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New brigade of 83 Cuban health care workers leaves for Liberia, Guinea

Havana, Oct 22 (EFE).- A brigade of 83 Cuban health care workers departed for Liberia and Guinea Conakry to help in the fight to contain the Ebola virus as part of Havana’s contribution to the West African countries most affected by the epidemic, state-run media reported Wednesday.

This is the second group of health professionals that Cuba has sent to Africa, after the government – at the beginning of October – dispatched 165 to Sierra Leone. This new group consists of 35 doctors and 48 nurses with more than 15 years of experience being stationed in other countries.

The official daily Granma reported Wednesday that Cuban President Raul Castro personally bade farewell to the group on Tuesday night at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport along with other government officials.

“Raul embraced each one of them at the foot of the plane’s stairway, that embrace that we 11 million Cubans, a whole island, also gave them before they departed,” said the daily, which called the medical personnel “heroes.”

Last Monday, at the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America summit held in Havana, Castro announced that Cuba would be sending a new group of doctors and nurses to Africa.

Initially, the Cuban government said that the group would include 91 health care workers, but 83 were included in the final tally – 49 of them headed for Liberia and 34 for Guinea Conakry.

Cuba’s contribution to the fight against Ebola has been praised by the World Health Organization and by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who called the aid effort an “extraordinary response,” noting that the number of medical workers Havana has promised to allocate to battling Ebola in Africa exceeds the numbers sent by Doctors Without Borders, the Red Cross, the United States, the United Kingdom or China.

The Ebola virus has killed more than 4,500 people and infected more than 9,200 since the epidemic broke out last March, with almost all of the victims being in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Conakry, according to WHO figures