Fighting malaria

Updated: 2013-09-03 11:13

By Xu Jingxi (China Daily)

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Fighting malaria

Li Guoqiao with children in Katsina, in northern Nigeria, in 2007. Photos Provided to China Daily

Professor Li Guoqiao and his team from Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine have been successfully combating malaria cases in the Union of Comoros in Africa since 2006. Xu Jingxi finds out more about their efforts.

When Li Guoqiao first visited the Union of Comoros, an African nation made of four major islands, in 2006, he was greeted with curious looks and doubts about the bitter Chinese medicine granules he claimed to be the antidote to the deadly malaria that had caused so much grief there.

Fighting malaria

But actions speak louder than words and it was not long before those doubts were dispelled. The professor from Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine and his team launched a battle against malaria first on the island of Moheli in 2007, where 23 percent of the 36,000 residents were carriers of plasmodium, the parasite responsible for human malaria. The percentage dropped to 0.33 percent four months later, setting a record as the world's fastest nation to control malaria. No one has died from it since.

The Chinese medical team reproduced this success in Anjouan, an island with a population of 310,000, last year, bringing the percentage of plasmodium carriers down from 19 percent to 0.5 percent.

A group of nine young doctors flew to Comoros on Aug 23, ready to help the 350,000 residents on Grande Comore, the country's biggest island, to defeat malaria.

Li, 77, has been on the front line of combating malaria at home and abroad for 46 years, but was unable to join this latest trip because of health concerns. "The 20-hour flight to Comoros is too much for my health. And my family also firmly prohibits me from taking long-distance trips. But I can still go to nearby countries such as Cambodia to offer medical aid and carry on my scientific research," Li says with a grin.

"My dream is that our anti-malarial drug and therapy will win the world's recognition and wipe out the disease one day."

To commend and thank the Chinese medical team for their persistent, selfless aid, the vice-president of Comoros came to Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine in person on Aug 21 to award presidential medals to Li and his colleague Song Jianping, the first two foreigners to be given the award.

"We hope to get further technical and financial support from China and enhance the countries' cooperation in medical care. With such great help, I believe that I will proudly announce in 2016 that Comoros is free of malaria," Fouad Mohadji, the vice-president, said at the award ceremony.

China's Ministry of Commerce will supply Comoros with compound drugs of artemisinin plus piperaquine for 1.8 million people to support the Grand Comore project.

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