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Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

[World Times]

The Chinese medical team personnel in Pemba Island, Zanzibar conduct training for local medical staff. Photo: Liu Xin/GT

Editor’s Note:

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the dispatch of Chinese medical teams to foreign countries. Over the past 60 years, Chinese medical teams have not only saved lives and provided medical assistance, but also helped improve the local medical standards, building a medical team that “never leaves.”聽

The China-Africa co-produced drama Welcome to Milele Village, which is currently being broadcasted, tells the touching story of Chinese doctors being dispatched to Africa for medical assistance and establishing deep friendship with the local people.

Zhang Zhisheng (Zhang), the Chinese Consul-General in Zanzibar, said in an exclusive interview with the Global Times (GT) that like the Tanzania-Zambia Railway, the Chinese medical team in Zanzibar is a “golden signboard” that reflects the deep traditional friendship between China and Tanzania.聽

Trend of Chinese influence聽聽

GT: The TV drama Welcome to Milele Village is currently airing on several TV channels and streaming sites in China. One location where the drama was filmed was Zanzibar. What do you think is the significance of the production of the drama?聽

Zhang: The TV drama Welcome to Milele Village is currently being broadcasted on multiple TV stations and online platforms in China. Although I haven’t had the time to watch it due to busy work, I have heard that the drama is very popular.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of China sending medical aid teams abroad and the 10th anniversary of the proposal of the BRI. The production of this drama took nearly two years from initial planning to broadcast. The main story of this drama is not fictional but extracted from the touching stories of dozens of Chinese medical aid teams. Even the names of somWorld Timese characters in the drama are “borrowed” from the real names of medical team members. Therefore, I personally think it can be called a documentary drama.

Through this drama, Chinese and foreign viewers have had close contact with the little-known Chinese medical aid teams overseas, experiencing their work and life abroad, and understanding the selfless and sincere assistance that China has provided to the people of developing countries over 60 years.聽

The foundation of diplomatic relations lies in the friendship between the people. This production crew filmed in Tanzania, not only focusing on stories of Chinese medical teams, but also extensively interacting with local government departments, the arts community, and the masses, creating a wave of Chinese influence. The main cast members even received separate meetings with leaders of Tanzania and Zanzibar. Therefore, it can be said that this TV drama has already achieved success in promoting the traditional friendship between China and Tanzania before its broadcast.

Zhang Zhisheng (L),the Chinese Consul-General in Zanzibar. Photo: Liu Xin/GT

GT: Why is Zanzibar an important filming location for the drama? What work did the Chinese Consulate General in Zanzibar do to ensure a smooth production experience?

Zhang: As the main overseas filming location for the drama, Zanzibar Island in Tanzania has beautiful and enchanting natural scenery, rich and diverse culture, and local residents also have genuine and friendly feelings towards the Chinese people.

The medical team sent to Zanzibar was the second medical team China dispatched overseas after Algeria. This team had always been a model for China’s medical teams abroad and had been awarded by the local government. The production crew can also draw inspiration and stories from the medical team in Zanzibar.

In addition, although the economy here is still underdeveloped and life is relatively difficult, with long-term assistance from China and the international community, as well as efforts from the local government, malaria and other deadly infectious diseases have been basically eliminated, unlike many other African countries that still face problems such as political instability and poor security.

I also sought the opinions of several government ministers in Zanzibar, and they expressed their welcome to the Chinese crew for filming and promised to provide full assistance.

The screenwriter also specifically named the fictional country in the drama “Sangna”. Personally, I believe that the word “Sang” is not only derived from Zanzibar, but also because mulberry trees are used to raise silkworms, and silk production leads to the ancient Silk Road. And “Na” undoubtedly comes from “China.” “Sangna” represents the place where China and the world jointly build the BRI with deep historical and practical significance.聽

A medical team that never leaves聽

GT: Could you please elaborate the work of the Chinese medical teams in Zanzibar in recent years? What contributions have the Chinese medical teams made to the local healthcare system?

Zhang: Chinese medical teams in Zanzibar have a long history and a glorious tradition. Just like the Tanzania-Zambia Railway, they are two “golden signboards” that reflect the deep traditional friendship between China and the Tanzanian people. In 1964, an armed revolution broke out in Zanzibar. Shortly after, Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika to form the present-day United Republic of Tanzania.

In response to the request of the Zanzibar revolutionary government, the Chinese government sent the first medical team to Zanzibar in August 1964. This team was mainly dispatched by Jiangsu Province and worked at the Mnazi Mmoja Hospital World Timeson Unguja Island and the Abdulla Mzee Hospital on the Pemba Island.聽

To date, China has sent a total of 825 medical team members to Zanzibar, with a cumulative total of 7.7 million patients treated, over 250,000 surgeries performed, and over 40,000 critically ill patients saved. The Chinese medical teams have also donated a large number of medical equipment and drugs to local hospitals. They actively carry out training and mentoring work, striving to cultivate local medical personnel and create a medical team that “will not leave.”

