Obama urges more nations to join fight against Ebola

Broader effort and concrete commitments needed to stop the disease, he says

NEW YORK - President Barack Obama has called for many more countries to make concrete commitments to fight the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

"As we speak, America is deploying our doctors and scientists - supported by our military - to help contain the outbreak of Ebola and pursue new treatments," he told the 193-member United Nations General Assembly yesterday.

"But we need a broader effort to stop a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific suffering, destabilise economies, and move rapidly across borders," he said.

In his address to the 69th General Assembly, Mr Obama presented both an optimistic picture of the world's progress since the UN's founding and a warning about new dangers that included the outbreak of Ebola in Africa.

He said it was wrong to see the disease, which has overwhelmed public health systems in West Africa, as a distant problem. "That is why we will continue mobilising other countries to join us in making concrete commitments to fight this outbreak, and enhance global health security for the long term."

The virus in West Africa has killed more than 2,800. The outbreak may surge to as many as 1.4 million cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone by next January, according to projections by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Yesterday, European Union experts, who visited Liberia and Sierra Leone - which along with Guinea are at the heart of the outbreak - said months of "exponential growth" are ahead.

The US is deploying about 3,000 US military staff to the region to assist with shipping and distributing medical equipment, sanitation kits and body bags, among other supplies.

American personnel will also help build as many as 20 treatment centres with 100 beds each and train about 500 health-care providers in the region. The US Defence Department is asking Congress to reprogramme more than US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) that could go to stem the disease, according to the Office of Management and Budget.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG