Health Care

Obama urges global commitment to fight Ebola outbreak

President Obama urged dozens of the world’s top health and security officials on Friday to join the fight against Ebola and take steps to improve their own countries’ health systems to “make sure we never see a tragedy on this scale again.” 

Obama asked global leaders representing 44 countries to commit every resource they can, from basic supplies to advanced medical technologies, to stop the deadly outbreak before it takes more lives. He said stopping Ebola is not only imperative to global security but is also a moral obligation. 

{mosads}“It is unacceptable if, because of lack of preparedness and planning and global coordination, people are dying when they don’t have to,” Obama said. “We have to do better, especially when we know that outbreaks are going to keep happening.” 

The president said he wants to build on the momentum from tackling the Ebola crisis to prepare for the next one. 

“In a world as interconnected as ours, outbreaks anywhere — even in the most remote villages in the most remote corners of the world – have the potential to impact everybody in every nation,” he said. 

Obama said too often, the world has “scrambled for a response” while responding to epidemics, instead of creating global protocols to help mitigate the crisis. He said if countries had been better prepared and better coordinated, diseases like Ebola could be contained more quickly. 

The leaders had gathered at the White House for a summit on global health security, an initiative launched by Obama in February, just weeks before cases of the deadly Ebola virus were identified. The disease has since infected 6,000 people and killed 3,000 in West Africa. 

One day earlier, Obama told a group of high-level United Nations leaders that hundreds of thousands of people could die from Ebola without a global commitment to stopping its spread. The U.S. has committed about $1 billion, as well up to 3,000 troops, to fight the disease. 

The president also highlighted the work of Melvin Korkor, a Liberian doctor who survived Ebola. Korkor stayed alive by isolating himself from his family and forcing himself to eat and drink, but he knew 10 other people in his clinic who died because they lacked basic supplies like gloves, gowns and masks.

Obama’s remarks came after several of his top Cabinet members, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, also addressed the group

The U.S. leaders, in addition to the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), had warned that a majority of the world’s governments are not prepared to fight infectious disease outbreaks like Ebola. Kerry said all nations depend on each other to detect and contain outbreaks within their borders.

“Every American has an interest in what we’re doing here. It is not something over there. It is something that connects everybody, all of the time,” he said. 

New updates from the WHO on Friday confirmed that the disease is no closer to being controlled, even as more countries are joining the cause. 

“The Ebola epidemic ravaging parts of West Africa is the most severe acute public health emergency seen in modern times,” the WHO statement reads. “Never before in recorded history has a biosafety level four pathogen infected so many people so quickly, over such a broad geographical area, for so long.”

Tags Barack Obama Ebola

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