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Ebola has killed nearly 3,000 people this year

The US President said international aid simply is not flowing into West Africa fast enough.

President Barack Obama speaks about the Ebola epidemic.
President Barack Obama speaks about the Ebola epidemic.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

US PRESIDENT BARACK Obama, in a sober assessment of international efforts to stem a deadly Ebola outbreak, warned a high-level United Nations gathering yesterday that there is a “significant gap” between what’s been offered so far and what is actually needed to stem the health crises in West Africa.

The leaders of the hardest-hit nations also appealed for more help, with the president of Sierra Leone calling the virus “worse than terrorism.”

The emergency UN session on Ebola reflected the deep concern about an outbreak that has so far killed nearly 3,000 people.

US 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.

Despite the grim warnings, Obama said international aid simply is not flowing into West Africa fast enough.

“The outbreak is such where at this point, more people will die,” Obama said as he closed out three days of diplomacy at the annual gathering of the U.N. General Assembly.

So this is not one where there should be a lot of wrangling and people waiting to see who else is doing what. Everybody has got to move fast in order for us to make a difference.

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.

Obama has come under criticism from some in West Africa for a slow response to the outbreak. He outlined a more robust plan last week, announcing that the U.S. would dispatch 3,000 U.S. troops to Liberia to set up facilities and form training teams to help with the response. The Pentagon mission will involve airlifting personnel, medical supplies and equipment, such as tents to house victims and isolate people exposed to the virus.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso announced yesterday, meanwhile that the European Union was increasing aid to tackle the outbreak by nearly $40 million.

The outbreak has hit Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea the hardest, leaving aid groups in the region 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 Doctors Without Borders, Joanne Liu, told the UN meeting.

Meanwhile, the UN’s top watchdog said that countries must not trample over human rights during the battle against Ebola.

Human rights

In a unanimous decision, the council said that it was calling upon countries to “respect, protect and promote all human rights on the basis of equality while combating the epidemic on the ground”.

States, it said, must be “mindful of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens of affected countries, when implementing measures to limit the spread of the virus”.

It warned that the “negative effects of inappropriate actions that could result in the stigmatisation of the victims”, as well as their families and wider communities.

Read: How imminent is an “imminent terrorist attack threat”?

Read: Islamic State plot to attack US and Paris subway systems revealed

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