Malaysia to send 20 million medical rubber gloves to aid Ebola fight in 5 African nations

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia will send more than 20 million medical rubber gloves to five African nations battling the deadly Ebola virus, addressing a crucial shortage faced by overwhelmed health workers, the country's Prime Minister Najib Razak announced on Monday.

The South-east Asian nation is a leading manufacturer of rubber gloves, producing about 60 per cent of the world's supply of latex medical gloves. The health authorities say that a shortage of rubber gloves in affected African nations has led to more deaths and raised risks that the virus will spread among doctors and nurses.

"Malaysia can make a unique and vital contribution to the fight against Ebola because we are one of the biggest manufacturers of rubber gloves," a Malaysian government spokesperson said in a statement. "We hope this contribution will prevent the spread of Ebola and save lives."

Among the companies supplying the shipment are Sime Darby, Top Glove Corp Bhd, Kuala Lumpur Kepong, and IOI Corp, the Prime Minister's Office said. Top Glove alone has a production capacity of 42 billion gloves a year and exports to 200 countries.

Shares in the big rubber glove companies have rallied in recent weeks as fears grow that the virus could spread.

The Malaysian government did not say whether it or the companies were footing the bill for the shipment.

Malaysia will send 11 containers, each holding 1.9 million gloves, the statement said. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will each receive three containers, while Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo will each receive one container.

The outbreak has now killed upwards of 2,400 people, mostly in Liberia, neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone as poorly resourced West African health-care systems have been overrun.\