Obama calls for international response to prevent "humanitarian catastrophe."
As the death toll of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to climb, afflicted nations are taking drastic steps to halt the spread of the virus amid ongoing efforts to mobilize an international response.
Sierra Leone announced Thursday the quarantine of 3 additional zones along the country’s border with Guinea, where an estimated 1.5 million individuals reside. Approximately one-third of the Sierra Leone population across 14 districts is now under total or partial curfew.
The quarantine followed a 3-day lockdown of the entire country that began on September 19, 2014, in an effort to slow the outbreak.
“As a country, we have taken extraordinary measures, including declaring a state of emergency, shutting down the country for 3 days to get over 27,000 health educators into every household in the country, and reallocating millions of dollars from other vital services to this life-and-death struggle,” said Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma in a news release.
The World Health Organization has estimated that, as of September 23, 2014, the current Ebola outbreak has killed nearly 3000 people, with more than 6200 confirmed and suspected cases. On Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a dire predictive model that projected Ebola could potentially infect up to 1.4 million people in Sierra Leone and Liberia by January 2015 without ramped-up containment efforts or changes in community behavior.
In a speech given Thursday to the United Nations (UN), US President Barack Obama underscored the need for a coordinated international response to the ongoing outbreak.
“There is still a significant gap between where we are and where we need to be,” President Obama told the UN. “We know from experience that the response to an outbreak of this magnitude has to be fast and it has to be sustained. It’s a marathon, but you have to run it like a sprint. And that’s only possible if everybody chips in, if every nation and every organization takes this seriously. Everybody here has to do more.”
In addition to the 3000 military personnel whom the United States committed to send to the afflicted region, the UN General Assembly and Security Council recently announced the creation of the Mission for Ebola Emergency Response to contain the outbreak.
“If ever there were a public health emergency deserving an urgent, strong, and coordinated international response, this is it,” President Obama told the UN.
On Tuesday, the International Crisis Group warned that the epidemic could destabilize the region as the hardest-hit countries face widespread chaos and eventual collapse.
"Do not stand by, thinking that, somehow, because of what we’ve done, that it’s taken care of," the President told the UN. "It’s not. And if we don’t take care of this now, we are going to see fallout effects and secondary effects from this that will have ramifications for a long time, above and beyond the lives that will have been lost."