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Chinese doctor looks back at his journey with UN in Mali

By Aybek Askhar | | Updated: 2020-09-18 18:56
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Zhu Siqiang, a member of the medical unit sent to serve in the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, returned to China after completing his deployment on August. Recalling the mission, he was full of pride.

"Although the Malians helped by us struggled to remember our names, they knew where to go for help when they saw the Chinese flag," Zhu said.

Zhu was the commander of the seventh Chinese Level 2 Hospital in The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, and he served that role since May 2019.

As a landlocked nation in southern Sahara, Mali has about 65 percent of its territory covered by desert or semi-desert, and with prolonged drought and high temperature, the peacekeepers encounter a lot of trouble in their lives there.

Zhu said when they first arrived in Mali, many members were unable to adapt to the dry and hot environment and they could not even find a flat land to camp, so that they could only rest on uneven ground at night.

"We knew that we would face various difficulties, and most of us could overcome them, but when we heard the bomb exploding not far away, the psychological challenge was great and it was hard to recover," said Zhu.

Zhu said on one occasion, a 100mm-caliber rocket exploded about 3 meters away from their camp. Due to the loud sound of explosion, the strong vibration threw the sleeping peacekeepers off the bed.

"We were in shock at that time, but since we experienced several similar explosions every month, we gradually got used to it. We must be strong because there are many war-torn people who need our help," Zhu said.

As a doctor, Zhu often met local people who came for medical assistance. In many cases, a disease that appears to be mild to him was indeed beyond the reach of local medical resources.

Once, a local resident who was vomiting came to Zhu's hospital for help. He said that local doctors could not do anything about it.

"However, after examination, I found that he just had acute gastroenteritis. His symptoms disappeared shortly after he had some medicine offered by me. From then on, I became their miracle doctor," said Zhu.

Even though it was difficult to adapt to the environment, and hard to communicate with the locals because of language barriers, Zhu said he still thinks it was an once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"When we were on our way to the airport and ready to return home, I found that when many locals saw the Chinese flag hanging on the car, they gave us the thumbs-up sign and smiled to us, and that is something I will never forget," said Zhu.

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