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Guinea Welcomes Cuban Doctors in Ebola Fight

Cuban doctors, who will travel to Liberia and Guinea, wait for the start of a press event in Havana, Oct. 21, 2014.

The first batch of Cuban doctors has arrived in the Guinean capital, part of the international assistance plan to help contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

This first contingent of Cuban doctors is comprised mainly of epidemiologists, who are establishing testing laboratories in various hot zones.

Their arrival comes as Guinea is experiencing a new surge in Ebola cases, after briefly starting to get the virus under control back in August.

Guinea has reported more than 1,500 cases and more than 800 deaths since the West Africa outbreak began in Guinea in December.

Guinea Foreign Affairs Minister Francois Luncine Fall said the presence of Cuban medical staff was boosting confidence that the country would begin to win the battle against Ebola.

He said Cuba’s friendship in Guinea’s time of need was noted and the expertise and commitment was essential to confront one of the biggest health threats today.

Guinea is battling a shortage of trained medical personnel. President Alpha Conde has drafted retired doctors and medical students to volunteer or face consequences. Scores of healthcare workers have also died fighting Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - the three hardest hit countries.

So the arrival of foreign doctors is a relief here.

Head of the Cuban medical delegation, Dr. Graseciliano Jazbatolo, said one his team’s priorities was to stop the chain of contamination and accurately establish how many Ebola cases there were.

He said Cuban doctors were here in Guinea to help eradicate Ebola quickly and were eager to work with their sister country Guinea.

He called on Guineans to remain calm and overcome their fears and suspicions of seeking treatment at hospitals and medical facilities.

In the past week, one Ebola patient from Kankan jumped out of an ambulance on the way to a treatment center in Gueckedou and died. This is one of many examples showing how fearful many Guineans remain months into an information awareness campaign.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power arrived in Guinea Sunday to underscore the American Commitment to helping eradicate Ebola in West Africa. The United States has had several cases of Ebola - mostly medical personnel. And Mali reported its first case last week.

The United States has pledged $$350 million in assistance and is sending some 4,000 troops to help build treatment centers and provide logistical support for tracing Ebola contamination - a key to halting the spread of the virus.

After meeting with President Conde, Powers underscored that Ebola was not an African problem but a global one that required intensive international action.

The World Health Organization says if that action isn’t mobilized more quickly, there could be up to 10,000 new Ebola cases each week by the end of this year.