BEIJING (Reuters) – China will dispatch an elite unit from the People’s Liberation Army to help Ebola-hit Liberia, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday, responding to UN calls for a greater global effort to fight the deadly virus in West Africa.
Washington has led the international drive to stop the spread of the disease that has killed nearly 5,000 people, sending thousands of troops and committing about $1 billion, but Beijing has faced criticism for not doing enough.
The PLA squad, which has experience from a 2002 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), will build a 100-bed treatment centre in Liberia, the first such facility in the three countries most impacted by Ebola to be constructed and run by a foreign country, said Lin Songtian, director general of the ministry’s Department of African Affairs.
The centre will be open for operation in a month’s time, he told a briefing in Beijing. China will also dispatch 480 PLA medical staff to treat Ebola patients, he said.
It’s the first time China has deployed a whole unit of epidemic prevention forces and military medical staff abroad, Lin said.
China is Africa’s biggest trade partner, tapping the continent’s rich vein of resources to fuel its own economic growth over the past couple of decades. Some critics have rounded on Beijing for not helping more in Africa’s hour of need.
China has so far donated 750 million yuan ($123 million) to 13 African countries and international organisations to combat Ebola, according to the government.
“China’s assistance will not stop until the Ebola epidemic is eradicated in West Africa,” Lin said.
The White House this week responded to criticism that as the global superpower it was not doing enough by taking a veiled swipe at the contributions of Russia and China.
“When we have a situation like this on the global scene, people aren’t wondering what the Chinese are doing to respond to it. People aren’t picking up the phone and wondering if Vladimir Putin is going to commit Russian resources to this effort,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told a media briefing.