Project Hope is an NGO that delivers essential
medicines and supplies, including medical training and volunteers, to
prevent disease, respond to disaster and generally improve health
“I think it’s a fascinating project, but I do think
there need to be some public health considerations as it moves forward,”
says Thomas Kenyon, president and CEO, speaking from Washington DC.
“With any infrastructure development there can be public health
consequences, good and bad. If it improves overall health and
sanitation, that will have a positive outcome. If it leads to air
pollution, or increases lifestyle issues that drive diseases such as
tobacco, dietary changes and sanitary lifestyle, it will have negative
Improved communication, from a health perspective,
is a double-edged sword. “We know from other parts of the world that,
while we welcome transport corridors, in the example of the AIDS
epidemic, the closer you are to a road, the higher your risk.”
Still, Kenyon believes there is a great opportunity here provided health has been considered.
“It does create a tremendous platform for collaboration across a huge geographic area with an enormous population,” he says.
Hope established a children’s medical centre in Shanghai, which has now
been designated a national centre and has been followed by another in
“We are already thinking of it as a platform to bring
in other children’s hospital leaders to drive a common agenda,
coordinating with one another, transferring skills and sharing
technology,” says Kenyon.
This demonstration and collaboration
effect, he thinks, is a positive that could come out of the greater
communication with Belt and Road.
Thomas Kenyon, Project Hope
“If they could replicate what
the Shanghai children’s medical centre has done over the last 20 years,
which has a rich research agenda and the potential to share – earlier in
its drive for prosperity China didn’t have this capacity,” Kenyon says.
“Now it has major technical capacity to share with countries along the
Belt and Road project.”
He notes that, although there are no
stated health objectives in Belt and Road, “it is after all to lift
people out of poverty, to improve economic standing; and as
socioeconomic standards rise, health comes with that.”
realizing the potential for health will be a negotiation, he says:
“Sometimes in countries, health isn’t always the top priority. The
priority is infrastructure projects, roads and dams and power. Social
services tend to follow next, and it may be a matter of time before we
can expect a health agenda to materialize.”
China’s Public Security Bureau says it invited representatives from 11
overseas NGOs to attend a forum in Beijing on Belt and Road. Project
Hope was one of three groups that set out proposals for women and
children’s health consultation, surgical training, medical assistance,
humanitarian aid and public health projects.
A spokesman for the
Public Security Bureau’s office on the management of overseas NGOs told
China Development Brief that the department “will cooperate with banks,
tax administrations and overseas departments to ensure convenience for
overseas NGOs that work with One Belt, One Road initiatives.”