Tunis — In a white and yellow two-story building in Tunis, capital of Tunisia, patients were lying relaxed with tiny needles into their skin for acupuncture treatment.
Samir Mohamed, 50 years old, suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for many years and came to the Chinese acupuncture center every week.
"In the past, I took anti-inflammatory painkillers for a long time, but it caused negative effects, such as stomach pain," said Mohamed. "My friends suggested me to try Chinese acupuncture, and it did work!"
After treatment, Mohamed had a short consultative talk with his doctor He Shuiyong, and scheduled the next treatment time.
"We usually suggest patients to take a treatment course of 10 times," said He, a 47-year-old Chinese acupuncture doctor and head of the Chinese medical team in Tunisia.
There were five Chinese acupuncturists working in the center, all from the medical team. The center opened in the morning from Monday to Saturday every week.
Each day, around 60 patients come and receive treatments, mainly traditional acupuncture, as well as massage and cupping therapy.
"Aged Tunisian patients mainly suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and cervical and lumbar spondylosis, due to local humid weather near the sea and people's living and dining habits," said He. "Middle-aged patients mainly suffer from anxiety and insomnia."
"Chinese acupuncture adopts natural therapy, treating pains without negative effects, which is its most outstanding feature," He said.
Chinese acupuncture was introduced to Tunisia in the 1970s and the Chinese acupuncture center in the capital was established in 1994, since when it gained increasing popularity among Tunisian people.
He told Xinhua that Tunisian President of People's Representatives Assembly Mohamed Ennaceur also benefited from Chinese acupuncture and was quite satisfied with the treatment.
"Ennaceur suffered from pain on the back, causing inconvenience to daily life", said He, who was Ennaceur's doctor in charge. "Ennaceur received a treatment course of 10 times, including traditional Chinese acupuncture, cupping and massage."
"Ennaceur liked acupuncture very much and his pain disappeared after the treatment," He added.
In some places of Tunisia, where people still lack access to medical facilities, there is growing hope that the country could strengthen cooperation with China to localize traditional Chinese acupuncture.
Re Bali, chairman of Tunisian Acupuncture Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Association, said that Tunisia expected to further strengthen cooperation with Chinese experts, realize localization of Chinese acupuncture, and meet clinical treatment needs in the country.
Besides providing treatment, the Chinese acupuncture center also trained Tunisian doctors to learn acupuncture. Every two years, 15 Tunisian doctors register and learn in the center.
"The courses in our center are equivalent to those of undergraduate acupuncture students in China, and we simplify the teaching content in French," said He Shuiyong.
On Friday afternoon, in the classroom of the center, He Shuiyong gave a lesson on the location of meridians, by pointing out specific position on the face.
Anissa Sethom, a 40-year-old medical teacher in local university, studied in the class. "I'm very interested in TCM and hope to learn more about it," said Anissa.
"Many thanks to the Chinese teachers who encourage us," said Anissa. "They adopt various teaching methods for our better understanding."
Fatma Baccar, a 39 year-old doctor in a local private clinic, told Xinhua that she hoped to find better solutions for some diseases, because sometimes western treatment was not very effective during daily work.
"However, TCM is rather difficult to learn, a complete different demonstration method," said Baccar. "Thanks for the Chinese teachers' patience during the class."
The training was divided into four stages, including basic theory of Chinese traditional medicine, transfusions of meridians, acupuncture manipulation skills, and acupuncture clinical treatment.
Students will take one and a half years for theory study and another half year for internship. So far, around 160 Tunisian acupuncturists have graduated from the center, with qualification to be engaged in acupuncture treatment.
"Some Tunisian acupuncturists choose to work in public hospitals, and some opened their own private clinics, " He said. "As teachers, we are glad to see that."
Last year, the center started a new cooperation project to send eight Tunisian acupuncturists to east China's Jiangxi Province every year, for an advanced training of two months.
The TCM, with a history of more than 2,500 years, contains various forms of treatment, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, exercise and dietary therapy.
"The association wants to develop the acupuncture center into a TCM center, such as providing traditional Chinese herbal medicine for Tunisians," said Re.
China started to send medical teams to Tunisia in 1974 as part of its medical aid efforts. Around 1,000 Chinese doctors have worked in the North African country.