2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit: First Ladies strengthen efforts to combat HIV/Aids scourge

September 12th, 2018

By John Okeke

The 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation( FOCAC) might have come and gone but it set a new vista of relationship on China-Africa cooperation .

The FOCAC meeting was held between September 2 and 4.

African leaders and indeed the african people welcomed the outcomes of the FOCAC meeting as it has give impetus to the desired development that the african people wish to see in the near future.

The the collaboration to fight against HIV\Aids was one of the focal point that China and Africa summit did not neglect as the meeting of the Chinese first lady and african First Ladies dwelled much on it.

As has been the norm, the 2018 FOCAC meeting attended by 54 African heads of state and government, focussed on a number of initiatives to enhance China-Africa partnership and cooperation, with a $60 billion concessionary facility being given to African countries.

The facility is earmarked to help the continent with projects in the fields of industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade and facilitation and green development for the next three years.

However, in what can be called a first, spouses 36 of them – of African heads of state and government and Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan, held a separate meeting in which they launched an initiative for joint efforts by China and Africa to combat HIV.

This was one high-level meeting by first ladies to have their voices in the fight against the once deadly disease.

It was refreshing in the sense that of all the meetings that took place between China and Africa, the issue of HIV and Aids has been eluding their agenda and the fact that it was involving esteemed women can be sweet music to those infected and affected by the disease across the continent.

The framework of the initiative entails that China, African nations and international organisations will in 2019 start implementing a three-year project on HIV and Aids prevention among adolescents and health promotion at community level.

This is not to say China has never supported Africa in terms of health.

The traditional bond and robust cooperation between China and Africa has stood the test of time and has also undergone the trials and tribulations of international turbulence.

The Chinese health support to Africa can be traced back to 1963, when Algeria became a beneficiary of the relationship when China seconded its 100 healthcare workers to Algiers soon after the West African country got the better of France’s colonial yoke.

At a FOCAC indaba held in Beijing in 2006, China and African countries introduced measures to enhance bilateral cooperation, with medical care and public health topping the priorities list and the former, spent an estimated $35 million on health-related projects on the latter.

China has also been active on the eradication of malaria in Africa.

Over the years, 92 percent of global malaria deaths have occurred in Africa and Beijing has donated approximately $26 million worth of anti-malarial drugs among 35 African states.
During the infamous Ebola outbreak which blazed a trail in Western Africa, China sent 1 000 medical professionals and provided in excess of $120 million in aid.

However, it is on record that China has been more proactive on infrastructural development, that is the construction of hospitals, roads and industries in Africa than the prevention and funding of problematic diseases.

One can be forgiven to say China, Africa’s all-weather friend, has been missing in action since HIV and Aids threatened to wipe out a generation from as late as 1985, when the first cases were reported.

In fact, Africa has been relying heavily on Western donor funding for assistance.

Thus the meeting between African first ladies and their Chinese counterpart madam Liyuan might have come at an opportune time when the continent is racing against time to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2020 targets, as well as saying goodbye to HIV and Aids by the year 2030.

As has been with its invaluable support on the economic front, the Chinese hand has been badly missed on the health front.

China, boasting one of the fastest growing economies in the world, can actually help African countries in general and Sub-Saharan Africans in particular in meeting these targets.
In a sharp and direct contrast to the America, who clamour for democratic governance and transparency, the eastern giant majors in non-interference in a sovereign state.

The Chinese President Xi Jinping is on record saying; “Africa belongs to the African people and African affairs should be handled by African people.”

It is within this sobering vein that one hopes that the 2018 FOCAC meeting can be a vital cog which has been missing in Africa’s puzzle in the fight against HIV and Aids. One is assured that China can be the fulcrum on which African nations can orchestrate their own war on HIV.

Having realised China’s commitment to mitigate the marauding effects of the deadly disease, it is up to African countries to embrace the Asian giant’s principles and policies that may function well to take it out of the doldrums. The promise by China is another step on top of the long road it has travelled in ensuring the continent is not held to ransom by the United States and her allies. For instance, the Chinese have themselves worked tirelessly to emancipate their nation from the colonial bondage and the developing country tag to become the world’s second largest economy, which in itself must inspire Africans.

The Wife of the Nigerian President Aisha Buhari reaffirmed her support for the need to strengthen collaboration on advocacy for prevention and control of the spread of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.

She said that HIV remained a major health challenge facing communities in the sub-Saharan African, adding that the victims were mostly adults of productive age.

Mrs Buhari said regrettably, the larger number of young population had the higher risk of infection, hence the need to sensitise them. She, therefore, called for action on treatment as well as prevention and control of the diseases.

The wife of the president said the HIV prevalence among adolescents in Nigeria ranged within the age of 15 to 19 years, amounting to 2.9 per cent.

According to her, China and Africa share common stand on the rising cases of HIV infections and other sexual and reproductive health challenges among young people.

Mrs Buhari, however, urged the participants to be resilient to establish appropriate institutions between China and Africa, to scale up adolescent-friendly information dissemination and services.

She, therefore, expressed hope that the event would provide avenues for renewed commitment and actions against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Administration, Dr Hajo Sani, said that the main target of the conference was focusing on young population, particularly the young girls on how their lives could be empowered.

She said the aim was to sensitise them to the need to understand the implication of the infectious diseases.

In the context of Africa’s first ladies enjoying warm relations with their Chinese counterpart, it is feasible to negotiate for better deals that can stop the haemorrhaging health sector in Zimbabwe.

Precisely, their proximity matters most when it comes to improving Africa’s medical care delivery. Hiv and Aids remains a challenging issue which Zimbabwe’s health ministry and the continent at large are battling to combat. With the way Zimbabwe’s First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa showed interest in addressing health ills in the country since last November, the nation can be assured that good days are coming.

Her desire to transform the modus operandi in hospitals across the country fits well into the Sino-Africa jigsaw that seeks to herald a new beginning in relation to HIV and Aids.

Zimbabwe, like most African countries, is reeling from the effects of HIV and Aids, hence the first ladies’ meeting is integral in the endeavour to realise sound implementation of critical health policies.

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