China Steps Up Ebola Aid to Africa as Eight Chinese Nationals Quarantined over Virus

China Steps Up Ebola Aid to Africa as Eight Chinese Nationals Quarantined over Virus

The Chinese government is stepping up its international humanitarian efforts in Africa, sending almost $5 million-worth of medical supplies to the three countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak: Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. This as China tests another eight individuals that have shown symptoms of the deadly virus.

Chinese news outlet Xinhua reports that medical supplies arrived in Freetown, Sierra Leone from China on Monday, and the aid kit included a number of indispensable hospital supplies including “personal protective gears, gloves and glasses as well as chlorine and other medicines to help fight the disease.” In addition to the medical supplies arriving in Sierra Leone, the Chinese government has promised “it would dispatch three expert teams and medical supplies to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.”

China’s international reputation for humanitarian aid is among the worst of the globe’s superpowers. As Quartz reports, the new shipment of millions of dollars in medical supplies and workers could be the beginnings of an attempt to reshape that reputation. Only 0.4% of China’s foreign aid goes directly to humanitarian causes, rather that infrastructure projects or business efforts that could serve to improve nations’ trade with China as much as it could help the nations themselves. In Africa, particularly, China’s actions have appeared self-rewarding rather than altruistic.

Here, too, the shadow of personal benefit surfaces. China is estimated to have 20,000 citizens living and working in the three countries most directly affected by Ebola, and as such as a first-hand interest in combatting the outbreak before it becomes a full-fledged epidemic. Should any of these nationals return to Chinese soil with the virus, the potential spread of such a disease in the urban communities of China could potentially result in the deaths of thousands, if not millions.

Currently, the Chinese government is handling the potential of eight cases of Chinese citizens carrying the Ebola virus. All eight, Agence France-Presse reports, are medical workers in Sierra Leone, who had direct interactions with Ebola patients. China’s ambassador to Sierra Leone Zhao Yanbo explained that one of the eight was a nurse and the other seven were doctors, all working to combat the disease on the front lines. No details have surfaced on whether the patients have exhibited symptoms of the viral disease, only that the group had been quarantined. The Chinese government also declined to provide details on whether, should any of the patients be confirmed to positively carry Ebola, they would return to the Chinese mainland for treatment.

The news of a second wave of Ebola aid from China– the first aid package arrived in May– follows alarming updates from the World Health Organization on the viability of the virus in Africa. The death toll has now surpassed one thousand as the global watchdog approves the use of ZMapp, an experimental Ebola drug, on patients despite the lack of proof that ZMapp actually works. Also, even if ZMapp works it has yet to be mass produced, and the quantities that would be needed to effectively counter the Ebola breakout are still not available. 

While two American patients who have taken the drug– Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, both of the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse– are alive and reportedly improving, Spanish priest Miguel Pajares succumbed to the disease Tuesday despite having taken ZMapp.