The Ebola Crisis: International Efforts Intensify
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In his excellent column on the rapidly escalating Ebola epidemic, Brij Khindaria, expresses some skepticism over the slow manner in which the international community, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States have reacted and over the lack of credible solutions.
But Khindaria also lays some of the blame on “the governments on the front lines” who seem to be more interested in getting external financial and expert help than in “quickly building their own ‘armies’ of frontline health workers to face the disease.”
The United States, in my opinion, has recognized and understands the enormity of this crisis and of the global consequences.
President Obama has committed, at significant risk to our men and women, 3,000 U.S. troops to construct 17 Ebola treatment centers across Liberia each with 100 beds, to train thousands of health-care workers, etc., and to provide other logistics and materiel support.
The Department of Defense has, so far, requested to reprogram two rounds of $500 million each in fiscal year 2014 overseas contingency funds to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to fight Ebola, and is prepared to devote up to $1 billion to its Ebola response efforts.
But Khindaria’s comments and recommendations are, nevertheless, very valid. More needs to be done.
And, today, it seems that President Obama and the world were listening.
At a United Nations meeting on Ebola this morning, President Obama made an emotional and powerful appeal to the world body to do more to combat this epidemic and to do it better and faster.
Ebola is a horrific disease. It’s wiping out entire families. It has turned simple acts of love and comfort and kindness — like holding a sick friend’s hand, or embracing a dying child — into potentially fatal acts. If ever there were a public health emergency deserving an urgent, strong and coordinated international response, this is it.
Pointing out that the Ebola is more than a health crisis — it “is a growing threat to regional and global security” — and after acknowledging efforts and progress made to date, the President made it clear that “we are not moving fast enough. We are not doing enough;” 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…that’s only possible if everybody chips in, if every nation and every organization takes this seriously. Everybody here has to do more.”
He urged “if we move fast, even if imperfectly, then that could mean the difference between 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 deaths versus hundreds of thousands or even a million deaths.”
He promised the people of West Africa, the heroic health workers who are on the ground as we speak, in some cases, putting themselves at risk that they are not alone, that “We’re working urgently to get you the help you need.” The President added,”we will not stop, we will not relent until we halt this epidemic once and for all.”
Today, the G-7 Foreign Ministers also issued a Joint Statement on Ebola:
• Expressing their “deepest concern about the unprecedented spread of Ebola in parts of West Africa. We are deeply saddened by the loss of thousands of lives and the suffering the disease is inflicting.”
• Noting with regret “that there appears to be no standard cure against the Ebola virus yet.”
• Underscoring their “willingness to provide relief to the countries ravaged by the virus and emphasizing their “common understanding that Ebola is a common global threat to peace and security.”
• Applauding the international assistance coming from various world organizations.
• Expressing their “readiness to assist the affected countries in their fight against Ebola as well as their efforts to cope with Ebola-induced challenges…”
Addressing one of Khindaria’s concerns, the G-7 also underlined “the necessity to enhance the ability of the countries concerned to fight the disease themselves – i.e. through the provision of medical care and equipment, training of medical personal, and secondment of medical experts as well as the need to assist them in rebuilding their health services.”
The G-7 warned, “although the spread of Ebola must be contained, affected countries must not be isolated” and agreed to “provide the best possible care for international health care workers in the event they contract the virus.”
The G-7 statement concludes:
This crisis requires an urgent and prompt response to control the spread of the virus, but also a long term approach that extends beyond the immediate containment of the disease. Even while we are responding to the immediate Ebola epidemic, we must also act to establish capacity around the world to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to disease threats like Ebola. In order to do so, we support the implementation of the International Health Regulations and the Global Health Security Agenda.
Tomorrow at the White House, the President will host 44 nations to advance ther Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). Joining him will be Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco.
Lead photo: Volunteers in Guinea make their way door-to-door, sharing information about Ebola. These volunteers are able to communicate in four languages. At each dwelling, people gather to hear information about Ebola. The volunteers are wearing shirts designating their Red Cross affiliation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photo/DoD caption