President retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio has assured that the existing friendship between Sierra Leone and China will continue to grow from strength to strength in the coming years.
President Bio was yesterday speaking at the Wilberforce Barracks during the commissioning and handing over ceremony of the Tropical Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Centre to the Sierra Leone Armed Forces.
He said, "The friendship is expected to grow from strength to strength and the construction of the facility will not only further strengthen both countries' relationship but will serve as a major boost to Sierra Leone's health delivery in the human development portfolio under the new direction."
He said in January, 2017, the Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China and the Ministry of Defense of Sierra Leone, signed a protocol to legitimise and operationalise the government of China's delivery of military aid to Sierra Leone.
He said both countries agreed in the protocol to construct and equip a Tropical Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Centre for the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces.
He added that the agreement was reached to contribute to the development of the health delivery infrastructure of the RSLAF through the joint medical unit, a facility that will continue to play a leading role in addressing health challenges not only for the RSLAF but for the general public.
He was pleased to note that the project was well managed and that both parties have played a responsible role in ensuring the successful completion of the project.
He continued that good health conditions improve productivity in agriculture, learning and teaching, child survival, reduce maternal mortality and improve investments.
The president asserted that the construction of the facility could not have come in a better time than now as it prepares the RSLAF to respond to various diseases including Ebola virus.
He said Sierra Leone went through devastating period when the Ebola virus struck in 2014 and brought suffering and hardship on the people of Sierra Leone. He lamented that the virus killed thousands of Sierra Leoneans including health workers.
He said the People's Republic of China played a great role in combatting the dreadful virus and also made a lot of donations to fight the virus.
On his part, the Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Wu Peng, said it gives him a great pleasure to be part of the commissioning, describing the moment as 'momentous.'
He thanked President Julius Maada Bio for gracing the ceremony as it shows the importance he places on developing bilateral military exchanges in particular and bilateral cooperation between Sierra Leone and China.
He said the friendly association and exchanges between the Chinese Military and the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces have always been part and parcel of the cooperation of both countries. He said over the years they have collaborated and have achieved tangible results in wide-ranging areas, focusing on the international peace-keeping task and human resources capacity building.
The Chinese Ambassador disclosed that a large number of RSLAF officers got trained every year through various programs organised in China. He commended the RSLAF personnel for returning home after completing their courses to graciously contribute to their country's development.
Sharing his experience during the Ebola epidemic which gripped the country, Ambassador Wu Peng said China and Sierra Leone jointly fought to end the Ebola epidemic. He said he was able to realise that infectious disease is a global issue that calls for concerted actions among military personnel especially the medical practitioners.
He said with the commissioning and handing over of the Tropical Infectious Disease Prevention Control Centre, the government of Sierra Leone will be taken up the full ownership while the Chinese will continue to do its part by offering necessary assistance in accordance with the protocol.
"I am sure that our cooperation will go a long way in promoting Sierra Leone public Health sector and epidemic prevention," he said.
In his welcoming address earlier, the University of Sierra Leone Chancellor, Professor Foday Shar, said the event was indeed another significant milestone rekindling the friendship between Sierra Leone and China.
He said after the Ebola virus scourge in the country, the RSLAF benefited from number of trainings especially in the area of public health. He maintained that those trainings have benefitted the RSLAF personnel to be able to face any outbreak.
He disclosed that 24 staff of the RSLAF including medical doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and others just returned from a training from China in preparation for the opening of the Tropical Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Centre that will be working alongside their Chinese counterpart to run the centre.
Describing the training as "huge accomplishment," the USL Chancellor said infectious diseases are the biggest health burden in the country and that the facility will help reposition the 34 Military Hospital into infective health center that will respond to any emergency.