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China rushes help to Ebola-hit countries

Updated: 2014-10-24 07:27
By Joseph Catanzaro and Chen Yingqun (China Daily Africa)

 China rushes help to Ebola-hit countries

People pass by Ebola virus health warning signs in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, on Aug 17. Liberian officials fear Ebola could soon spread through the capital's largest slum after residents raided a quarantine center for suspected patients. Abbas Dulleh / AP

On a trip to Tianjin early this month, Premier Li Keqiang backed that message of support, saying China would "fight side by side" with West Africa to combat the virus.

On an official state visit to India in September, President Xi Jinping pledged more money to support the global fight against the virus.

"We will continue to work together with the international community to fight against the Ebola epidemic," he said.

The aid he announced, worth 200 million yuan, will go to West African countries including Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Earlier this month, with the WHO's estimates rising to 4,033 people dead of 8,399 cases in seven countries, China announced it was preparing to send another medical team to the region.

"The team consists of 100 medical workers mainly from the General Hospital of the People's Liberation Army Chengdu Military Region," said Li Yong, the hospital's medical team leader and medical department director.

"It is larger than the first team and has more professionals from the infectious diseases department."

Ten members of the group were involved in efforts to tackle SARS in 2003, and 14 took part in a UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.

China rushes help to Ebola-hit countries

This was followed more recently by an announcement from Sihuan Pharmaceutical Holdings Group that, in a joint effort with the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences, it would seek to fast-track testing and approval for an experimental drug called JK-05. It is one of several potential Ebola cures or vaccines being tested worldwide.

In recent days the WHO put the death toll at 4,877 people of 9,936 cases, but says these figures may greatly understate the number of cases.

China also donated another $6 million toward the World Food Program aimed at staving off shortages and hunger in the worst-hit African countries. The progam's representative in China, Brett Rierson, reportedly said the funds would cover a month of emergency rations for 300,000 people.

Back at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, He Xiong says the crisis may be continuing, but so is China's support.

The country has not forgotten the horror of an endemic virus or the need to pull together to fight it.

With a number of suspected cases and some confirmed infections cropping up worldwide, He says China is being extra vigilant for Ebola, but has not suspended travel.

For Fang Bo of Beijing, the horrible memories of the SARS outbreak are still fresh. In April 2003, his sister-in-law and wife went out one night. By the time they came home, both were running a fever.

Fang's sister-in-law died in hospital on April 15.

"My wife died on April 28," he says.

He and eight others in his family contracted SARS. By the time the virus was done, seven of his loved ones were dead.

Fang, who has been left frail and sickly, has closely followed the news about Ebola and has words of advice.

"Pay great attention to the disease, learn about its causes and the way it spreads so you are able to find out as early as possible if you are at risk. If you are affected, you should look for treatment. If my family and I had not sought treatment it's unlikely any of us would have survived."

Yang, the artist, says irrespective of whether or not Ebola reaches China, the heartache it brings is being felt in the country, as is the resolve to fight it.

"I think of my family back there and I am afraid," she says. "I cry thinking of people back home suffering. I really appreciate what China has done for us. They send people there, many doctors. I am very happy about it. China is making a difference. It means a lot. Whatever happens, China is still by our side and helping us."

Xinhua, Reuters and reporter Shan Juan contributed to this story.

(China Daily Africa Weekly 10/24/2014 page6)

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