How China came to Sri Lanka's aid in dire times
By Jinith de Silva  ·  2023-01-13  ·   Source: NO.3 JANUARY 19, 2023
Medical staff prepare for surgery at the National Hospital of Nephrology in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, in March 2022 (XINHUA)

Since China and Sri Lanka established diplomatic relations in 1957, both countries and their peoples have been understanding and supportive of one another. The COVID-19 pandemic and domestic economic crises have posed severe challenges to Sri Lanka and its public health sector in particular took a hard hit.

When Sri Lanka first came face to face with the pandemic in March 2020, China was the first country to come to its aid. Central and local governments aside, a host of Chinese enterprises, organizations and individuals all offered their assistance. Upon the Sri Lankan Government's request, China gave the island country a concessionary loan of $500 million to fight COVID-19, to be paid back over the following decade.

China has been the biggest supplier of personal protective equipment, nucleic acid testing kits and vaccines to Sri Lanka throughout the pandemic, which largely helped the island win the battle against COVID-19. And when the economic and political crisis that erupted in April 2022 turned the daily lives of many Sri Lankans into an endless cycle of waiting in lines for basic goods, China donated medicines to Sri Lanka as humanitarian assistance.

The past decades have seen China step forward to construct necessary hospital buildings across the island. They built a nine-story main building at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital for Children in 2000. China also donated a magnetic resonance imaging scanner to this hospital, which has benefited children in Sri Lanka over the last 20 years.

China recently gifted Sri Lanka with a brand new National Hospital of Nephrology, the branch of medicine that deals with the physiology and diseases of the kidneys, in Polonnaruwa. As the biggest nephrology hospital in South Asia, it features 200 general inpatient

beds, 100 hemodialysis beds and 20 intensive care beds. The hospital was constructed as a gift from the Chinese Government and first opened in 2021. China has also donated kidney disease mobile labs to Sri Lanka's Ministry of Health, bringing great relief to patients with chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu), an unresolved epidemic in the country that is especially prevalent in its rural areas.

Right now, we are remarkably close to completing the construction of a new outpatient building for the National Hospital in the island's capital of Colombo. China has donated millions of dollars to the building of this new structure. This eight-story facility will accommodate 6,000 patients daily. The state-of-the-art complex symbolizes the friendship between China and Sri Lanka and will provide Sri Lankans with more quality medical services.

The China-Sri Lanka Joint Research and Demonstration Center for Water Technology in Peradeniya is another especially useful accomplishment. The center aims to find a scientific solution to end CKDu.

Sri Lanka is among the countries which have received the largest amount of Chinese aid. The public health sector is a priority for cooperation between the two countries. China's donations are of great importance in improving the quality of national healthcare services in Sri Lanka and strengthening cooperation and exchanges between China and Sri Lanka in the sectors of nutrition and homegrown medicines. 

(Print Edition Title: Helping Public Health)

The author is president of the Sri Lanka China Society

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon

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