Underlining the substantive approach that has characterised China’s engagement with Africa, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will head to the three countries in the continent most affected by the Ebola virus, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
The deadly Ebola virus once commanded global media attention before slowly slipping off the front page, although health activists warn Ebola vaccines need to be ready before the start of the next epidemic.
According to the latest UN mission for Ebola emergency eesponse (Unmeer) report, the virus has infected 27,479 and killed 11,217 since March 2014.
The Chinese Foreign Minister will head to the three countries for a three-day visit on Saturday.
With the Ebola epidemic still haunting West Africa, China has delivered four rounds of humanitarian aid with a combined value of more than $120 million and sent hundreds of medical workers to the “frontline” since the breakout last year.
In November, a 100-bed Ebola treatment center in Liberia funded by the Chinese government was launched.
The Ebola virus, also referred to as Ebola hemorrhagic fever because of one of its most visible symptoms, is an incurable disease with a very high fatality rate. It was first identified in 1976.
Some doctors have noted a fatality rate that could reach 60 per cent, but WHO says that can be as high as 90 per cent.
Joanne Liu, the head of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), has criticized the G7 for its tepid response to the Ebola ourbreak in Africa.
“When President Obama pledged a 25-bed facility for healthcare workers, I remember having him on the phone and saying: ‘Thank you very much, that’s a good start.’ And it was followed by this long, awkward silence,” Liu was quoted by British daily Guardian.
“If the world’s biggest economy isn’t pledging high, then who will?” Liu asked Obama.
With large population of BRICS workers in the four affected West African nations, the risk to countries like China and India from the virus remains high. The bloc’s engagement with African nations, including the four that have been badly hit, is substantial.
BRICS are now Africa’s largest trading partners and its biggest new group of investors. BRICS-Africa trade is seen eclipsing $500 billion by 2015, with China taking the lion’s share of 60 per cent of this, according to Standard Bank.
The Ebola outbreak is the largest to hit Africa till date and some of the world’s poorest regions are struggling to control the spread of the virus, also handicapped by poor health infrastructure.