By Anupama Tantri and Anna Johnston
Last week, China hosted the Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Development, marking the first time that Chinese and African health ministers have ever come together to discuss south-south collaboration on health. Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over the meeting which was attended by ministers and senior officials from more than a dozen African countries, demonstrating commitment at the highest levels of government.
A key outcome of the forum included a call for the development and implementation of joint pilot projects between China and Africa on schistosomiasis and other high burden diseases in Africa. Schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease (NTD) that affects more than 200 million people worldwide with approximately 90 percent of those affected living in Africa.
Additional outcomes of the meeting are outlined in the Beijing Declaration of the Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Development which recognizes health as a central component of cooperation between China and African countries.
While the outcomes will encourage new collaboration between China and Africa, this is not the first time they have worked together to address NTDs. China and several African countries are already making progress to identify how they work together to address schistosomiasis. In May of this year, experts from China and the World Health Organization traveled to Zanzibar to help explore how China could support schistosomiasis control in Zanzibar and other African countries. During the visit, they discussed opportunities for pilot projects and support for pharmaceutical companies to treat schistosomiasis, snail vector control, and technical and laboratory capabilities for improved rapid screening and detection.
The Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Development is a significant step towards NTD control and elimination and presents a model for further South-South collaboration on NTDs. The meeting builds on the recommendations for health cooperation developed at the 4th International Roundtable on China-Africa Health Cooperation held in Gaborone, Botswana earlier this year. The meeting also celebrates the 50th anniversary of China’s first medical mission in Africa, and marks a new era of collaboration building on the efforts of thousands of Chinese medical professionals who have worked with and built relationships in 40 African countries.