Ethiopia volunteers to fight Ebola

As many as 187 Ethiopian health workers who have volunteered to lend a hand in the fight against West Africa's deadly Ebola outbreak are preparing to make their perilous trip.

As many as 187 Ethiopian health workers who have volunteered to lend a hand in the fight against West Africa's deadly Ebola outbreak are preparing to make their perilous trip.

ADDIS ABABA – As many as 187 Ethiopian health workers who have volunteered to lend a hand in the fight against West Africa's deadly Ebola outbreak are preparing to make their perilous trip.

"I volunteered because I want to put in whatever little contribution I can muster in the fight against Ebola. They are our sisters and brothers taking the brunt of the virus," Dr. Aklilu Hailu told The Anadolu Agency on Monday.

Hailu and his colleagues were attending a farewell ceremony organized by the African Union (AU) Commission in appreciation for their help.

In October, the Ethiopian government pledged to assemble up to 200 health workers for the AU's "Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa" initiative, launched by the AU Commission's Peace and Security Council.

Having graduated from Mekele University in 2009 and having served in various health centers in Ethiopia ever since, Hailu now wants to make use of his six years of experience to ease people's suffering in Ebola-affected countries, especially Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

"It's true that there is unmet demand for medical doctors in our country, but what is happening in the three western African countries is something immediate and dire," he said.

"No one can be insulated from the disease; it should be looked at as everybody's problem," he added.

In recent months, Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has killed 6,388 people, mostly in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

The deadly virus has so far claimed 3,177 lives in Liberia, 1,768 in Sierra Leone and 1,428 in Guinea.

But Sierra Leone is ahead in terms of new infections, with 7,798 cases, while Liberia is second with 7,719 and Guinea third with 2,283.

-Diverse-

Dr. Naphtal Kilenga, head of the AU's medical center, voiced satisfaction that hundreds of Ethiopian professionals were joining the fight.

"The Ethiopian volunteers represent diverse areas in the medical profession, such as epidemiologists, lab technicians and nurses – they're in high demand," Kilenga said.

"Small groups were dispatched earlier from numerous African countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Cameroon," he said.

"And last month, Nigeria dispatched 178 volunteers," he added. "I hope we will meet our target of dispatching 1,000 volunteers within the next couple of months."

Asked as to the whether there had been any improvement in affected countries, Kilenga said, "Liberia and Guinea are showing improvement, while Sierra Leone is lagging behind."

"The problem with Sierra Leone is the poor state of hospitals, as well as cultural differences," he said.

Menbere Seyoum, a health officer who served Ethiopia's Harari State in the same capacity for the last 16 years, has also signed up for the fight.

"The call for application was brought home to me by a notice posted at the gates of my health organization," Seyoum told AA.

"I applied and was selected from many applicants," she added. "I am happy to have the opportunity to serve my fellow African brothers and sisters in need of help."

Aware of the risks, Seyoum said they were worth taking.

"I have been trained how to protect myself from infection," she said. "The rest is up to God."

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