Nigeria pledges 600 volunteers to fight Ebola

Abuja – Nigeria pledged on Thursday to send a
contingent of 600 volunteers to help fight the
worst ever outbreak of Ebola on record which
has killed nearly 5,000 people in West Africa.
With financial pledges flowing in from around the
world but trained doctors and nurses scarce in
the three worst effected countries — Liberia,
Guinea and Sierra Leone, the African Union
appealed last week to member states to urgently
fill the gap.
African nations’ response to the crisis has drawn
criticism, with officials in Liberia bemoaning a
lack of African solidarity. The World Health
Organization (WHO) has rebuked some African
countries for closing borders to Ebola-hit states,
saying this worsened their suffering by cutting
off supplies.
Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy and top
oil producer, gained experience in containing
Ebola after an air traveller imported the virus
from Liberia in July, infecting 20 people and
killing 8.
“Nigeria has 600 health workers who have been
trained in the field of Ebola containment who are
ready to go to other affected African countries to
help them in containment of Ebola spread,”
acting health minister Khaliru Alhassan told
Reuters.
“The first contingent of 250 Nigeria experts will
be deployed soon,” he said but did not provide a
date.
Also Read: Toddler tests positive in first case of
Ebola in Mali
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the
African Union Commission, told reporters in the
Sierra Leone capital Freetown that countries in
East Africa had responded with a pledge of 600
health workers.
Democratic Republic of Congo, which has
suffered six outbreaks of Ebola since the disease
was first detected there in 1976, had also
pledged to train 1 000 volunteers, she said.
The WHO originally appealed for 12 000 local
staff and 750 foreign experts but has raised
those targets to 20 000 and 1 000 respectively.
WHO assistant director general Keiji Fukuda said
there were now only 600 foreign experts.
AU STILL WAITING FOR RESPONSES
The WHO declared Nigeria Ebola-free on Monday
but Alhassan said the outbreak remained a
threat to the country until it was completely
neutralised.
The international community has ramped up aid
including sending some medics and supplies to
Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, where the
epidemic has crippled poor and under-equipped
health systems.
The United States is deploying a 3 000-strong
military mission to build up to 17 Ebola
Treatment Units (ETUs) and train local doctors,
while Cuba has dispatched hundreds of medical
personnel.
Alhassan said the Nigerian Centre for Disease
Control would also support Sierra Leone, Liberia
and Guinea in training their health workers.
“What we are waiting for now is that the request
has to come through (West African regional bloc)
ECOWAS and has to be coordinated by WHO,” he
said.

Speaking in Freetown, Dlamini Zuma said the AU
had felt obliged to make a direct plea to
members in mid-October because it realised that
appealing for volunteers to come forward
individually was not enough for the scale of the
crisis.
“We wrote to all our heads of state asking them
to give us health workers who would be
deployed here in these three countries…We are
still waiting for responses,” she said.
“East Africa has responded and they have
pledged more than 600 health workers, DRC has
also pledged about 1 000 but they will bring
them in phases,” she said. “They say they will
start probably with about 200. So we are waiting
for those to come and also pledges to come from
other countries.”
Congo Health Minister Felix Kabange told
Reuters in mid-October the government aimed to
train more than 1 000 volunteers to fight Ebola,
which he hoped would inspire “African
solidarity”. He invited other countries to send
volunteers to new training centres in the capital
Kinshasa.

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