Sep 25, 2014 2:22 PM

Obama urges world to do more to tackle Ebola

The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) President Barack Obama, in a chilling assessment of international efforts to stem a deadly Ebola outbreak, said the world has not done enough to respond to a health crisis that poses a growing threat to regional and global security.

"There is still a significant gap between where we are and where we need to be," Obama said Thursday in remarks to a high-level United Nations meeting on Ebola.

The crisis in West Africa is the largest ever outbreak of Ebola, with more than 6,200 people believed to have been sickened, almost half of whom have died. U.S. health officials have warned that the number of infected people could explode to at least 1.4 million by mid-January, though they have also cautioned that the totals could peak well below that if efforts to control the outbreak are ramped up.

Margaret Chan, director of the World Health Organization, warned that the outbreak will likely get worse before it gets better. The virus, she told the meeting, is "still running ahead, jumping over everything we put in place to slow it down."

She echoed the U.N. Security Council's earlier warning that the outbreak, if not managed properly, would turn into a peace and security crisis. Concerns already are high over the economic impact to one of the world's poorest regions, and U.N. officials describe the global organization's response as its most intense ever to a health crisis.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim warned Thursday of a potential "meltdown" of the African continent. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the number of cases is doubling every three weeks and has called for a 20-fold increase in aid totaling almost $1 billion to tackle the crisis over the next six months.

Aid groups have scrambled desperately for resources. "Our 150-bed facility in Monrovia opens for just 30 minutes each morning. Only a few people are admitted, to fill beds made empty by those who died overnight," the president of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Joanne Liu, told the meeting.

Obama has dispatched 3,000 U.S. troops to Liberia to set up facilities and form training teams to help the Africans treat Ebola victims. On Thursday, top lawmakers in Congress also approved the use of leftover Afghanistan war money to begin funding Obama's $1 billion request to help fight the outbreak.

While Obama touted U.S. contributions, he warned other nations that the U.S. does not have the capacity to fight the epidemic on its own.

"Everybody's got to move fast in order for us to make a difference," he said. "If we do, we'll save hundreds of thousands of lives."

After the meeting, Chan told reporters the next step is "action, action, action." She said they had not yet tallied the amount of aid pledged during the high-level meeting to help fight the crisis.


Associated Press writer Cara Anna at the United Nations contributed.


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