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The U.S. military assault against Ebola in West Africa is "up and running," President Barack Obama said Thursday. But it's not fast enough, he told the United Nations.
"Our commander is on the ground in Monrovia, and our teams are working as fast as they can to move in personnel, equipment and supplies," Obama said, speaking to the U.N. General Assembly. "We're working with Senegal to stand up an air bridge to get health workers and medical supplies into West Africa faster. We're setting up a field hospital, which will be staffed by personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service, and a training facility, where we're getting ready to train thousands of health workers from around the world," he added.
"We're distributing supplies and information kits to hundreds of thousands of families, so they can better protect themselves. And together with our partners, we'll quickly build new treatment units across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, where thousands will be able to receive care."
But Obama said there's still a significant gap. The World Health Organization predicts 20,000 cases by November and the most dire scenario from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — one that experts say is now unlikely — shows 1.4 million cases by the end of January.
"I want us to be clear that we are not moving fast enough," Obama said. "Everyone has the best of intentions but people are not putting the resources in."
Obama promised West African leaders he would marshal the help needed to end the epidemic, but he said other countries and groups could and should do still more. “We are working urgently to get you the help you need,” Obama said.
“We will not stop, we will not relent until we halt this epidemic, once and for all,” he said. “But I hope I’m properly communicating the sense of urgency here. Do not stand by thinking that somehow because of what we’ve done, it’s taken care of. It’s not.”
Obama’s already committed about $1 billion in aid to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, as well as up to 3,000 troops and a major-general to command them and help coordinate relief efforts for the raging epidemic.
But Obama says there is still a "significant gap." "We know from experience that the response to an outbreak of this magnitude needs to be both fast and sustained. It's a marathon, but you have to run it like a sprint. That's only possible if every nation and every organization does its part. And everyone has to do more," he said.
Joanne Liu, international president of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) also urged UN members to do more.
"The reality on the ground today is this: the promised surge has not yet delivered," she told the assembly.
"Today, Ebola is winning. Our 150-bed facility in Monrovia opens for just thirty minutes each morning. Only a few people are admitted -- to fill beds made empty by those who died overnight. The sick continue to be turned away, only to return home and spread the virus among loved ones and neighbors."
— Maggie Fox