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Chinese, African leaders discuss health cooperation

BY: Samuel K. Obour

Ms Sherry Ayittey, Minister for HealthThe Minister of Health, Ms Sherry Ayittey, has participated in the first Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Development which was held in Beijing, China.

It was held under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and hosted by the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China, formerly the Ministry of Health.

It brought together over 30 African ministers of Health and Chinese health officials to determine priorities and strategies for a new era of cooperation.

At the forum, the Health ministers and officials launched the Beijing Declaration of the Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Development, which sets a road map for jointly addressing key health challenges across Africa, including malaria, schistosomiasis, HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, immunisation and vaccine preventable diseases.

Under the declaration, China and African countries will embark on new efforts to achieve sustainable, long-term health solutions, such as increasing partnerships on joint research and addressing the shortage of healthcare workers.

They will engage further with private enterprises to encourage technology transfer and increase access to low-cost health technologies that meet high quality standards.

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The declaration emphasised that such health cooperation efforts would align with African countries’ priorities, as well as national and regional development plans.

“China and African countries have enjoyed strong and effective partnerships on health for half a century, based on our common experiences and our shared vision for a brighter and healthier future for all our citizens,” Awa Coll-Seck, the Minister of Health of Senegal, said.

“The Beijing Declaration solidifies our governments’ commitment to developing and implementing Africa-led strategies that drive sustainable health progress and improve the lives of people across the continent,” he added.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of China sending medical teams to African countries, with the first team sent to Algeria in 1963. Since then, thousands of Chinese medical personnel have served in 43 African countries.

China has also worked with African partners and international organisations to build hospitals and malaria centres, trained health workers and increased access to antimalarial treatments and other health technologies.

Chinese academic institutions and private companies have also supported these efforts.

Now China and African countries are exploring opportunities to build on this progress and contribute new resources, innovation and leadership to drive health progress across Africa.

In this new era of collaboration, Chinese and African government officials and other stakeholders will work closely together to identify sustainable solutions to health challenges.

These will include bolstering human resource capacity in African countries, supporting domestic manufacturing capacity and increasing access to low-cost, high-quality health products.

China will also share the tools and expertise it has acquired through its investments in health research and development, the production of health technologies and its current health reform effort to expand health care to all citizens.

Representatives from the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, the African Union, the World Bank, GAVI Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria were observers of the Forum.

"The decades of collaboration between China and Africa have long been characterised by friendship and goodwill,” Dr Margaret Chan, the Director-General of WHO, said.

“China is now a significant force in Africa’s development, with substantially increased commitments and engagements. This is a south-to-south model of development cooperation based on mutual interests and respect,” he added

The Ministerial Forum builds on important discussions in Botswana at the fourth International China-Africa Health Cooperation Roundtable, which took place for the first time in Africa in May 2013.