GENEVA (REUTERS) - Cuba is to send 165 health-care workers to West Africa to help in the battle against the world's worst-ever epidemic of the Ebola virus, the country's health minister said on Friday, as the death toll rises to more than 2,400.
Speaking at a news conference at the headquarters of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva, Mr Roberto Morales Ojeda, Cuba's Minister of Public Health, said the first of his workers would begin arriving in Sierra Leone in early October.
The death toll from West Africa's Ebola outbreak has risen to more than 2,400 from at least 4,784 cases, but that is highly likely to be an underestimate, WHO director-general Margaret Chan said on Friday. The epidemic has been raging in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea since it started there in March, and has also reached Nigeria and Senegal.
Dr Chan said the number of cases of the deadly viral disease is rising faster than the authorities' ability to manage them, and she called for international support in sending health-care workers, medical supplies and aid to the worst-affected countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
She welcomed Cuba's commitment, saying it would make "a significant difference" in Sierra Leone. "If we are going to go to war with Ebola, we need the resources to fight," she said. "Cuba is world famous for its ability to train outstanding doctors and nurses and for its generosity in helping fellow countries on the route to progress."
The Cuba staff will include doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, specialists in infection control, intensive care specialists and social mobilisation officers.