Africa can learn from China

Updated: 2014-10-14 07:25

By Yan Zhonghuang(China Daily)

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Given that the Ebola crisis is reducing the state capacity in Western African countries when ever-increasing capacity is what is needed to tackle the crisis, purely endogenous solutions are unlikely to be effective in addressing the immediate crisis, and resources will have to be imported from external sources in the form of massive foreign aid.

It is therefore imperative for the international community to support Ebola-hit countries by delivering critical medical supplies and safety equipment and dispatching enough health workers to provide healthcare services and raise awareness of the disease. China has responded to the World Health Organization's call for international aid with unprecedented generosity. It has sent nearly 200 medical experts and pledged an aid package of more than $42 million.

With adequate emergency aid, the ability of Western Africa countries to fight Ebola can be strengthened, which could lead to the effective containment of the virus in the coming months. But foreign aid is unlikely to provide a viable and sustainable solution to future disease outbreaks. The requisite institutions, skills and capabilities fundamental to effective health governance take time to develop, and have to be developed independently and domestically.

In order to avoid another Ebola-type crisis in the future, countries in the region should start planning for investment in their national health systems, particularly their disease surveillance and response. China's experience in the post-SARS era has proven that this is the first step in the right direction.

The author is senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and an associate professor at Seton Hall University's School of Diplomacy. He is also the founding editor of Global Health Governance.

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