UNITED NATIONS — President Barack Obama, in a chilling assessment of international efforts to stem a deadly Ebola outbreak, said the world has not done enough to respond to a health crisis that poses a growing threat to regional and global security.
“There is still a significant gap between where we are and where we need to be,” Obama said Thursday in remarks to a high-level United Nations meeting on Ebola.
The crisis in West Africa is the largest ever outbreak of Ebola, with more than 6,200 people believed to have been sickened, almost half of whom have died. U.S. 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.
Margaret Chan, director of the World Health Organization, addressed the Ebola meeting ahead of Obama and warned that the outbreak will likely get worse before it gets better. The virus, she said, is “still running ahead, jumping over everything we put in place to slow it down.”
Obama has dispatched 3,000 U.S. troops to Liberia to set up facilities and form training teams to help the Africans treat Ebola victims. 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.
While Obama touted U.S. contributions, he warned other nations that the U.S. does not have the capacity to fight the epidemic on its own.
“Everybody’s got to move fast in order for us to make a difference,” he said. “If we do, we’ll save hundreds of thousands of lives.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged world leaders to “step up” efforts to fight Ebola.
JULIE PACE, AP White House Correspondent