China bol­sters Sierra Leone health aid af­ter Ebola

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AN BAIJIE an­bai­jie@chi­nadaily.com.cn Chen Qiqi con­trib­uted to this story.

When the deadly Ebola epi­demic was rag­ing in Sierra Leone and other West African coun­tries, China stepped up to pro­vide med­i­cal per­son­nel, drugs and other as­sis­tance.

Now that the epi­demic is over, China is con­tin­u­ing to lend a hand to Sierra Leone, as shown by the hos­pi­tal as­sis­tance part­ner­ship that the two coun­tries signed on Thurs­day.

The agree­ment, be­tween China’s Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion and Sierra Leone’s Min­istry of Health, was among the six co­op­er­a­tive doc­u­ments whose sign­ing in Bei­jing was over­seen by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Sierra Leonean Pres­i­dent Ernest Bai Koroma. Koroma is on a six-day visit to China.

China also agreed to for­give the hard-hit African coun­try’s debt, and the two coun­tries agreed to re­quire no visas from hold­ers of each other’s diplo­matic and other govern­ment pass­ports.

Dur­ing their talks, Xi said that when the Ebola epi­demic was dev­as­tat­ing parts of West Africa in 2014, China pro­vided more med­i­cal as­sis­tance to Sierra Leone than it had to any African coun­try.

The epi­demic hit not only Sierra Leone, but also Guinea and Liberia, which also re­ceived as­sis­tance. In March 2016, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion an­nounced the end of Ebola flare-ups in Sierra Leone. The lat­est flare-up brings to 3,590 the num­ber of dead in Sierra Leone, ac­cord­ing to the WHO.

Wu Peng, China’s am­bas­sador to Sierra Leone, said that China is help­ing the coun­try build a West African trop­i­cal dis­ease re­search cen­ter, which will help strengthen its health

When the Sierra Leoneans were in dif­fi­cul­ties, China did not let them down.” Wu Peng, China’s am­bas­sador to Sierra Leone

and med­i­cal ser­vices.

“When the Sierra Leoneans were in dif­fi­cul­ties, China did not let them down. We not only trans­ported drugs and equip­ment in a timely way, but also dis­patched med­i­cal teams and es­tab­lished a bi­o­log­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory,” Wu said.

China pro­vided “all of what was re­quired in terms of per­son­nel, drugs and med­i­cal sup­plies”, Koroma said.

On Thurs­day, Koroma vis­ited the Chi­nese Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion in Bei­jing’s Chang­ping dis­trict, where he ex­pressed grat­i­tude for China’s as­sis­tance.

Zhang Ming, vice-for­eign min­is­ter, said that the two coun­tries have agreed to up­grade bi­lat­eral ties to the new level of com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic and co­op­er­a­tive part­ner­ship, which he said is the most im­por­tant fruit of Koroma’s visit.

Sierra Leone has firmly sup­ported China in its core in­ter­ests, in­clud­ing the South China Sea is­sue and the Tai­wan ques­tion, show­ing the high level of two-way po­lit­i­cal trust, he said.

Koroma’s visit to China start- ed Wed­nes­day. He will travel to Shan­dong prov­ince on Satur­day and visit a steel com­pany there.

Jin Yong, deputy head of the School of For­eign Stud­ies at the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Univer­sity of China, said that China-Sierra Leone co­op­er­a­tion will ben­e­fit both sides, given that China is seek­ing in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties over­seas while Sierra Leone is still in a post-Ebola pe­riod and in great need of in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion.

FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping wel­comes vis­it­ing Sierra Leonean Pres­i­dent Ernest Bai Koroma at the Great Hall of the Peo­ple in Bei­jing be­fore their meet­ing on Thurs­day.

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