The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is “a threat to international peace and security”, the United Nations (UN) Security Council said on 18 September, in a resolution calling for a massive increase in the resources devoted to stemming the virus’s spread.
The council is asking countries to send supplies and medical personnel to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and seeks to loosen travel restrictions that have hampered outbreak response in those countries. The unusual resolution was co-sponsored by 131 nations and approved at the first emergency council meeting organized in response to a health crisis.
More than 5,300 people are thought to have been infected with Ebola during the current epidemic, and more than 2,600 have died, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland.
The pace of the disease’s spread seems to be increasing, with the number of Ebola cases now doubling every three weeks, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon told the council. “The gravity and scale of the situation now require a level of international action unprecedented for a health emergency,” he said.
WHO director-general Margaret Chan sounded a similarly dire warning. “This is likely the greatest peace-time challenge that the United Nations and its agencies have ever faced,” Chan told the security council.
The UN estimates that an effective response to the Ebola outbreak will cost nearly US$1 billion, double the $490 million figure put forth by the WHO on 28 August. The United States has promised a major influx of resources, with US President Barack Obama announcing on 16 September that he would send 3,000 military personnel and spend roughly $750 million to aid the Ebola fight.