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Medical Teams Continue to Help Africa
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China will continue to improve healthcare services in African countries by sending medical teams.

The country will continue to enhance medical services co-operation with African countries, send medical teams to countries in need, strengthen prevention and control of major infectious diseases including malaria, and train local talent, said Mao Qun'an, spokesman of the Ministry of Health.

Speaking at a press conference last month, Mao said since the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation was launched in 2000, China has made great efforts to train African doctors in traditional medicine, clinical medicine, disease prevention and control, and management of rural medical services.

Among all aspects of co-operation, medical teams have been a highlight, officials said.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, from April 1963 to the end of 2005, China had sent 15,000 people in medical teams to 47 African countries, offering 170 million treatments.

Currently, at least 950 doctors and nurses from different regions of the country are working in 36 African countries, Mao said.

"Chinese doctors have been welcomed by local residents. More than 600 doctors have been awarded various nation-level medals by local governments," Mao said.

The first Chinese medical team was sent to Algeria in 1963, and it was seen off by then Premier Zhou Enlai.

Medical aid for African countries is different from other forms of economic support, said Li Wanshan, a senior official from the International Co-operation Department of the Ministry of Health.

Medical teams are jointly organized by the two sides. The teams mainly provide free services, funded by the Chinese Government. These doctors must be good at medical treatment and foreign languages, Li said.

Generally, they work for at least two years. And the hospitals or clinics where they work almost all have poor medical equipment and a small number of doctors, and are unable to meet medical demand.

There are nearly 100 doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Africa, offering treatments such as acupuncture.

By the middle of this October, Chinese acupuncturists in Tunisian capital Tunis had treated at least 20,000 patients over the past two years, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Acupuncture can help treat stroke sufferers for a much lower cost than western medicine, experts say.

In Tanzania, TCM has been used by Chinese medical teams for 19 years to treat 10,000 HIV/AIDS patients.

Compared with Western medicines that are usually too expensive for African people, TCM is much cheaper and sometimes more effective in treating certain diseases, said Fang Shuting, deputy director of the State Administration of TCM.

Nearly 1,000 African students have come to China to learn TCM since the 1960s.

In Africa, Chinese doctors often have to deal with diseases that have virtually disappeared in China.

For example, doctors have to treat many patients with rupture of the uterus, which is hardly seen in China nowadays, said Zhang Fengru, a Chinese doctor who worked in Morocco.

Since 1975, China has sent 109 medical teams with 1,200 doctors to Morocco. Currently, 121 Chinese doctors are working there.

On April 25, 2006, President Hu Jintao met doctors there as he visited the country and encouraged them to work harder for African people.

(China Daily November 2, 2006)

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