NOVEMBER 21, 2014 By Alusine Sesay
Speaking at an official ceremony to commence the construction of a fixed level 3 bio-safety lab, championed by the People’s Republic of China, President Ernest Bai Koroma has expressed optimism that Sierra Leone will come out strong as a nation after the containment of the Ebola virus disease, with a better health infrastructure.
President Koroma recalled that the Chinese Ambassador in Sierra Leone, H.E. Zhao Yanbo was the first diplomat in the country to lead a delegation to State House at the beginning of the Ebola outbreak in May. He said that aside from commitment made to help in the fight against Ebola, the Chinese diplomat assured him that the country would come out strong after the outbreak.
“China has come a long way in assisting Sierra Leone in the fight against Ebola. The People’s Republic of China has sent four categories of assistance, including food, medicine, personnel and Laboratory facility,” President Koroma said.
He informed the public that he had held discussion with the Minister of Health and Sanitation, and they agreed to think beyond Ebola and establish the Sierra Leone Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. “This lab is going to form the nucleus of the Sierra Leone Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The lab is going to be a transformation in the health sector as well as serve the demand of the immediate sub-region,” he said.
He thanked the Chinese Government for not only assisting the Sierra Leone Government in the fight against Ebola, but also strengthening the country’s health infrastructure for the future.
In his remarks, Ambassador Zhao Yanbo said China wasted no time to provide 4 batches of emergency assistance, including medical materials, capital fund, food supply, mobile laboratory and medical personnel to Sierra Leone since the start of Ebola outbreak in May.
“Last week, a 11 member anti-Ebola public health experts team came to Sierra Leone and launched the program to training doctors, nurses, local health workers and peoples from communities of the country,” Ambassador Zhao disclosed.
He said the Chinese experts will train 4000 Sierra Leoneans in four months, noting that “China’s assistance is an all-round way to help Sierra Leone to fight against Ebola. China’s assistance has vividly embodied its policy idea towards Africa proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, featuring sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith.”
Ambassador Zhao reiterated that China was not only focused on responding to the current Ebola crisis, but also eyeing the construction of a public health system for Sierra Leone to serve her future needs.
“That is why the Chinese Government has decided to help construct this fixed bio-safety laboratory. This is a P3 level lab of the highest in China,” he said.
The top Chinese diplomat in the country said they will airlift the core components of the laboratory from China to Sierra Leone in mid December, while construction will be complete within three months.
“I guess this laboratory will be the only one in Sierra Leone and probably in West Africa. The construction of the laboratory is another vivid and visible example of the traditional friendship between China and Sierra Leone, and it would also be another landmark in the history of our bilateral relations,” he said.
The construction of the P3 laboratory at Jui will be undertaken by the Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) and the Ambassador commended the company for what he referred to as their extraordinary dedication to the early start of the project.
Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr.Abu Bakarr Fofanah said the ceremony was another historic day in bilateral relations between China and Sierra Leone, and that the construction of the lab is testament of the government institutional capacity building drive in the health sector.
He noted that the lab would bolster efforts to defeat the Ebola virus disease as well as strengthen the country’s health infrastructure in the future, and thanked the Chinese Government for their tremendous interventions.