Berhanu Kedir, 34, is one of the many outpatients who have been receiving the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for treatment at the Tirunesh Beijing Hospital on the outskirts of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Kedir suffered a car accident seven months ago and has since struggled with long-term waist and left leg pain as well as difficulty in speaking.
“My pain, however, has largely reduced over the last three weeks ever since I started acupuncture therapy,” Kedir said, while receiving acupuncture treatment on the premises of Chinese-backed Tirunesh-Beijing Hospital.
“The Chinese doctors use acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion and other techniques to treat neck, shoulder, waist and leg pains, nerve dysfunction and some mental and psychological disorders,” said Liu Ruiqiang, who is the leader of the 22nd batch of the Chinese Medical Team in Ethiopia.
According to the team leader, the two highly experienced Chinese acupuncturists can treat about 25 Ethiopian patients a day, helping more than 700 locals relieve from physical pains every month.
“We have been treating diseases such as body, muscle and joint pains, paralysis, and migraine since our arrival at the hospital’s acupuncture treatment center nine months ago,” said Lin Guoping, one of the Chinese acupuncturists.
Lin said he sees an increasing number of patients who are referred to the center and undergo acupuncture therapy, an ancient Chinese medicine-based approach to treating a variety of conditions by triggering specific points on the skin with needles.
Kedir, who was in a coma and could not speak for months due to the damage on his head during the car accident, is now witnessing major improvements in his health.
“After I have undergone the acupuncture therapy, my speech, waist and leg conditions have improved,” Kedir said.
“Now, I walk, wear my clothes, eat food and serve all my other needs without help,” said Kedir, appreciating the traditional Chinese medicine in the hospital,” he added.
Lia Hailu, 22, is another regular outpatient who was admitted in the acupuncture center a month ago after she has suffered from facial palsy which involves a paralysis on one side of her face.
“I felt the symptoms just one morning and found my left-side face did not move and tended to droop,” said Hailu, who was confused about what to do until she was referred to the Chinese acupuncture treatment center.
“Since I have undergone the therapy, my lips returned to normal position and my left side face started to function. Unlike the first days of the illness, now I can close my eyes and drink water properly,” she said.
She said the acupuncture treatment was the best treatment she could find to cure her illness.
“I will recover fully from my illness in 15 days,” Hailu said.
Apart from treating the locals, the acupuncture center serves as a platform where the Chinese doctors impart traditional Chinese medicines to fellow Ethiopian health professionals.
“Our country is committed to assisting the healthcare system in Ethiopia and the Chinese doctors who specialize in surgery, orthopedics, acupuncture, obstetrics and gynecology as well as pathology and radiology deliver sweeping health services in the hospital,” said Lin.
Seble Mamo, who serves as the chief Ethiopian acupuncturist in the center, said the Chinese acupuncture is reaching more needy people, helping to cure locals from a variety of illnesses such as headaches, blood pressure, and sleeping problems, among others.
“Unlike other modern-day treatments, the acupuncture therapy is much preferable among Ethiopians as it is administered without side-effects,” said Mamo.
Mamo attended a two-month training on the acupuncture therapy in China along with her colleagues as part of the Ethiopian government’s effort to expand the TCM in Ethiopia.
Mamo said the TCM therapy is gaining popularity among Ethiopians and instead of seeking long-term medication, many locals now tend to try the treatment, which they see as a safer alternative following more recovered cases.
“Those patients who come to the acupuncture center at the early stage of their illness get cured quicker than those patients with chronic illnesses,” Mamo said.
Mamo said she is happy working with the Chinese acupuncturists from whom she draws good knowledge and experience. She recommends the acupuncture health education to be given in Ethiopian universities to serve the over 110 million population of the east African nation.
“I witnessed several patients who came into the center assisted by a caregiver but sturdily walked out of the hospital having undergone the acupuncture treatment,” Mamo added.
Amid increasing difficulties induced by the ongoing COVID-19, the 22nd batch of Chinese medical team in Ethiopia, consisting 15 doctors and an interpreter, has been serving the people of Ethiopia fearlessly at Tiruneh- Beijing Hospital, also known as the Ethio-China Friendship Hospital since November 2020.