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Chinese firm breathes life into ventilator supply in Zambia
China, a major manufacturing hub for medical supplies, has become the source of supply for many countries across the globe as confirmed cases have skyrocketed globally
By Derrick Silimina VOL. 13 MAY 2021 ·2021-05-14

A medical worker receives the COVID-19 vaccine in Lusaka on April 14 (XINHUA)

The onset of the coronavirus disease has created a shortage of oxygen gadgets and medical ventilators worldwide. 

In the face of rising COVID-19 cases, countries have rushed to procure medical supplies, such as ventilators or high-pressure oxygen cylinders, in a bid to deal with the disease.

In Africa, the shortage of oxygen is even more severe, and there is urgent need of medical devices that are easier to use, so that different methods of generating oxygen locally at hospitals, including at provincial and district-level hospitals, can be adopted. 

According to the World Health Organization, some 80 percent of people with COVID-19 recover without needing hospital treatment. In the severe cases, medical experts have noted that the virus causes damage to the lungs, leading to a drop in the body's oxygen levels and making it harder to breathe. To alleviate this, a ventilator is used to push air, with increased levels of oxygen, into the lungs. The ventilator also has a humidifier, which adds heat and moisture to the air supply so it matches the patient's body temperature.

Inadequate resources 

In Zambia, lack of capacity to manage critically ill patients with COVID-19 has raised questions about the country's preparedness to deal with the pandemic. The use of advanced technology in the health sector is vital to embark on a vigorous battle against the pandemic.

Theresa Katuna, a COVID-19 survivor from Lusaka's Chawama Township, had wondered if she was going to stay alive after being infected with the virus.

"When I was admitted to the COVID-19 isolation center early this year, I noticed that lack of adequate ventilators hampered the delivery of quality health care to patients who needed to access the ventilators on time," Katuna said, adding however that local medical personnel were really committed to doing their level best to fight against the disease.

In his article titled View From the Hospital Window that recently went viral on social media, renowned journalist Gerald Mwale recounted the dreadful realities of the global pandemic from his bed at the Levy Mwanawasa Hospital in Lusaka where he was being treated for COVID-19.

"I am gazing at this beautiful scenario from my hospital room, where I have been admitted the last two days. I am in the COVID-19 section of the hospital. I am feeling much better than I was two days ago when I was brought in. It all started with a rather irritating sore throat, then a tightness in chest, followed by labored breathing," Mwale narrated on his Facebook page few days before he died.

About 880,000 ventilators are in demand globally amid the pandemic, with the U.S. in need of 75,000 ventilators, while France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain are together short of 74,000, according to GlobalData, a data and analytics company.

The shortage of ventilators and intensive care capacity on the continent has been a significant limitation in saving critically ill patients from untimely deaths.

"I caught COVID-19 in the week of March 14, probably at one of the lodges due to a crammed training room. Make no mistake: COVID-19 is a horrible disease. Let us not drop the ball, not even for an iota of a second, in our fight against this disease," renowned Lusaka economist Chibamba Kanyama said. "This is a horrible disease that paralyses you in every way it can, to the extent recovery seems an impossibility. Brethren, keep your guard, protect others and be vigilant the way we wade off the devil."

According to the Ministry of Health, Zambia has recorded 89,592 cumulative COVID-19 cases as of early April, with 1, 225 deaths.

Camco Digital Marketing Officer Mweemba Mweemba demonstrates the operation of medical gadgets in Camco's showroom in Lusaka (DERRICK SILIMINA)

Chinese supply 

China, a major manufacturing hub for medical supplies, has become the source of supply for many countries across the globe as confirmed cases have skyrocketed globally.

Chinese ventilator manufacturers have ramped up production to expand supply of the medical gadgets to other countries, especially developing nations, as demands from abroad surge.

In Zambia, a local Chinese company has joined the country's fight against the global pandemic.

Distinguished for its supply of state-of-the-art agriculture, mining and construction equipment in the Southern African country, Camco has come up with Zambia's first-ever oxygen concentrator to help improve the country's capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.

With its affordable brand of HK series oxygen concentrator, the firm supplies hi-tech products which are researched and developed by Beijing Gaoxin Huakang Technology Co.

"This equipment is specifically designed as a product for both hospitals and clinics as well as individual buyers. It is very affordable and easy to operate as it is equipped with a manual guide," Camco Digital Marketing Officer Mweemba Mweemba told ChinAfrica.

Mweemba stressed that the unique medical kit which can also be used by individual patients at home is one of its kind in the health sector.

Medical experts have since described this technology as a huge milestone in the country's pursuit of self-reliance in medical engineering and the industrialization agenda.

Certainly, available evidence supports prioritizing investment in oxygen infrastructure, not only for COVID-19 cases, but also for other severe acute respiratory infections that are claiming lives.

Medical donations 

Meanwhile, the Chinese Government recently donated more medical equipment to four major hospitals in Zambia to help the country tackle the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The donations include ventilators and other equipment meant to prevent and manage the pandemic.

Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Li Jie said China decided to make the donation following the outbreak of the second wave and the urgent call to respond to contain the outbreak.

"We are hoping that the equipment will go to the places most in need and we would also like to see that Chinese experience could be used in this process of prevention," the Chinese envoy said.

Receiving the donation, Zambia's then Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya acknowledged that the country was facing challenges brought by COVID-19, but was quick to state that the good leadership and support from cooperating partners like China will enable the country to overcome the challenge.

He said that the donation was timely as it came during the time of the second wave which was severe and has resulted in many patients requiring oxygen.

Reporting from Zambia 

(Print Edition Title: Critical Support) 

Comments to zanjifang@chinafrica.cn 

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