Tanzania and Kenya now are able to train more nurses and midwives to help lower staggering figures of newborn and maternal deaths thanks to a US$500,000 donation made by China yesterday.
And many more African babies could be saved from dying at birth once the pilot projects in Tanzania and Kenya are introduced to other parts of the continent.
Chinese Ambassador to South Africa Liu Guijin handed a US$500,000 check to Firmino Mucavele, chief executive of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Secretariat, at the NEPAD office in Midrand, northern Johannesburg.
"It is actually a training program to train the trainers and they can train some other nurses and midwives, because Africa is short of medical staffs," Liu said.
He said this was finalized by Premier Wen Jiabao during his meeting with Mucavele last month in Cape Town, when Wen visited South Africa.
The training would take place at universities and other educational institutions in the two countries, where at least 20,000 babies die each year because they could not receive proper care when they are born, largely due to lack of nurses and midwives, said Mucavele.
"There is an acute lack of trained nurses and midwifes in these two countries. The child and infant mortality is very high. The care in terms of child care and conditions of nurses are very poor," he told a press conference.
If successful, the pilot program would be extended to some other African countries, where the picture is bleaker.
"Tanzania and Kenya do not have the worst child mortality on the continent. Women in Africa have a 200 times greater chance of dying of conditions related to pregnancy and child birth than women in Europe," Eric Buch, a health advisor to NEPAD, told Xinhua News Agency.
"One in every 20 African women will die of conditions related to pregnancy and child birth. About one in ten African children will die before their fifth birthday," he said.
Global charity Save the Children indicated that low-cost interventions could reduce newborn deaths by up to 70 percent. But this can hardly become a reality in many developing countries due to lack of skilled persons and facilities.
Buch said NEPAD has drawn up a framework of action and will work with health ministries of Tanzania and Kenya to implement the project.
The project is part of China's commitment to assisting Africa in human resources development, a priority NEPAD has identified for overcoming underdevelopment of the continent, Liu said. "China is firmly behind NEPAD," he added.
NEPAD is an initiative launched by African leaders in 2001 with aims to boost economic and social development, reduce poverty, improve living conditions, and promote democracy and good governance in Africa.
Mucavele also said he believed Africa and China could be mutually benefited through a strengthened partnership.
The project in Tanzania and Kenya could be seen as "a gesture of solidarity, of friendship, of cooperation, as well as of partnership, in which we would like to see China and Africa developing strong relationship," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency July 27, 2006)