Spotlight: Chinese medical team still in action in Ethiopia
Dr. Zhang Xiaoyang, aged 53, is a man on a mission as he paces briskly through the corridors of Tirunesh Beijing General Hospital (TBGH) on the southern outskirts of this city on a hot August day.
Named after Tirunesh Dibaba, a well-known Ethiopian runner and champion of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics 10,000-meter and 5,000-meter races, the hospital built with Chinese finances and expertise showcases the multifaceted Ethiopia-China ties.
Opened in March 2012, the hospital has been offering health services in internal medicine, surgery, HIV screening and others.
WORKING FAR AWAY FROM HOME
Zhang isn't on a one-man volunteer mission -- he's been leading a 16-member Chinese medical team working at TBGH to treat Ethiopian patients over the past year with services ranging from neurosurgery to Chinese traditional acupuncture.
As the 19th Chinese medical team in Ethiopia, a unique medical partnership that can be traced back to 1973, Zhang knows he has a strong historical tie to uphold.
The team hails from China's Henan Province, which has so far sent 19 such teams to Ethiopia over the past 44 years, involving a total of 327 volunteers.
With a 94-year-old father, 88-year-old mother, and a son in China, Zhang faces extra challenges to his mission.
"I keep in contact with my elderly parents, my three siblings, wife and son through social media site Wechat text, video and audio messages to cope with homesickness," said Zhang.
Sometimes, Zhang also tries to ease his homesickness by cooking Chinese food and chatting with his team members.
NURTURING LIFE, RISKING OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS
Zhang isn't the only parent that's been working in Ethiopia far from home treating Ethiopian patients at the hospital.
Wang Zhijing, 34, a gynecologist and a mother of two children, has been helping new mothers and their newborn babies in the hospital for the past year.
Despite sporadic shortages of medicines and occasions where she will use needles to treat an HIV-infected patient, Wang is unfazed by potential occupational hazards.
The Chinese doctors' presence has impressed many locals, like Dr. Lidet Fekadeslassie.
"It used to be the case that we used to give Magnesium Sulfate medicine to pregnant patients with dangerous levels of blood pressure through blood vessels and thighs, but now I've learned that it can also be given safely through Glucose Intravenous infusion," said the 26-year-old Ethiopian medical worker.
Marealem Worku, aged 35, one of Fekadeslassie's patients, a new mother of twins, said that, with the combined efforts of Wang and Fekadeslassie, she's been receiving excellent treatment she didn't have when she gave birth to her first child at another hospital.
"Before and after I give birth, Wang measured my blood pressure, measured my weight, advised me on post-birth self-conditioning, a help that even my husband has noticed and appreciated," said Worku.
PART OF A BIGGER PICTURE
The 19th Chinese medical team in Ethiopia is not the whole story of Ethiopia-China health cooperation, but is just a part of it.
Earlier this month at a ceremony attended by outgoing Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia La Yifan, an agreement was signed to support TBGH's efforts to develop its Trauma Treatment Center and Maternal Child Health Center.
"Even though Ethiopia is a developing country, actually it's a least developed country; its government and its people are concentrated so much on the development of the health care industry," said La, explaining why China is committed to helping Ethiopia's health sector.
At present both countries are working on the construction of centers on the hospital's premises, which highlights the growing Sino-Ethiopian medical and health cooperation.
Kebede Worku, state minister of Ethiopia's Ministry of Health, said that stronger Chinese assistance in the health sector is much needed as more and more Ethiopians need treatment in non-communicable diseases.
SUCCESS AND DEDICATION
Over nearly 45 years of working in Ethiopian cities and towns, the Chinese medical teams have authored their stories of success and dedication.
Mei Gengnian, head of the first Chinese medical team to Ethiopia, died in 1975 in a car accident while he was serving local communities in Jimma town of Oromia regional state, 380 km south of Addis Ababa.
Buried near the spot where he died, his grave is being tended by a local family, and Mei's son has followed his father's footsteps by joining a medical mission to Ethiopia.
Amid success and dedication, China-Ethiopia health cooperation is continuing to progress as both sides have learned valuable lessons from each other.
More and more Ethiopians are coming to TBGH Chinese Traditional Medicine Center established in July 2015 to receive acupuncture treatment.
Despite the language barrier and different medical practices, both Ethiopian and Chinese doctors agree that they've learned a lot from each other.
Wang says she has learned how to have a better doctor-patient relationship and encourage better preventive health measures during her stay in Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, she urges Ethiopian doctors to learn from the Chinese doctors' experiences and be courageous enough to learn new skills and knowledge to improve their treatment of patients.