China Power

China Sends Aid, Medical Teams to Fight Ebola Outbreak

China is stepping up its role in containing the deadly virus’ rampage in West Africa.

China Sends Aid, Medical Teams to Fight Ebola Outbreak
Credit: Flickr/ Army Medicine

As the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues to spread, China is stepping up its response efforts. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak, which has so far centered on Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, a “public health emergency of international concern.” 1,711 cases have been reported to the WHO, including 932 deaths.  The WHO emphasized that “a coordinated international response” would be necessary to halt the spread of the deadly disease. In response to the outbreak, China is sending aid and a medical team to Africa. CCTV reports that this marks the first time China has offered help to foreign nationals undergoing a public health emergency.

The supplies from China (including protective medical clothing, disinfectants, and medicines) arrived in Guinea on Monday. The total value of the shipment was 30 million renminbi (roughly $5 million), according to Xinhua. This week’s aid shipment is the second from China to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, following a previous batch of supplies sent in May. The supplies were accompanied by a medical team from China. According to CCTV, the aid workers will help train local doctors and nurses in disinfection and other protective measures to prevent the spread of the disease. The recently arrived team will join a group of nine doctors and nurses who have been in Liberia since 2013. This group has announced their intention to stay and fight the outbreak.

China is also continuing scientific research into Ebola. People’s Daily reports that Chinese scientists have identified antibody genes for Ebola, raising hopes of a potential vaccine. China is also continuing research into refining diagnostic tests for Ebola, People’s Daily reports.

Meanwhile Chinese President Xi Jinping sent his personal condolences to the presidents of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Xi expressed his sympathy for the “massive human and economic losses caused by the Ebola outbreak,” and offered China’s support for efforts to contain the disease. To Xi, China’s support is another symbol of the special relationship Beijing enjoys with the African continent. Xi called China and Africa “good brothers, friends and partners” who will always help each other in times of need.

The close ties between China and Africa provide even more incentive for China to join global efforts to fight the Ebola outbreak. According to AidData, between 2000 and 2011 China invested $22 billion in Guinea and around $3 billion each in Sierra Leon and Liberia. China has even more at stake in Nigeria, which is feared to be the next country at risk for a major outbreak. China poured $47 billion into Nigeria from 2000 to 2011.

With Chinese investment came Chinese nationals, from business people to construction workers and small traders. Nigeria alone is home to 65,000 Chinese nationals, who are now at risk from the Ebola outbreak. In addition to working with local health care practitioners, China’s aid workers are also tasked with educating Chinese nationals about disease prevention.

In addition, there are concerns that Ebola could make its way into China, which houses a substantial African migrant population. Guangzhou and Hong Kong has already stepped up efforts to screen (and if necessary quarantine) travelers from Africa who may be carrying the disease. Guangzhou in particular has a large African population, and China Daily reports that over 1,000 people from Africa arrive at the city’s Baiyun International Airport every day. However, there may be another reason behind Guangzhou and Hong Kong’s tight precautions. The Wall Street Journal notes that both cities’ experiences with SARS have led them to be more cautious with potential outbreak scenarios.