Africa is facing an increasingly severe epidemic situation as over 500 COVID-19 cases have been reported in some 30 African countries. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is gaining popularity in the continent as it proves effective in treating coronavirus patients.
by Xinhua writer Wang Hongjiang
NAIROBI, March 19 (Xinhua) -- It took Peng Wang, a practitioner of the Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) in Windhoek, three years to get TCM treatment registered in Namibia's health sector.
On March 6, the Namibia Association of Medical Aid Funds, a juristic body for medical aid funds in the country, granted the registration, making Namibia the latest to join a long list of African countries that have formally incorporated the TCM into their public healthcare system.
The decision came at a time when herbal remedies have proven their potencies in the treatment of COVID-19 patients in China.
"It is true that currently there is still no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19," said Dr. Raphael Mallaba, regional supervisor for the National Health Insurance Fund of Tanzania.
"However, since the world is searching for the best prevention vaccines and treatment methods, the TCM has so far played a substantial role in China's fight against the novel coronavirus and I believe that this can be taken as a model for African countries to contain COVID-19."
File photo taken on Aug. 5, 2019 shows patients waiting for treatment by Chinese doctors in Windhoek, capital of Namibia. (Xinhua/Zhang Yu)
Mallaba said it was demonstrated in various studies in China that for patients at the early stage of infections, application of the TCM alone was sufficient to reduce fevers, symptoms and viral loads, while for those in severe conditions, the use of TCM, in conjunction with various antiviral protocols, could help patients recover.
"It is my hope that more countries, particularly African countries, will take note of this worthy experience and do more research to help their own citizens," he added.
Africa is facing the gravity of the situation as more than 500 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in 31 of the 55 African Union (AU) members as of Wednesday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
A number of these countries have requested assistance from China and expressed readiness to learn from its experience.
Over decades, Chinese medical teams in Africa have established a solid reputation for applying TCM therapy to treat diseases, many of which are chronic and difficult.
Muhammed Ibrahim, a U.S.-trained doctor at the Eastern and Western Hospital in Abuja, told Xinhua that the TCM has been increasingly acknowledged and accepted by the public in Nigeria, with an increasing number of medical institutions providing TCM therapy.
As he sees it, most countries fighting COVID-19, including Nigeria, are taking a cue from the tenacious Chinese approach.
"China is open about the facts and measures, and it is expected China will share more details about definite curative effects of TCM in the disease," said Ibrahim.
Away from the spotlight, the TCM therapy has been playing a bigger role in treating common diseases.
File photo taken on Nov. 6, 2019 shows a Chinese doctor conducting acupuncture treatment for a local patient at a traditional Chinese medicine center in Antananarivo, capital of Madagascar. (Xinhua/Xie Han)
Liu Qiuhong, chief of the 8th Chinese medical team in Ghana, said TCM therapy is gaining popularity among Ghanaians. Like in many tropical countries, obesity and glaucoma are among the most common diseases in Ghana. Instead of seeking long-term medication, many locals now tend to try the TCM, which they see as a safer alternative following more recovered cases.
"Constant acupuncture therapy has enabled me to lose weight and cured my legs, and it brings hope to my life again," said Gifty Opare Kwakyi, a Ghanaian patient.
Last year alone, the Chinese acupuncture consulting room in Ghana's LEKMA hospital, also known as China-Ghana Friendship hospital, received more than 800 local patients.
In the Namibian capital city of Windhoek, doctors at the Katutura State Hospital are overwhelmed by the number of patients interested in the TCM. On average, they treat more than 100 such patients every day.
Yohannes Chala, head of the Addis Ababa Health Bureau, said "Chinese medicine and medical applications are highly regarded among Ethiopians," and that "the most common form of Chinese medical engagement in Ethiopia's healthcare sector is the application of acupuncture."
In South Africa, doctors who use the TCM are registered under the Allied Health Professions Council and can claim medical aid. More and more South Africans are now using traditional Chinese medicine as they have become more aware of it.
File photo taken on Aug. 5, 2019 shows Chu Hailin, a doctor of Chinese medical team, conducting acupuncture treatment for a patient in Windhoek, capital of Namibia. (Xinhua/Zhang Yu)
While still fighting against COVID-19 at home, China is supporting and helping African countries and regional organizations to the best of its ability, winning appreciation from across the continent.
On Wednesday afternoon, Chinese experts and officials from health and customs departments shared information and experience about COVID-19 in a video conference with officials and healthcare specialists from Africa CDC and 24 African countries, showing commitment to sharing experience and supporting Africa in the fight against the pandemic.
Tajudeen Raji, head of Public Health Institutes and Research of Africa CDC, said the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) has been working closely with Africa CDC, providing support to the recently established Africa Taskforce on Coronavirus.
"We have a senior technical advisor from China CDC who is working closely with us. He has been participating actively as far as the Africa Taskforce on Coronavirus is concerned, providing necessary advice," he said.
China has delivered a batch of testing reagents to African countries via Africa CDC and emergency supplies to countries affected, with Chinese medical teams also helping fight the epidemic on the continent.
Senior officials from Zimbabwe's Ministry of Health and Harare City Council participate in the China-Africa Video Conference on COVID-19 in Harare, Zimbabwe, March 18, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuliang)
Meanwhile, Chinese companies and civil organizations also provided urgently needed supplies to African countries.
Jack Ma, co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a Chinese multinational technology company, said Monday that his foundation will donate a total of 1.1 million testing kits, 6 million masks and 60,000 protective suits and face shields, among others, to 54 countries in Africa to help the continent fight the epidemic.
The supplies will be flown to Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, where Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will lead the management of logistics and disbursement efforts.
The Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation also established the Global MediXchange for Combating COVID-19 program to facilitate communication and collaboration across borders.
"As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, the measures implemented in China may be instructive for other countries now struggling to control the virus," said Mallaba, adding that China's experience in fighting COVID-19 will help the entire world at large.
The Tanzanian health official was not only impressed by the "amazing preparedness" of Chinese medical professionals and the conversion of convention centers and stadiums into designated hospitals to combat the coronavirus, but also China's timely sharing of disease-related clinical data with the public and the World Health Organization, which has helped many countries around the world to cope with the spreading virus.
(Xinhua reporters Wu Changwei in Windhoek, Li Sibo and Gao Zhu in Dar es Salaam, Guo Jun in Abuja, Xu Zheng in Accra, Wang Shoubao in Addis Ababa, Jing Jing in Johannesburg, Zheng Yangzi in Abidjan, Yin Xiaosheng in Hangzhou, Wang Xiaopeng, Zhang Yu and Liu Ruijuan in Nairobi contributed to the story. Video reporters: Liu Ruijuan, Ruth Baru, Eric Nzioka; Video editor: Peng Ying.)