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China's Problem-plagued Health Aid in Africa

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China's government is among the most image-conscious in the world, down to the last detail. During its political power transition in November, uniformity was on display at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, with no cracks in the facade. Image by Kathleen McLaughlin. Beijing, 2013

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In Africa, China's reputation is poor and risks falling, a victim of overzealous capitalism, and now fake pharmaceuticals. At the main market in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, locals complain they've been undercut in doing business by illegal Chinese immigrants. Image by Kathleen McLaughlin. Tanzania, 2013.

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China has invested heavily in hospitals and sending doctors to East Africa and elsewhere on the continent. Image by Kathleen McLaughlin. Tanzania, 2013.

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Along with China's aid, a plethora of fake medications has followed. Experts say China's sophisticated counterfeiting industry has found a new market in Africa. The malaria drugs on the left, sold in Uganda, are real. The right are fake. Image by Kathleen McLaughlin. Uganda, 2013.

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Fake drugs can be a deadly matter. Malaria is especially dangerous for pregnant women and young children, like these at a hospital in Mwanza, Tanzania. Image by Kathleen McLaughlin. Tanzania, 2013.

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Porous borders and corruption have allowed the problem to thrive. At this checkpoint between Uganda and Kenya, border police say smuggling is a massive, never-ending problem. Image by Kathleen McLaughlin. Uganda and Kenya, 2013.

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Ultimately the health of these countries, including these Ugandan children, could be affected by the flood of fake drugs. Some estimates say as many as one-third of the malaria drugs in the region are counterfeit or poor quality. Image by Kathleen McLaughlin. Uganda, 2013.

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China has denied the drugs originate here, but perception is otherwise and evidence is mounting. Eventually the ability of investors like these Chinese miners in Tanzania to do business locally could be affected. Image by Kathleen McLaughlin. Tanzania, 2013.

China is famously secretive about how much it spends on health aid in Africa, an endeavor it began more than three decades ago but has ramped up significantly in recent years.

Having eradicated malaria within its own borders and invented a groundbreaking cure, China has focused much of its health efforts in Africa on the deadly parasite. But fake drugs and corruption on both sides have thrown a wrench into those plans.

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