ABUJA, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Nigeria will send a contingent of 600 volunteers to help Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone fight the worst outbreak of Ebola on record which has killed nearly 5,000 people in West Africa, the acting health minister said on Thursday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and top oil producer, Ebola-free on Monday after an imported case of the disease in July infected 20 people, killing eight.
The international community has ramped up aid including sending medics and supplies to the three hardest-hit countries, where the epidemic has crippled poor and under-equipped health systems. Nigerian’s deployment would be the largest mission sent by a fellow African country.
“Nigeria has 600 health workers who have been trained in the field of Ebola containment who are ready to go to other effected 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, without providing a date.
He said that the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control will also support the three countries to train 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.
Alhassan said although Nigeria has been declared Ebola-free, it should not let its guard down because the disease remains a threat to the country until it was contained. (Reporting by Felix Onuah and Camillus Eboh; Writing by Bate Felix)