Chinese Doctors Are Helping Zambia Battle Severe Cholera Outbreak

Lying in her makeshift hospital bed, Joyce Tembo thanked medical personnel for evacuating her to the designated national cholera treatment centre, 6 km north of Zambia’s capital Lusaka. She was recently diagnosed with diarrhoeal disease.  

Tembo, 43, commended the medical staff stationed at the treatment centre for their great service to thousands of patients, especially women and children seeking urgent treatment. 

“I am very grateful to the Chinese doctors who attended to me as soon as the ambulance rushed me to the clinic where I received urgent treatment; they have really saved my life,” Tembo told ChinAfrica.

But not all residents in her community are as lucky as her. Many in the densely populated slums die every day due to the area’s poor sanitation – one of the major causes of the cholera outbreak. 

Crisis situation 

According to the World Health Organisation, the cholera outbreak in Africa has affected 17 countries over the last two years. The two countries facing a crisis are Zambia and Zimbabwe with a marked increase in cases.  

In Zambia, climate change has triggered heavy rains which have contaminated drinking water in overpopulated and impoverished urban areas, mostly in Lusaka. More than 400 people have died from the disease and a cumulative total of 17,169 cases have been recorded since October last year by various health centres in Zambia’s nine provinces.  

A crowd gathers in front of the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka daily, but not for finding out the results of a football match. They are there to get health updates on their loved ones being treated inside for cholera. 

The rising death toll is driving anxiety among the people. The daily update provides relief to some; but for others, the news is devastating. Gerald Mwale recently lost his nephew to cholera; Chileshe Kalunga saw his grandfather succumb to the plague. 

“I was hopeful that he was going to be discharged after two days of battling the disease, but unfortunately, we are told that he passed away,” Mwale said as he shed tears, adding that the dead are being put to rest immediately, without a funeral. Health workers are scrambling to contain the health crisis that has the potential to be the worst the Southern African country has seen since the first outbreak in 1977.

Quality medical services 

Tembo, the mother of two, is optimistic that the urgent response by the Chinese medical team will definitely contain the illness and save thousands of patients battling for their lives. 

A total of 10 doctors from the 24th Chinese Medical Team and the 26th Chinese Military Medical Expert Team are present at the stadium to treat patients. Together with their local counterparts, the Chinese doctors are providing quality medical services.  

Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Du Xiaohui revealed that a total of 993 Chinese medical experts have travelled to Zambia over the years to combat various ailments, including COVID-19, cholera and malaria.  

“The Chinese people share the sorrow of our Zambian brothers and sisters. This is why the Chinese government and people have acted swiftly by mobilising all resources available in the most proactive manner and offering assistance to the best of its abilities,” Du said recently during a joint press conference held with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema where he announced nine assistance measures, including official assistance in cash, on-site guidance from Chinese medical experts, construction of  clinic, donation of edical and daily supplies, donation of ater tanks, a water supply project and possible cooperation in the production of anti-cholera drugs and vaccines, with a total value of more than $760,000. 

“We will continue to provide assistance within our capacity to support the Zambian government and people in combating cholera. This is another action taken by the Chinese side to effectively and efficiently implement the consensus of the two heads of state and the nine programmes [put forward at the eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2021],” said the Chinese envoy, who was joined by Zhu Changju, team leader of the 24th Chinese Medical Team, Wang Shuchao, team leader of the 26th Chinese Military Medical Expert Team, and other Chinese medical experts.  

Ten days after the Chinese envoy announced the measures, a Chinese vaccine company sent a delegation to Lusaka for discussions with all relevant Zambian authorities about the possibility of cholera vaccine production in Zambia. The team also visited local pharmaceutical companies.  

Meanwhile, the Association of Chinese Corporations in Zambia, the Zambia Chinese Association and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Zambia have organised Chinese nationals and businesses in Zambia to make donations in cash and in kind, and have worked closely with the Zambian government, local communities and people on various charitable actions, including donation of water tanks with a capacity of 360 tonnes of clean and safe water per day and medical and daily supplies worth about $269,230.  

They have pledged to further cooperate on the production of medicines, medical supplies and cholera vaccines.   

Appreciation of Chinese support 

In Zambia, local health authority has hailed China for its timely assistance, not only in the health sector, but also in other areas. 

Health Minister Sylvia Masebo thanked the Chinese government and people for the strong support rendered to the Zambian government and people in the fight against cholera, including dispatching medical experts, donating medical supplies, exploring the possibility of vaccine production and helping to expand water supply projects, which will help Zambia to ultimately eliminate the cholera outbreak.  

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Zambia and China 60 years ago, China has gone beyond being a trustworthy all-weather friend to becoming brother of Zambia who together share wealth and woe, Masebo stated.  

“China is a true friend and good brother of Zambia, and China’s support covers short, medium and long-term measures, which will help Zambia to ultimately beat the cholera outbreak,” President Hichilema recently said.

African Times has published this article in partnership with ChinAfrica Magazine.



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