News / USA

African Ambassadors in US Seek Ebola Help at Summit

Delegates to the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum gather for a meeting at the World Bank in Washington, Aug. 4, 2014, as the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit gets underway.
Delegates to the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum gather for a meeting at the World Bank in Washington, Aug. 4, 2014, as the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit gets underway.

As the U.S.-Africa summit unfolds in Washington this week, interviews with two ambassadors demonstrate the challenges the continent faces, including dealing with deadly resurgence of the Ebola virus.
The specter of Ebola has overshadowed months of planning for the U.S.-Africa summit for Liberia, which has been hard-hit by the deadly virus.

Ebola Factbox

Outbreaks of Ebola are life-threatening and in up to 90% of cases, people die.

  • In most instances, outbreaks have occurred in remote villages of Central andWest Africa, close to tropical rainforests
  • The virus is transmitted to humans from wild animals and spreads human-to-human through exposure to organs, blood and other bodily fluids
  • Presently no specific treatment or vaccine is available for people, nor for animals

Content sourced from World Health Organization


Liberian Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh plans to use the summit to highlight a desperate need for international assistance. The unusual grip of an Africa virus on a faraway summit illustrates what Sulunteh termed  “the alarming situation” in an interview.
“We hope that other leaders in Africa will see this as issue of urgency,” Sulunteh said, in a plea for medical supplies and other regional and international help in combating Ebola.
“The health issue is so alarming that we will want President Obama to look into this critically and also tell other African leaders--and other leaders of the world that this not a Liberia situation, but has a chance of affecting other” countries,” he said.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Ebola has largely hit not only Liberia, but Guinea and Sierra Leone in West Africa. There are great concerns it could become another international epidemic like SARS or the avian flu if not eradicated.
“The virus is something that spreads so fast,” Sulunteh said. “We don’t want it to have a spillover effect in other parts of the continent and in other parts of the world.”
The overarching theme of the summit is investing in the next generation in Africa, backed by a number of other regional concerns. But Ebola has now surged its way onto the agenda from Liberia’s viewpoint.
“While we discuss peace and security, trade and investment and other bilateral issues, the health of the nation is very essential as African leaders have this summit in Washington,” Sulunteh said. “Especially at the rate at which Ebola is spreading in Liberia.”
One of the summit’s “signature events” as defined in a White House document involves investing in African health issues.
“The campaign from Liberia will be on the Ebola issues when we talk about health,” Sulunteh said.
Such health crises require a wide-ranging approach that discussions at the summit can help promote, said Ebrahim Rasool, South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States.
A U.S. aid program called PEPFAR has helped battle HIV/AIDS. Technological advances have been made in the fight against malaria in Africa, he said.
“This summit is at least the recognition that globalization is a comprehensive force,” Rasool said.
A national health crisis becomes a “global emergency” in today’s times, he added.
“You can have the best health early warning system in the United States, but if you don’t pass the …technology to Africa to fight Ebola, you are endangering yourselves as well,” he said.
US assistance

The United States announced last week that it was sending 50 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) experts to West Africa to fight the spread of Ebola.
Rasool said technology, such as satellite tracking can make a long term difference.
“We need to emerge from the summit with a systemic approach,” he said. “It is not just selling drugs to Africa. It’s creating a system that warns you of impending diseases,” he said.
In the meantime, Liberia’s Sulunteh found his country so hard hit by the Ebola virus that last week it was virtually begging for low-tech, basic medical needs.
“This is a national emergency and it needs attention in the way of appropriate medical supplies,” he said.
Doctors, nurses and aides have been hampered by in their efforts because of the shortage.
“There is a need for more strong antibiotics,” Sulunteh said. “There is a need for more safety gear that health care workers can use.”

President Sirleaf address nation on EbolaPresident Sirleaf address nation on Ebola
President Sirleaf address nation on Ebola
President Sirleaf address nation on Ebola

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is staying home to deal with Ebola crisis in Liberia and “to find the resources to fight Ebola,” Sulunteh said, while he and the rest of the Liberian delegation will raise awareness at the summit this week.
Sulunteh was diplomatic in noting that Liberia is grateful for the assistance from the United States and others.
But Liberia will use the Africa summit to ask the international community to “step up” their efforts, he said.
“The message is to all the African leaders that are coming and President Obama, the host,” Sulunteh said. “They have been helping, but we need more.”

Lee Michael Katz

Lee Michael Katz is an award-winning journalist, analyst and author.

Currently a prominent freelance writer, Katz is the former Senior Diplomatic Correspondent of USA Today and International Editor of UPI News Service.He has reported from more than 60 countries.  Katz’s expertise includes foreign policy and diplomacy, peace talks, national security, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction policy, foundation grants, business and financial topics.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs