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TCM Treatment for Russian Trauma Children
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Sunshine, beautiful beaches and coconut trees are the picture most people have for the tropical seaport of Sanya, China's southernmost city in Hainan Province.

For a number of Russian children who arrived early on Tuesday for convalescent treatment, the beautiful scenery may be helpful for them to forget the hostage crisis they were involved with in Russia's southern city of Beslan nearly two years ago.

These children, aged between 9 and 16, are receiving special treatment with traditional Chinese medicine plus some recreational activities, as well, thanks to a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Chinese and Russian health authorities early last November.

Dziova Zarina, 14, who suffered slight paralysis in her right elbow joint after bullet debris shot through her right arm during the hostage crisis, now feels a little better after medical examinations and treatment by Chinese doctors.

"I was always frightened and woke up at night before arriving here," said Zarina, who admits that she is now familiar to living here and enjoying eating coconuts.

In addition to physical injuries, children like Zarina have suffered psychological problems after the crisis, including constricted chests, palpitations, headaches, insomnia and nightmares.

Zarina and nine other fellow children now receive free medical treatments combining Western and Chinese therapies every morning. This is followed up with some recreational activities in the afternoon and at night during their 30-day stay in Sanya.

"After medical examinations, we found that most of the children still suffered serious mental trauma and they are even afraid of talking to strangers," said Liu Dexi, president of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital of Sanya.

A group of armed militants took more than 1,000 students, teachers and parents hostage in a school on the first day of the new semester. The crisis killed 335 people, including 186 children, and injured more than 600.

A total of 10 medical experts from the People's Hospital of Hainan and Liu's hospital are studying the best recuperative and treatment plans for these 10 children together with their Russian counterparts.

A group of doctors including Liu were dispatched to Russia's Beslan by China's Ministry of Health last month to help diagnose and treat the injured children. With a recommendation from the Russian side, the Chinese health authority chose 10 children for free treatment for one month in China.

"Children are urgently in need for psychological treatment instead of physical injuries as the hostage crisis have brought them more mental suffering than physical pain," Liu said in an interview with China Daily.

"As a result, traditional therapies, such as massage, acupuncture and ointments might play a major role for sooner recovering," said Liu.

Traditional Chinese medicine, with a continuous history of more than 5,000 years, is characterized by its concept of holism on unification of the human and nature world.

"It has a particular effect for mental problems," Liu said. "So they were told by Russian doctors to receive traditional Chinese medicine in terms of psychological problems."

The children's treatment in China serves as a good example of combining traditional Chinese therapies and Western medicine, said Liu, who added that his hospital has offered treatments for some top officials from Russia before.

According to Liu, most of the children have recovered from physical injuries after treatment with Western medicine in Russia for the past one-and-a-half years.

These children will also participate in some recreational activities in addition to traditional Chinese therapies. They include Chinese language studying and Chinese kung fu (martial arts).

"These recreational activities will be helpful for their treatment and strengthen their understanding of Chinese culture," said Liu. Moreover, each of these children will return to Russia with a special Chinese traditional costume called "Tang Zhuang," according to Liu.

After the first group of 10 children, more children are expected to come to China for convalescent treatment, Liu said.

"It depends on how these 10 children's treatment goes within one month, and we are consulting with the Ministry of Health to discuss the possible treatment for more children in China," Liu said.

According to Liu, the Chinese Government will cover all the costs of the treatment, which totals 1.6 million yuan (US$200,000).

Chinese and Russian health authorities jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Beijing early last year during Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov's visit to China.

China was one of the first countries to ship medical equipment, valued at 10 million yuan (US$1.23 million) after the Beslan crisis took place, to show the country's determination to fight against terrorist attacks. The Chinese Red Cross Society also offered a donation worth US$100,000 to Russia.

The Chinese Government attaches great importance to the children's treatment, Yin Li, an official with the International Affairs Department of the Ministry of Health, said when he arrived in Sanya with the 10 Russian children on Tuesday.

Yin said this was particularly so because China and Russia had launched the Year of Russia in China this year. "The treatment embodies the traditional friendship and mutual trust between China and Russia as well as the cooperative relationship between these two countries," Yin said.

"They are expected to recover soon and they will return to school after the one-month treatment," Davydov Dennis, who works currently as a translator for the 10 children, told China Daily.

(China Daily May 6, 2006)

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