Algeria faces Europe across the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the largest country in Africa.
Algeria won its independence in 1962, and the following year China sent a medical team to the country. In the 55 years since then, 25 medical teams, made up of more than 3200 workers from China have been dispatched to Algeria.
In many parts of Africa, the underdeveloped economy, low level of education and lack of adequate public health care mean people have a limited understanding of childbirth and no access to birth control. A lot of young women begin bearing children before they reach 18. Many of them are also malnourished. As a result, their health and that of their babies is under serious threat.
Obstetrician Xu Changzhen has been a member of four Chinese medical teams in Algeria. In the course of seven years, she has treated more than 10,000 patients. Her professionalism and gentle demeanour has earned her the love and respect of her patients.
At the time of Xu’s arrival, Algeria was plunged in crisis due to civil war. Reports of violence and people being killed and wounded, regularly featured in the news. Xu Changzhen and her team became used to seeing such scenes on the television. But the real brutality of the fighting was brought home to them one day in June 1994, when armed men raided their hospital.
Xu Changzhen: “It was our noon break. I hadn’t left the hospital. We heard gunshots outside the front gate. People were being cut down by volleys of machine-gun fire. Four policemen were killed where they stood. One of them was a guard for the medical team.”
Gucar had been Xu Changzhen’s assistant in Algeria at Mascara Provincial Hospital. They had formed a close professional bond through working together.
Gucar recalled, “Doctor Xu is an angel. During the four years I worked with her I never saw her eating or drinking.”
Guo Luping works at the Sidi Bouzid Governorate Hospital, in the heart of Tunisia. It’s the only public hospital in the region. The department of gynecology and obstetrics is served by just three doctors – two Chinese and one local – who cover both the outpatient and inpatient departments, and perform all the surgery.
On January 25, 2016, Doctor Guo arrived back in China, on leave after the first 14 months of an assignment in Tunisia. From the airport, she went straight to the Prevention and Treatment Centre for Breast Disease attached to Nanchang 3rd Hospital.
Guo Luping: “I’d delivered many babies and operated on many women. I had patients who were seven or eight months pregnant. They were waiting for me. How could I not go back? I had to go. ”
The fact that her condition was much worse than what she expected, meant that as a doctor, she had misdiagnosed herself.
During the 14 months she spent working in Africa, Guo Luping had earned a high degree of trust among the local people thanks to her skill and pleasant personality.
Guo Luping, “Every day I was faced with women dying from massive hemorrhaging. Through my work, I helped many others and saved many lives. It’s a fact. For this, I feel no qualms. I’m proud of myself.”