MONROVIA (Reuters) - About 160 Chinese health workers arrived on Saturday in Liberia, where they are due to staff a new $41 million Ebola clinic that, unlike most other foreign interventions, is being built and fully run by Chinese personnel.
China, Africa’s biggest trade partner, had come under fire for the level of its response to the Ebola crisis. But it said this week it would send 1,000 personnel to help fight an outbreak that has killed over 5,000 people in West Africa.
“Up to now in Liberia, China is the only country which provides not only the construction of an ETU (Ebola treatment unit), but also the running and operation and the staffing of an ETU,” Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yue told Reuters.
The United States has pledged more money and personnel than any other nation pitching in to fight the worst Ebola outbreak on record. But its response is based on building clinics and training locals to run them.
Zhang said the new team in Liberia included a mix of doctors, nurses, technicians and engineers.
“They experienced SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). They are very knowledgeable in this area,” he said, referring to the contagious illness that was first identified in China in 2002 and killed several hundred people across the world.
On arrival, the Chinese health workers had their temperature taken and were made to wash their hands, a ritual adopted across the region as part of efforts to stem the disease.
Zhang said the establishment of the clinic in Liberia brought China’s contribution to the anti-Ebola effort in the country to $122 million.
Before China’s pledge to send 1,000 personnel, Cuba was the largest contributor of medical contingents to the crisis.
Both nations will see their teams work closely alongside the United States, which is providing much of the infrastructure of the international response.
(Corrects references to Chinese ambassador’s surname in paragraphs 5 and 8)
Reporting by James Harding Giahyue; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Stephen Powell