The president, at a U.N. address Thursday, called on all countries to do more to fight the outbreak.
The world must do more to fight the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, President Obama said Thursday at a United Nations meeting on the crisis.
Governments and aid organizations have woken up to the gravity of the situation in recent weeks, and the international response has quickened. But it's not enough, Obama said.
"We are not moving fast enough. We are not doing enough," he said. "Right now everybody has the best of intentions, but we're not putting in the necessary resources. There's still a significant gap between where we are and where we need to be. We know from experience that the response to an outbreak of this magnitude needs to be both fast and sustained—like a marathon, but we have to run it like a sprint. That's only possible if every nation and every organization does its part. And everyone has to do more."
The outbreak has increased exponentially just in the last month, and the predictions keep getting worse. The U.N. Security Council last week declared the Ebola outbreak a threat to international peace and security, unanimously passing a resolution that urges member states to immediately send supplies, medical personnel, and other assistance. The World Health Organization has estimated it will cost $1 billion to get the outbreak under control.
There have been 5,843 reported cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea thus far, including more than 2,800 deaths, according to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization. The actual totals are expected to be several times higher because many patients are remaining home rather than seeking care at already overwhelmed treatment centers.
WHO now predicts the number of Ebola cases will triple to more than 20,000 by Nov. 2 if control efforts are not accelerated—a total the U.N. agency previously predicted wouldn't be reached until January. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that in a worst-case scenario the total could surpass 1.4 million within four months.
Obama announced a new U.S. response to the outbreak last week, involving a six month investment of $750 million, and the deployment of 3,000 military personnel to help with relief efforts on the ground.
That effort has already begun, he announced Thursday. Obama said the U.S. commander is on the ground in Liberia, and teams are working to set up an air bridge with Senegal, to move supplies and aid workers into the region. Work is also under way to set up a field hospital and a training facility to train health workers from around the world; build new treatment centers across Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea; and distribute hundreds of thousands of information kits and supplies to families.
Obama made clear that addressing the Ebola outbreak is a top priority for the U.S., but other countries, international organizations, foundations, businesses, and citizens must do more, he said, and they need do it fast.
"[The U.S.] can't do this alone," he said. "Do not stand by thinking that somehow because of what we've done, it's somehow taken care of. It's not."
"If this epidemic is not stopped, this disease could cause a humanitarian catastrophe across the region," Obama continued. "In an era when regional crises can quickly become global threats, stopping Ebola is in the interests of the entire world."