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US Envoy: 'Alarming Gaps' Remain in Fighting Ebola

  • Al Pessin

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks during a lecture regarding the Ebola virus at the Residence Palace in Brussels, Oct. 30, 2014.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks during a lecture regarding the Ebola virus at the Residence Palace in Brussels, Oct. 30, 2014.

The international community must do more to fill "alarming gaps" in the fight against the Ebola epidemic, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said to an audience in Brussels as she headed home from a visit to the three hardest-hit countries in West Africa.

Power said the initial international response is making a difference, and has created what she called “the first tangible signs that the virus can and will be beaten.”

But, she said, many countries have not done enough, and urged them to not assume the job is done.

Ebola travel restrictions

Ebola travel restrictions

“The international community is not yet doing enough to stem the tide of the epidemic, causing devastating heartbreak to countless families and allowing a global threat to metastasize,” Power said.

Praised volunteers

She praised the many nongovernmental organizations and their volunteers, who have moved in to fight Ebola, as well as local political and religious leaders who are promoting the needed actions by individuals to fight and prevent the disease.

Those steps include seeking treatment quickly, isolating infected individuals, expediting the burial of victims, and not stigmatizing survivors and the families of the dead.

“This is a crisis that is so vast, with needs so great, with potential consequences so dire, that no country can afford to stand on the sidelines. A few are doing a lot, but a lot are doing very little or nothing at all,” Power said.

She declined to say which countries she believes are not doing enough to fight Ebola, but she said contribution data is readily available on a United Nations website.

Power, who stopped in Brussels after visiting Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia this week, said more resources are needed to track the disease and spread public awareness in affected areas.

She called for more flexible planning, faster decision-making, and for support for the affected countries as they try to rebuild and expand their health care systems. Those systems were inadequate before the epidemic and have now been devastated by the deaths of hundreds of doctors and nurses.

But Power said she also came away from West Africa with unexpected hope.

“Today, the affected countries are, in fact, in a very different place than they were six weeks ago. I came away more convinced than ever that if we rally the right response, together we can stop Ebola,” she said.

Power said governments need to stop spreading fear, in part by unnecessarily putting restrictions on returning volunteers who have been to the infected countries.

She called for leaders to send clear and consistent messages about Ebola, based on science and facts.

$100 million donation

Also on Thursday, the World Bank pledged $100 million to help recruit more foreign health care workers to treat Ebola patients in West Africa.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Thursday the three countries facing the biggest outbreak of the deadly virus - Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea - are struggling to cope with the disease.

Kim said in a statement the World Bank hopes the additional aid, on top of more than $400 million already sent to West Africa, "can help be a catalyst for a rapid surge" of additional health workers.

Meanwhile, a nurse in Maine, vowing not to be bullied by politicians and threatening to sue the state over an Ebola quarantine she calls unscientifically sound, defied the order and left her home for a bike ride on Thursday, according to television images.

Kaci Hickox left her home in Fort Kent to take a morning bicycle ride with her boyfriend, MSNBC and other networks reported.

Hickox, 33, who tested negative for Ebola after returning from treating patients in West Africa, said that she plans to take the issue to court if the state did not lift the quarantine by Thursday.

Also Thursday, President Barack Obama's top Ebola official, Ron Klain, is meeting in Atlanta with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It will be his first in-person meeting with the CDC since taking the post two weeks ago.

Obama said Wednesday the U.S. may continue to see more cases of Ebola until the outbreak in West Africa is contained. He also honored U.S. health workers who have already returned from working in West Africa and those who plan to go in the future, calling them heroes acting out of a sense of duty.

The WHO also gave its latest update on the outbreak Wednesday, warning that the transmission of Ebola "remains intense" in the capitals of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Watch video report from VOA's Zlatica Hoke:

Some material for this report came from Reuters and AP.