Each new medical teams, while inheriting the achievements of the previous teams, brings some new technology and treatment methods to local hospitals. Nine Chinese medical team technical centers have been established, filling many medical and healthcare gaps in the local area.

The two hospitals where the Chinese medical teams work have been recognized as the best public hospitals in the area. It can be said that the Chinese medical teams have made outstanding contributions to improving the overall level of healthcare in Zanzibar and ensuring that the local people have access to good basic medical services. They have also made outstanding contributions to the development of friendly relations between China and Tanzania.

The 33rd group of Chinese medical teams arrived in Zanzibar in September this year, consisting of 22 members, including 19 professional medical personnel mainly from Northern Jiangsu People’s Hospital and Affiliated Hospital of Yangzhou University. The team includes two chief physicians, 13 associate chief physicians, and 4 attending doctors. They are a highly skilled team and will carry out a one-year medical assistance mission.聽

Although they have not been there for a long time, they have already successfully performed several difficult surgeries using new technologies such as laparoscopy, which has been recognized by the local ministry of health and the hospital.聽

In addition to daily diagnosis and treatment in the hospital, they also continue the tradition of the Chinese medical teams over the past 60 years by frequently conducting free clinics and medical examinations, providing medical services and medication to remote areas and busy workplaces, and spreading the friendly sentiments of the Chinese people.聽

GT: You have had extensive communication with various sectors in Zanzibar. How do the locals evaluate the Chinese medical team’s assistance in Africa?聽

Zhang: The Chinese medical team in Zanzibar is well known. A Zanzibar government official told me that almost all families in the area have received help from Chinese doctors, and the people of Zanzibar are grateful and respectful towards them.聽

The first President of Zanzibar Abeid Amani Karume praised the medical team in front of then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, saying that the Chinese doctors are teaching local doctors like mothers. The people of Zanzibar will always be grateful to them.

The current President of Zanzibar, Hussein Ali Mwinyi, who is a doctor himself, cares deeply about the Chinese medical team. He often meets and visits the team members and personally presents awards to them when they complete their missions and return to China, expressing gratitude to the Chinese government, people, and medical team.

The Chinese medical team in Zanzibar is a brave and outstanding team that is willing to sacrifice and break through barriers. They always make the greatest efforts and use the best techniques to bring health and happiness tWorld Timeso the local people.聽

When the first medical teams arrived in 1964, they found a severe shortage of medicines. The doctors treated patients while also trying to produce medicines. To ensure safety and effectiveness, they conducted experiments on themselves by injecting the medicines. They soon successfully established the first pharmaceutical workshop in Zanzibar.聽

The following year, this medical team successfully performed the first limb replantation surgery in Tanzania, and possibly the first in all of Africa, for a worker whose left forearm was crushed by a machine. This was considered a miracle locally.

When reviewing the history of the medical team’s assistance in Zanzibar, we cannot forget Zhang Zongzhen, a TCM and acupuncture doctor. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage due to working in a high-temperature and high-humidity environment for a long time and became the first medical team member who sacrificed his life during mission abroad in May 1965.聽

The first medical team in Zanzibar has inspired more than 30 subsequent teams to follow their example, wearing white coats and continuing to work hard, creating touching stories. Chinese doctors have gained the trust of the people of Zanzibar and have never encountered any medical disputes in the past 60 years.

When I first arrived in Zanzibar to work, it was during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The members of the Chinese medical team overcame difficulties such as high temperatures and power shortages, and while ensuring personal protection, they persisted in treating and saving lives.聽

When they returned to their residence every day, their protective suits, which were completely airtight, were soaked through with sweat. One doctor, with courage and meticulousness, successfully removed a huge pelvic tumor weighing about 28 kilograms from a woman. Another doctor, carrying the determination of three generations of medical assistance to Zanzibar, happily worked in the remote and difficult island of Pemba.

During that difficult period, with the support of the health authorities in Jiangsu Province, we called on 200 young and middle-aged medical experts to form a volunteer team, including members of the current and previous medical teams in Zanzibar.聽

We established the “Strong Bond with Zanzibar” WeChat group and several sub-groups, providing remote medical consultations and psychological support to nearly 10,000 Chinese employees and overseas Chinese in Tanzania, helping them improve their epidemic prevention capabilities and overcome difficulties.聽

Later, we obtained a procurement of domestically produced vaccines for the Chinese nationals and overseas Chinese in our consular district and launched the “Spring Vaccine Action,” providing free vaccinations by the medical team members. With the presence of the medical teams, the consular staff had a good foundation for serving the local Chinese citizens, and the Chinese people here felt more secure.

