Boost China-Sudan Medical Cooperation for a Great Wall of Health
Chinese Ambassador to Sudan Ma Xinmin Publishes a Signature Article on Khartoum Today
18 August 2020
The unparalleled outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has had an enormous impact on Sudan. In the face of the grave challenge posed by COVID-19, China and Sudan have stood side by side in their fight against the virus. It demonstrates the sound partnership between the two nations that always pull together as one in times of adversity and the increasingly closer ties of brotherhood between the two peoples, and adds a new chapter to the medical cooperation between the two sides. China-Sudan medical cooperation that has extended over nearly half a century, always takes the lead in China-Arab and China-Africa medical cooperation. It stands as an important historical witness to China-Sudan friendly relations and is integral to China-Sudan strategic partnership.
China-Sudan Medical Cooperation Renewed Through Sustained Efforts for Half a Century
In 1971, China sent the first medical assistance team to Sudan, setting China-Sudan medical cooperation in motion. It was one of the largest Chinese medical assistance teams with longest history dispatched to Africa. Over the past 49 years, China has dispatched, without intermission, an aggregate 1,023 medical workers in 35 groups to the country. They offered free diagnostic services to 8.22 million Sudanese patients, cured 300,000 hospitalized patients and conducted over 200,000 surgeries. A number of sophisticated and high-level surgical operations performed by Chinese doctors free of charge to free local patients from sufferings and save their life filled the gaps in Sudan’s medical field. The Chinese medical assistance team has received wide acclaim and built an excellent reputation for their superb medical expertise and benevolence. They also forged deep friendship with the locals. Many Chinese doctors that are greatly touched by the amity and hospitality of Sudanese people have revisited Sudan, even accompanied by their spouses and children, to continue their medical assistance in the locality.
In 1998, the Shanghai-Sudan Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd (SSPC), a joint venture between the Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding Co., Ltd. (SPH) and Sudan’s Central Medical Supplies Co., Ltd., was established, a milestone that pioneered China-Africa cooperation in pharmaceutical investment. As a core product introduced by the SSPC to eliminate malaria that once threatened the health of Chinese and Sudanese people for long, the artemisinin-based malaria medicine has been sold in better quality and at a lower price for more than 40 million boxes in the past 20 years and more. Additionally, to raise Sudan’s pharmaceutical capacity and cultivate pharmaceutical personnel for the country as its mission, the SSPC worked with the Sudanese side to research and develop new drugs, in an effort to help Sudan develop its domestic pharmaceutical industry.
From 2000 onwards, China-Sudan medical cooperation thrived thanks to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) mechanism. The Chinese government renovated and extended three friendship hospitals in Omdurman, Abu Ushar and Damazin, and had them outfitted with advanced diagnostic and treatment equipment. In 2016 and in 2018, Chinese ophthalmologists carried out two “Brightness Action” projects in Sudan, providing free cataract surgery for more than 1,300 local patients. In recent years, bilateral pharmaceutical trade volume has seen steady growth to approximately USD 100 million at the moment, ranking top 10 in Africa. Moreover, China has provided a considerable number of scholarship and training opportunities in the pharmaceutical field for the Sudanese side.
China-Sudan Strategic Partnership Cemented in Their Joint Fight Against COVID-19
Leaders of China and Sudan attach high importance to bilateral cooperation against COVID-19 with greater unity and mutual trust. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Sudanese President Burhan have exchanged messages. Premier Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Hamdok have talked on the phone. And State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Sudanese counterpart Asma have extended greetings to each other. The two sides always provide each other political support and support the role of the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in leading and coordinating the global epidemic response. Both countries oppose any politicization, name-calling or stigmatization associated with the virus. The proposal of building a community of health for all made by China is highly applauded by Sudanese leaders.
China and Sudan extended a helping hand to each other at the critical juncture, which cements a growing friendship between the two peoples. At the height of the COVID-19 situation in China, people from all sectors in Sudan promptly provided China with their strong support. In return, China has so far delivered 12 batches of medical supplies to Sudan, doing as much as possible to help Sudan with its battle against the virus.
