The China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has taken a different direction. The grand initiative has now transcended beyond trade and infrastructure developments in member countries. Health has become another pivotal element of the BRI.
A team of ophthalmologists from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomus Region and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China have been assisting Cambodian doctors in Kampong Cham province to conduct cataract surgeries.
The “Belt and Road Cataract Blindness Eradication Programme” initiated under The Belt and Road Hong Kong Centre in May 2018, has treated some 6,200 patients in the province thus far.
Doctors performed the surgery on board two mobile eye clinics stationed in Kampong Cham Provincial Hospital.
The cataract blindness eradication campaign lasted 19 months and it is the longest eye surgery campaign conducted by Chinese medical teams outside the country.
“It is also China’s record for medical assistance in eye treatment. The campaign clearly demonstrates the strength of “people-to-people connectivity” between the two countries,” said C.Y.Leung, chairman of the Belt and Road Hong Kong Centre, who led a Chinese delegation to Kampong Cham to witness the closing ceremony of the maiden project on December 17.
Leung told The Post that on the advice of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Kampong Cham was chosen as their first project site to treat cataract patients and the medical team will be deployed to Prey Veng province to begin their second project in Cambodia.
Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhaily, who witnessed the closing ceremony said, “the successful completion of the cataract blindness campaign has scored a win-win cooperation between Cambodia and China under the Belt and Road Strategic Framework.
“This project has undoubtedly enhanced the friendship between our countries, I am sure there will be more new cooperations in the future.”
The team will leave behind the two mobile eye clinics in Kampong Cham Provincial Hospital as another two new units are being built for the Prey Veng project that is scheduled to begin in March next year.
“There could be new cases because of aging but so far there is none. So, we are moving to Prey Veng. Compared to other programmes, we don’t fly in and fly out.
“We stay in Kampong Cham to treat the patients until they are cured. We started two years ago and 19 months later we have finished [the project] with the last patient treated last Friday [December 13],” said Leung.
Dr Samuth Phirun, an ophthalmologist from Kampong Cham Provincial Hospital, said the surgeries were carried out successfully with the support of Chinese specialists.
“We have cooperated with the Chinese doctors and helped lots of patients who had problems with their eyes. The Chinese doctors have demonstrated their techniques and skills in doing the surgeries.”
Health Minister Mam Bunheng, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian and China Hong Kong and Macau Expatriate and Business Association of Cambodia chairman Yum Sui Sang joined about 1,000 guests at the closing ceremony.
Sam Him, a 78-year-old farmer, said: “Previously my vision was totally dark and I couldn’t see even though I wore spectacles. Fortunately, I was told to see the Chinese doctors and after a short treatment, I am able to see clearly now without wearing spectacles”.