Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Africa, China in new partnership for health

By Ochieng’ Ogodo


[GABORONE, BOTSWANA] Chinese and African leaders meeting at the high level 4th International Roundtable on China-Africa Health Cooperation on May 6 and 7 emphasised the need for close cooperation in a new partnerships aimed at addressing some of the most pressing health challenges facing Africa.
They also called for strong innovative health partnership based on south-south cooperation.
“Indeed, China and Africa have a long history of collaborating on health, built on shared challenges, experiences and addressing similar issues,” said Hon. Rev. Dr. John G. N. Seakgosing, Botswana’s Minister of Health. “China has a unique role in supporting African health progress. And with this roundtable, we look forward to deepening our partnership to benefit the health of our citizens.”
“Africa’s future is closely linked with our own and improving health is a critical building block towards a common prosperity,” said Dr. Ren Minghui, Director General of the Department of International Cooperation at China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission. “African countries have made tremendous gains to improve the health of their citizens. With China and Africa working hand-in-hand on health, we can have even greater impact.”
The Botswana roundtable was the first to take place on the African continent and focused on promoting sustainable health solutions that meet the needs and priorities of African countries, and draw on China’s experience.
The meeting explored how China and African countries can jointly tackle critical issues such as AIDS, malaria, schistosomiasis, reproductive health, access to lifesaving vaccines and non-communicable diseases.
This roundtable came as China and Africa marked the 50th anniversary of China providing medical teams to Africa, and also supporting African health personnel, infrastructure, malaria control and other programs such as scholarships for training health experts.
At this year’s roundtable, officials have discussed how to shape health cooperation between China and Africa and help achieve long-term, sustainable gains, such as strengthening health systems and addressing the shortage of healthcare workers.
African countries are disproportionately affected by these health issues that have also been a major health challenges for China.
The key theme of the roundtable was on how African and Chinese officials can create win-win scenarios that will benefit all partners. One of the major areas that China’s health assistance investment will go to is expanding African capacity, strengthening the continent’s self-sufficiency and economic development.
China, according to Minghui, has a unique role in supporting Africa’s health progress, drawing from its investments in health research and development and its experience improving the health of its own citizens, such as its current health reform effort, which is the largest expansion of healthcare coverage in history.
African countries, the meeting heard, can work with Chinese scientists and pharmaceutical manufacturers to increase access to high-quality, low-cost health technologies, while ensuring products are safe and meet international quality standards.
Participants explored how China can help support Africa’s local production of health products. At the same time, African leaders will share expertise on areas where China can learn from Africa, such as around AIDS prevention and treatment, to help improve China’s efforts at home. Africa has been very successful in scaling up HIV treatment as well as prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs.
“South-South cooperation facilitates optimisation of resources, both human and material. This creates opportunities to share knowledge and experience, which contributes to sustainable health solutions,” said Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, Commissioner of Social Affairs of the African Union. “China-Africa health partnership is based on a sense of shared responsibility and global solidarity in responding to health challenges.”
China and other emerging economies are bringing new resources and approaches to improve the health of people around the world. “The global health landscape is changing, with more partners than ever joining these efforts,” said Dr. Luiz Loures, Deputy Executive Director of Programme of UNAIDS. “The AIDS response and other experiences paved the way for transformative progress on health and can help China and Africa engage on a whole new level and innovate on a broad range of health issues.”
“China has tremendous potential to support Africa’s long-term development by leveraging innovation. The roundtable is an opportunity to define a path for China and Africa to make a positive impact together on health,” Dr. Ray Yip, Director of the China Program of the Gates Foundation told the meeting.
One aim of the roundtable was to develop joint recommendations that could lay the groundwork for a long-term strategic plan for China-Africa health cooperation, which could be considered at the Ministerial Forum of China-Africa Health Development, part of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which will take place in August in Beijing.
This year’s roundtable organised by the Institute for Global Health and the China Institute of International Studies, is a series in what began in 2009 as part of a China-led initiative to evaluate and improve its foreign assistance.

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