopia is one of many African countries where cataracts are common.

"That is because the ultraviolet radiation on the plateau is stronger than in other areas, and there is more sand and the windy conditions dry out the eyes," he said.

Dong Fangtian, head of the medical team and chief physician at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital, said one of the team's primary goals is to help improve treatment for eye complaints in the country.

"We brought the best skills and equipment with us. Through the training and academic exchanges, we hope we can be of benefit to local patients," he said.

China will continue to improve its medical aid programs to Africa and enhance doctor training, he said.

"That can be achieved through instructions from our doctors who work in Africa and the training of medical students in Chinese medical colleges."

He added that China will continue providing aid programs for different countries, with each province in China having a designated country.

Solomon Bussa, director of Alert Hospital, said the arrival of Chinese specialists with high-tech equipment will boost the quality of hospital services.

"Actually the equipment has made a huge difference," Bussa said, adding that the equipment was so expensive that purchasing it would have been beyond the budget.

"We believe that this service will continue and be a springboard for further cooperation between our countries and especially our two hospitals," he said.

The China-Africa Brightness Action initiative, launched by Chinese authorities and companies in 2010 in more than five African countries, has so far treated close to 2,000 cataract patients.

China has more than 1,000 doctors working in medical teams in 42 countries in Africa, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.