Obama At U.N.: Ebola A 'Growing Threat' To Regional, Global Security President Obama addressed a UN meeting on Ebola and urged other nations to join in the effort to fight the crisis.
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Obama At U.N.: Ebola A 'Growing Threat' To Regional, Global Security

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Obama At U.N.: Ebola A 'Growing Threat' To Regional, Global Security

Obama At U.N.: Ebola A 'Growing Threat' To Regional, Global Security

Obama At U.N.: Ebola A 'Growing Threat' To Regional, Global Security

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President Obama addressed a UN meeting on Ebola and urged other nations to join in the effort to fight the crisis.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Earlier today in New York, President Obama spoke at a special United Nations meeting on Ebola. He said the world isn't doing enough to combat the deadly epidemic in West Africa. And he said Ebola is more than a health care crisis, it's a growing threat to regional security, the president said, a threat that could become a global risk.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Obama delivered a blunt warning to leaders at the U.N. - thousands more people in West Africa will die from Ebola. But whether that toll was in the tens of thousands or the hundreds of thousands, depends on the speed with which the rest of the world acts.

(SOUNDBITE OF U.N. MEETING)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I want us to be clear. We are not moving fast enough.

HORSLEY: Last week after consulting experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama ordered a significant increase in U.S. efforts to fight the epidemic. That includes the creation of a new military command in Liberia with some 3,000 troops devoted to transporting urgently needed medical supplies.

OBAMA: Today that command is up and it is running - our commanders on the ground in Monrovia and our teams are working as fast as they can to move in personnel, equipment and supplies.

HORSLEY: The U.S. military will also help in constructing isolation centers for some 1,700 people. Experts say separating the sick from the healthy is critical to slowing the spread of the epidemic.

OBAMA: Ebola is a horrific disease. It's wiping out entire families. It's 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.

HORSLEY: While Obama was able to point to some signs of encouraging progress, he says much more help is needed. As of now there's only space to isolate less than half the patients who contract Ebola.

OBAMA: We know from experience 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. And that's only possible if everybody chips in - if every nation and every organization takes this seriously. Everybody here has to do more.

HORSLEY: That message was underscored by Dr. Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders. Her group has been on the frontlines in fighting the epidemic, with more than 6,000 known or suspected cases of Ebola and nearly 3,000 deaths. Her groups' treatment facilities have been overwhelmed.

JOANNE LIU: Fear and panic have set in as infection rates double every three weeks. Mounting numbers are dying in other diseases like malaria because health systems have collapsed. Without you, we fall further behind epidemic's deadly trajectory. Today Ebola is winning.

HORSLEY: Obama says in addition to the human toll, the epidemic is dramatically slowing economic growth in the region. And he warns the crisis could easily spread beyond West Africa.

Even as they battle Ebola, Obama says world health experts also need to do more to prepare for future biological threats before they turn into full-blown epidemics. The president is scheduled to host an international meeting on that effort tomorrow in Washington.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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