Cuba will deploy nearly 300 additional medical workers to West Africa to help fight the deadly Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, officials said Friday.
Regla Angulo, head of Cuba’s medical relief agency, said doctors and nurses were undergoing intense training ahead of their deployment, working in mock field hospitals similar to those they expect to encounter in Africa.
Friday’s announcement follows a pledge earlier this month by Cuba to send 165 doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone. The entire staff is expected to arrive in West Africa in early October after completing infection-control training administered by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Some members of the medical team have already been working in Sierra Leone and Guinea for a numbers of years and will continue to do so, the WHO said, adding that the Cuban mission was the “largest offer of a foreign medical team from a single country” during the current outbreak.
The Ebola epidemic that began in a remote corner of Guinea has taken hold of much of neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing more than 3,000 people in just over six months.
The death toll from the outbreak has risen to at least 3,091 out of 6,574 probable, suspected and confirmed cases, the World Health Organization said on Friday.
Liberia has recorded 1,830 deaths, around three times as many as both Guinea and Sierra Leone, the two other most affected countries, according to WHO data.
The WHO said earlier this week the number of infections could reach 20,000 by November, months earlier than it previously predicted. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that 550,000 to 1.4 million people might be infected in the region by January if nothing is done.
Cuba’s decision to deploy additional medical staff to combat the virus comes a day after President Barack Obama called on more nations to join the fight, warning that hundreds of thousands of lives were at stake.
“More nations need to contribute critical assets and capabilities – whether it's air transport, medical evacuation, health care workers, equipment or treatment,” he told world leaders at a meeting on Ebola held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
The United States is deploying 3,000 soldiers to West Africa to build treatment centers and train local medics. Other nations, including Britain, France and China have pledged military and civilian personnel alongside cash and medical supplies. The World Bank has said it will give an additional $170 million to support medics and health care systems in the region.
Al Jazeera and wire services