Chinese medical teams in the DRC: A comparative case study


  • Xiaoxiao Jiang Kwete


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After decades of civil unrest and armed conflict, the health system in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is paralyzed. The country faces some of the highest rates of infant mortality, under-5 mortality, and maternal mortality in the world. In 2015, total health expenditure comprised only 3.6% of total gross domestic product, with half from government spending and the rest from external resources and social development assistance (ODA).

In 1963, China dispatched its first medical team to Algeria, setting the stage for China’s “Development Assistance for Health” in African countries. This program has lasted several decades, with occasional disruption due to civil war in recipient countries and the Cultural Revolution period in China. Thus far, sending medical teams to local places remains China’s major form of health-related foreign aid to African countries.

Each Chinese Medical Team (CMT) that is dispatched to Africa is sent from one province in China, forming a “buddy” system between provinces in China and states in Africa. The CMT in the DRC is from HeBei Province. In May 2012, the 15th deployment of the CMT to the DRC began its two-year mission in the Chinese-Congolese Friendship Hospital in Kinshasa. This team is the subject of the following analysis. Although the achievements of the CMT program are well documented by previous scholars, this brief focuses on the challenges the CMT faced in the DRC, and proposes recommendations for improvements in the future.

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