China is the largest contributor of direct foreign investment to its distant southern neighbor Cambodia. The two countries also share a form of unitarian government in Communism. But despite historically close ties fueled by politics and economics, there are some rifts in the relationship. A small group based in Yunnan is reaching out in another way, by offering free health programs aimed at Cambodian youth.
For the past two years, doctors from Yunnan Fuwai Cardiovascular Hospital in Kunming have traveled to northern Cambodia to screen children from poor families for dangerous heart defects. To date, more than 30,000 kids have undergone this relatively simple and quick process, which can be completed by properly trained people, even if they have no medical background.
The Fuwai program, called 'China-Cambodia Love Heart Journey', endeavors to identify up to 100 children with life-threatening heart ailments, assess the severity of their needs and then fly them to Kunming for any necessary surgeries. Several procedures have already been successfully carried out, with six new patients arriving in the Spring City in mid-July.
If this all sounds familiar to GoKunming readers, it is because United States-based Dr Robert Detrano has been doing the same thing in Yunnan — with help from local doctors, volunteers and fundraisers — for the better part of 20 years. Those efforts managed to identify 500 kids with debilitating heart ailments and secure the treatment they needed.
Sino-Cambodian relations are in a state of flux over issues of sovereignty and aid. Coupled with international pressure to reform — mostly from the European Union — Cambodia's government is feeling squeezed from several directions. A bit of outreach from Yunnan — outside typical economic incentives — in the form of humanitarian help, may be a breath of fresh air. Of the current Yunnan-based heart screening effort in his country, Cambodia's Health Minister, Sea Huong, said:
This is a testament to good cooperation in the health sector between our two countries and it will contribute further to deepening people-to-people bonds. I hope under this close cooperation between the two countries, more Cambodian children with congenital heart disease will receive free surgeries in China.