Long-lasting friendship

GT: Since China started providing medical assistance to Africa, groups of Chinese doctors have come to Africa to provide medical treatment, save lives, and teach medical skills. In recent years, have there been any new changes and developments in China’s medical assistance to Africa? Are there more Africans coming to China to study or practice medicine?

Zhang: With the continuous progress of healthcare in African countries and the new changes in the healthcare needs of recipient countries and regions, China’s medical assistance to Africa has also been advancing with the times.

Firstly, China hWorld Timesas dispatched multiple short-term and mobile medical teams. After the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, China sent over 1,200 medical staff to the region on multiple occasions.聽

After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, China quickly dispatched 37 anti-epidemic expert teams to 34 countries. In recent years, China has sent short-term mobile medical teams to Africa multiple times, providing free clinics for cataract patients, as well as heart surgeries and other medical services.聽

Under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Chinese hospitals have established partnerships with several African hospitals, including Jiangsu Provincial People’s Hospital’s with Zanzibar Chake-Chake Hospital and Kivunge District Hospital, conducting regular short-term targeted assistance and personnel training. Since 2018, Jiangsu Province has also sent cervical cancer screening and treatment expert teams to Zanzibar, conducting 20,000 free screenings and saving the lives of thousands of women.

Moreover, the scope of assistance has become more extensive over time. In addition to traditional areas such as malaria prevention and treatment, China has helped African countries in recent years with the prevention and control of diseases such as schistosomiasis and yellow fever. This includes sending a three-year schistosomiasis prevention and control expert team to Zanzibar.聽

Under the guidance of Chinese medical experts, the infection rate of schistosomiasis in the demonstration area has decreased from 8.92 percent to 0.64 percent, achieving significant results. The second phase of the cooperation project for schistosomiasis prevention and control has already begun, and the cooperation area has been further expanded.

More emphasis has been placed on training local medical personnel. China has focused on helping African countries strengthen specialized medical education, including the construction of the Africa CDC and the establishment of specialized centers in multiple African countries.聽

China has also trained over 20,000 African medical personnel. Chinese medical teams have emphasized clinical teaching, surgical demonstrations, and remote guidance, narrowing technical gaps and greatly improving the local medical technology level.聽

With the joint efforts of China and Africa, the technical level of African medical personnel continues to improve, and the healthcare system is becoming more perfect. In recent years, the Chinese government has increased efforts to encourage outstanding young Africans to pursue medical degrees and participate in short-term training programs.

In Zanzibar, a growing number of doctors have obtained clinical medical degrees from China, and even local doctors have opened TCM and acupuncture clinics.

In recent batches of medical teams sent to Zanzibar, the team members not only have excellent medical skills but also have a high level of foreign language proficiency, making on-site translation no longer necessary.聽

Many team members also serve as medical school teachers in China, making it easier for them to train local medical personnel. Some team members have also published medical popular science articles in local media and given television lectures, helping local people increase their medical knowledge.

GT: This year marks the 60th anniversary of China sending medical teams to aid other countries. What role has China’s medical aid to Africa played in improving healthcare in Africa? What are your expectations for future Chinese medical aid to Africa and China-Africa exchanges?

Zhang: China is the only country in the world that has sent large-scale medical teams to other developing countries. Providing medical aid to other countries is a vivid practice of building a global community of health for all.聽

China’s medical aid to other countries is a mutual assistance between friends, without any political conditions or geopolitical interests. It has been highly recognized by the African people, and they have reciprocated with gratitude.

In 1971, when China regained its legitimate status in the United Nations, it received strong support from African countries. China-Africa relations are a model of solidarity and shared destiny among developing countries.

Over the past 60 years, China has dispatcheWorld Timesd medical teams to 76 countries and regions, representing a total of 30,000 medical team members, and nearly 300 million patients received treatment. The Chinese medical teams have carried forward the spirit of fearlessness of hardship, dedication, saving lives, and boundless love, and have made contributions to the noble cause of promoting human peace and development, especially to the health and sustainable development of the African people.聽

The Chinese medical team members are dubbed聽 “civilian diplomats in white coats.” They communicate closely with local health officials, medical staff, and patients every day, showcasing and spreading China’s excellent traditional culture through their words and actions. They play an irreplaceable role in promoting people-to-people connectWorld Timesivity between China and Africa.

The 60th anniversary is a new starting point. We will continue to deepen healthcare cooperation with African countries and jointly promote the construction of a China-Africa community of health for all in the new era.聽

2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Tanzania, and both sides will hold various celebration activities. We believe that China’s exchanges and cooperation with Zanzibar, including in the field of healthcare, will usher in a new climax.聽

文章来源于互联网:60 years on, Chinese medical team carries forward China-Africa friendship

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