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Philippines health workers sought for Ebola-hit West Africa

The Philippines is considering deploying substantial numbers of health workers to West Africa amid a global appeal to deal with the Ebola virus, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said on Friday.

The United States and United Kingdom have both specifically asked Manila to provide “human resources”, Mr Ona said, adding that the nation’s high number of qualified health professionals make it well-placed to provide help.

The United Nations has meanwhile called for a 20-fold increase in the world’s response to the Ebola epidemic, which has killed nearly 3,900 people in West Africa since the beginning of the year.

“I think it is also something of a responsibility for our country... to respond to that global call for assistance,” Mr Ona said at a joint news conference with World Health Organisation Western Pacific director Shin Young Soo.

“We (Philippine officials) are meeting on this issue and should be able to make a firm decision... maybe in a week or so.”

The Philippines is expected to decide after President Benigno Aquino meets key officials to discuss the specific US and UK requests, Mr Ona added.

Sending volunteers

The health secretary said the Philippines would only be sending volunteers, and noted it had a potentially large pool.

The health department has fielded queries from Filipino health workers wanting to work in West Africa, he added.

Mr Ona said about 3,000 Filipinos are already working in worst-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

About 150 Filipino soldiers also serve as peacekeepers under United Nations command in Liberia.

Source: AFP

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