Ebola. Obama Warns of Slow Response to Crisis

Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa
Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa

United Nations, New York City — Seeking to speed the response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, President Obama delivered a blunt warning on Thursday at a high-level United Nations meeting devoted to the health crisis: The world is doing too little and moving too slowly.

Mr. Obama cited his announcement last week that the Pentagon will build a field hospital and treatment units in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — along with the establishment of a United Nations emergency mission to respond to the Ebola outbreak — as positive steps.

“But I want us to be clear: We are not moving fast enough. We are not doing enough,” he said, adding, “If we move fast, even if imperfectly, that could mean the difference between 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 deaths versus hundreds of thousands or even a million deaths.”

The initial American response to the outbreak also came under criticism for being slow-footed and inadequate. But after announcing a new military command in Liberia that will build 17 Ebola treatment centers across the region, Mr. Obama clearly felt emboldened to prod others.

“We will not stop, we will not relent until we halt this epidemic, once and for all,” he said. “But I hope I’m properly communicating the sense of urgency here. Do not stand by thinking that somehow because of what we’ve done, it’s taken care of. It’s not.”

Mr. Obama and his fellow leaders heard a stark message from doctors on the front lines of the outbreak. They described wholesale panic, with desperate patients, angry family members, infection rates doubling every three weeks and the collapse of public health systems, which has led to outbreaks of other deadly diseases like malaria.

Joanne Liu, the international president of Doctors Without Borders, said her organization’s hospital in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, opened for only 30 minutes each morning, rapidly filling the handful of beds that opened overnight because of the deaths of patients.

“The sick continue to be turned away, only to return home and spread the virus among loved ones and neighbors,” she said. “The isolation centers you have promised must be established now.”

Doctors Without Borders is calling for a centralized system that can be tapped when an aid worker from abroad falls sick, so he or she can be evacuated safely no matter what the nationality.

The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said that 400 people were dying each day and that the contributions of member states to contain the outbreak “are falling significantly short of the twentyfold surge that is required.”

One of the crucial shortfalls, United Nations officials and aid workers have said, is the urgent need for countries to agree to transport and treat aid workers who are infected.

The United Nations warned that without stronger efforts to contain the disease, more than 20,000 people could be infected with Ebola by early November. On Thursday, the World Health Organization reported 6,242 cases of the disease, and 2,917 deaths, in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The report, jointly compiled by the World Health Organization and Imperial College London, called for better management of clinics, stronger isolation of those infected, more thorough tracing of where patients contract the disease, and more support from other countries.

Mark Landler and Somini Sengupta
The New York Times

Tierno Siradiou Bah

Author: Tierno Siradiou Bah

Founder and publisher of webAfriqa, the African content portal, comprising: webAFriqa.net, webFuuta.net, webPulaaku,net, webMande.net, webCote.net, webForet.net, webGuinee.net, WikiGuinee.net, Campboiro.org, AfriXML.net, and webAmeriqa.com.