Looking at Chinese medical aid to Solomon’s neighbours.
In the run-up to the momentous decision to switch diplomatic ties to China, a fact-finding mission from the Solomon Islands visited neighbouring Pacific islands countries that had ties with China.
I was interested to read the findings of the evaluation mission, particularly how China had scored in bringing humanitarian medical aid and infrastructure to those countries but no details seem to have been made public knowledge.
I decided to see what I could find about the situation in Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu and sourced the following information in several Xinhua news reports ( and carried by Asia Pacific News) dating back to early March this year.
I will quote some extracts:
"In March 2019, China donated medicines and an array of state-of-the-art medical equipment to the Port Moresby General Hospital (POMGH) in order to build a first-class minimally invasive surgery centre.
" Among the new equipment was a fiber ureterorenoscope, pneumatic lithotripters and instruments for Bipolar Plasmakinetic transurethral resection of the prostate.
"At the same time, the Chinese established a scientific management and maintenance system together with the local medical staff at the POMGH.
"In April 2019, PNG’s Health Minister, Puka Temu, said the devastating and deadly scourge of malaria will be eliminated from Papua New Guinea (PNG) by 2030,
"He told local newspaper the National that thanks to an anti-malaria campaign co-organized by China's Guangdong New South Group and the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, eradicating the often deadly disease is now within reach.
"The success of the Fast Elimination of Malaria by Source Eradication using the Mass Drug Administration pilot project at Kiriwina showed tremendous results."
"Chinese researchers were led to the tropical island of Kiriwina off the east coast of PNG because among its population of 40,000 residents, there were 179 reported cases per 1,000 people of malaria in 2016.
"With the largely tribal community in desperate need of help, the Chinese medical team distributed three rounds of an anti-malaria medicine which was developed using a combination of modern science and ancient Chinese medicine.
"Known as Artemisinin, the main ingredient of the drug was rediscovered by Chinese scientists back in 1969 and is derived from the plant sweet wormwood.
"Directly targeting the parasitic infection plasmodium which causes malaria, the Chinese cure has seen the island now become over 99 percent malaria free.
"Upon learning of the program's amazing success, Minister Puka said he would bring the issue to the national parliament and make it the highest priority to spread the program throughout the country's hospitals, clinics and aid posts.
"A new Chinese medical team arrived in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in August (2019) and started working in Port Moresby.
"The 10th Chinese medical team was composed of nine members from hospitals in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, including doctors specialized in urology, gynecology, oncology, cardio-thoracic surgery and acupuncture. The team completed handover with the 9th medical team and will stay in PNG for about one year.
"The team members will continue to work in the Port Moresby General Hospital (PMGH), to provide extensive medical training and education to local medical staff, and promote the construction of Sino-PNG Center for Urology Minimally Invasive Surgery at the General Hospital.
"The team will also visit other provinces and cities to provide free medical services and medicines to local people.
"The team will try to conduct minimal invasive surgery in some other areas such as gynecology and cardio-thoracic surgery, and make better use of acupuncture to help patients with chronic pain.
"The Chinese medical program started in 2002. China has so far dispatched 10 medical teams consisted of 100 members. Till 2018, medical team members have provided medical services to more than 100,000 PNG people and offered more than 1,000 medical trainings to local medical personnel.
"Chinese medical teams are also working in Samoa and China recently donated medicine and medical equipment valued at $500,000 tala to the Samoa Ministry of Health.
"The medical equipment was said to be the first batch of much needed surgical instruments for cataract and brain surgery.
"In April 2019, the Fijian government received medical equipments from China, to help health experts to detect and cure cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and cancer.
"The equipment included blood pressure monitors, stethoscopes, weigh scales and blood glucose monitors.
" Chinese medical teams doing work similar to the work they do in Samoa and PNG are in Port Vila and based at the Port Vila General Hospital.
The Chinese naval hospital ship Ark Peace, visited Nukualofa after an eight-day medical service visit to Tonga in 2018
"During the stay, the Ark Peace fulfilled consultation and treatment for 5,532 persons, conducted auxiliary examinations for 2,598 persons, hospitalized 28 inpatients and performed 34 surgeries.
"Ark Peace deployed six batches of medical teams, totaling 49 persons, at a local hospital and community health centers for joint medical service while conducting all-weather consultation and treatment on the major platform onboard. The rescue helicopter carrying a medical team was dispatched to the island of EUA, delivering medical services to 337 villagers on the island.
By contributing this piece I want to make it clear I have no political interest in bringing to attention what China has been doing to give medical assistance to Solomon Islands close neighbours.
I am keen to see improvements in the health service infrastructure at home and hope the SIG will soon formulate the nation’s infrastructure requirements, with special attention to what needs to be done in the health services sector, in the hope of securing Beijing’s direct, tangible aid in the short-term.