China renders all-round support for Sudan’s anti-epidemic battle, which contributes to deeper bilateral medical cooperation. The National Health Commission of China held expert meetings via video link with the Sudanese Ministry of Health to share China’s experience and good practices in prevention, containment and treatment of the coronavirus disease. The Chinese medical assistance team to Sudan delivered seven training sessions among Sudanese medical personnel to share their know-how on epidemic response, and produced science programs to educate the general public on how to protect themselves from the virus. Such programs are aired repeatedly by the Sudan state television.
It is the Chinese government that sent an anti-epidemic medical expert team, the largest of its kind that consists of medical experts with the fullest range of specialty, to assist Sudan in battling the virus. During their 15-day work in Sudan, Chinese experts had in-depth exchanges with the government officials, medical professionals and medical staff of the Sudanese side, and had seminars with the establishments of international organizations in Sudan including the WHO, United Nations Children’s Fund and Doctors Without Borders. They also paid 14 visits to eight local medical institutions such as the public health laboratory, the designated hospital, the isolation center and the makeshift hospital, and held 18 training sessions and lectures on epidemic prevention and control for about 2,600 attendees from all quarters. Furthermore, they gave pertinent advice and suggestions on epidemic prevention and containment, diagnosis and treatment, and emergency management.
The results of the Chinese medical expert team’s work are highly acclaimed by the people from all sectors in Sudan. Prime Minister Hamdok and Prof. Siddig Tawer, the member of the Sudanese Sovereign Council and Chairman of the Supreme Health Emergencies Committee met with all Chinese medical experts at the respective appreciation ceremony. Prime Minister Hamdok even expressed on the social media platform his gratitude to Chinese medical experts. The Chinese medical expert teams gained the trust and respect of their Sudanese counterparts and were greeted warmly by the people of Sudan. Their contribution hit the headlines of mainstream Sudanese media and social media platforms many times.
China-Sudan solidarity against COVID-19 is a perfect example of the close friendship between the two nations sharing weal and woe. It demonstrates again the high level and significance of their strategic partnership, and could be hailed as a new milestone in China-Sudan medical cooperation.
China-Sudan Medical and Health Cooperation Sure to Be Deepened in the Post-pandemic Era
The public health system of Sudan still faces considerable pressure as the coronavirus continues to ravage across the globe. China is willing to take the cooperation against COVID-19 as an opportunity to continue deepening its medical and health cooperation with the Sudanese side and to build an iron wall of defense for people’s safety and health.
It is imperative to make best use of three mechanisms. First and foremost, a host of important proposals and initiatives announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly and at the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against COVID-19 need to be implemented. Next, medical and health aid programs under the framework of the FOCAC and the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF) need to be advanced. And third, the potential of bilateral medical cooperation needs to be tapped to upgrade current collaborative programs including the Chinese medical assistance team to Sudan and the China-Sudan friendship hospitals.
It is wise to focus on three major areas. The first is to strengthen exchanges in public health governance, including exchanges with respect to early warnings, emergency response, emergency control and other aspects of the public health governance system and the related policies and laws. The second is to reinforce cooperation in the public health emergency preparedness, such as collaboration on disease prevention and control, training of public health personnel and building of public health capabilities. And the third is to bolster cooperation in medical infrastructure, for example, building hospitals and supplying medical equipment and devices.
Sudan has currently been engaged in the cooperation between paired-up Chinese and African hospitals. With the aid of such cooperation mechanism, medical institutions of China and Sudan will see more targeted and effective exchanges and cooperation. Sudan is expected to benefit from the COVID-19 vaccines to be developed and produced by China. China will continue to offer support for the upgrade of Sudan’s national public health laboratory, and encourage experts of two countries to pursue joint research and explore ways to conduct cooperation in the domain of traditional Chinese medicine.
The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic cannot shake the solid foundation of China-Sudan long-lasting friendship. Instead, cooperation against COVID-19 will add more luster to the already-golden China-Sudan strategic partnership. Their friendship will surely grow stronger after going through the mill, and their relations that withstand the test of the pandemic are bound to take on greater vitality. Touching stories about joint efforts of China and Sudan to fight against COVID-19 and safeguard people’s health will stand out as a vivid example of international cooperation against the virus and a wonderful practice of fulfilling the vision of building a community of health for all.