President Obama said Tuesday that “the world has a responsibility to act” to save the lives of West Africans threatened by a growing Ebola epidemic, and that the United States will devote significant new resources to curbing the spread of the disease.
Speaking to reporters after meeting at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta with senior officials from the CDC and several other federal agencies involved in the response effort, the president made an impassioned call for other governments to intensify their efforts.
“The reality is, this epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better. But right now the world still has an opportunity to save countless lives,” he said, recounting how some affected families have been forced to wait outside hospitals because they could not get treated. “And these men and women and children are just sitting, waiting to die, right now. And it doesn’t have to be this way.”
As part of a massive ramp-up of American military involvement, the U.S. Africa Command is sending Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Williams to Monrovia, Liberia, to oversee and coordinate federal agencies’ response to the crisis. The Pentagon will establish a separate regional staging base in Senegal, which has not been seriously affected by the crisis, and will set up 17 treatment centers as well as a site in the region to train up to 500 health-care workers a week.
The president said the armed forces “are going to bring their expertise in command and control, in logistics, in engineering” to help do tasks ranging from bringing in aid workers and medical equipment to distributing supplies and information kits to families in high-risk areas so they can take the appropriate precautions. “Our armed services is better at that than any organization on Earth.”