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HARARE - After receiving his second and last acupuncture treatment, Sebastian Jackson, 53, smiled as he showed everyone how powerful his grip had become. Just over a week ago, he could hardly shake hands with anyone without wincing in pain.
Jackson says he had undergone conventional medical treatment on his wrists, but to no avail.
Then he heard about the Zimbabwe-China Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Center at the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, where treatments included the use of acupuncture. He decided to give it a try.
The treatment has been effective for Jackson, who is one of the thousands of Zimbabweans who have turned to the traditional Chinese medicine center to have their ailments treated.
The center was designated by the Ministry of Health and Child Care in January 2020, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Zimbabwean and Chinese governments on cooperation in the field of TCM and acupuncture.
The facility, which will also house the country's largest TCM training school and research center, started taking patients in November 2020.
By April, it had treated more than 150 people suffering from various ailments such as hypertension, lumbar pain, diabetes, hernia and other health problems.
The center's executive director, Sun Shuang, says that 48 percent of the patients were now locals, compared to when the center opened and it was mostly Chinese nationals who sought treatment there.
"We accept patients with emergency and urgent problems when there's no other option for them. We don't do advertisements. We have lots of patients only because of the good results we've had with others," she says.
The doctor says the center was training more local doctors in traditional medicine, hoping that, with time, similar facilities will be opened throughout the country.
Karen Gurure, a China-trained Zimbabwean medical doctor who is interning at the clinic, says the major advantage of TCM is that it has fewer side effects.
Gurure, who had studied at China's Jiangxi University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, says more benefits can be derived from adopting TCM, which uses imbalances in complex patterns within the body to determine a diagnosis while Western medicine tends to focus on diagnosing and treating illnesses based on a patient's symptoms.
"In the case of back pain, conventional medicine will treat just the back pain, while TCM looks to treat the whole body," she says.
Gurure says China offered valuable lessons to Zimbabwe in terms of modernizing and codifying traditional medicine. Zimbabwe has a long history of using traditional herbal remedies, which are still the most affordable and easily accessible source of treatment for many people.