The Ebola outbreak in West Africa demands fast action but donations from the public are lacklustre so far, aid groups say.

As of Monday, more than $326 million US in emergency humanitarian aid has been pledged worldwide, according to the Financial Tracking Office, which is managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The totals exclude some aid pledge to large donors such as the World Bank.

On Tuesday, WHO estimated it will cost nearly $1 billion US to contain the Ebola outbreak.

Ebola virus

Guinea's Red Cross health workers wear protective suits to carry the body of a victim of Ebola at Doctors Without Borders's Ebola treatment centre near Conakry on Sunday. Some relief organizations say that compared with other disasters, it's been a challenge to get donors motivated to respond to the Ebola outbreak. (Cellou Binani/AFP/Getty)

Relief organizations like Americares, which delivers medicine and medical supplies to West Africa, said it has been a challenge to get donors motivated to respond to the Ebola outbreak compared with other disasters.

No 'jolt' to act with Ebola

"We have not yet crossed the million dollar mark," said Kevin Allan of Americares in Stamford, Conn. "To give you some comparison, about five weeks after Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines last year, we had raised about five times that."

When a sudden disaster strikes, the shocking images move people to act, Allan said.

"When something builds over weeks and months like Ebola has, there isn’t that jolt that says, ‘I have to do something,’ Because there isn’t that, people don’t reach for their wallets and unfortunately there’s consequences."

A Winnipeg-based charity is also struggling to reach its target of $2,500.

"We haven’t been able to reach our goal quite yet because Ebola is still not really on people’s radar in terms of an issue that affects Canadians," said Jason Dudek of Accountable Development Works. The group’s gofundme site lists a total of $233 raised.

It’s also difficult to raise money for long-term problems that need long-term commitments, Dudek said.

The Humanitarian Coalition in Canada assists its members — CARE, Oxfam, Plan and Save the Children — during disasters to issue joint appeals.

It’s a challenge that some disasters are more successful in terms of public awareness and fund raising than others, said Nicolas Moyer, executive director of Humanitarian Coalition of Canada in Ottawa.

"We are conscious that there is a hierarchy of disasters with people being more generous because they’re more aware when there are large disasters like a Haiti earthquake," Moyer said.

For the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a star-studded telethon helped raise more than $3 billion for disaster relief.

The death toll from the Ebola virus has doubled in the past month to an estimated 2,461 people, half of the 4,985 infected, as of Sept. 13, the World Health Organization said.

With files from CBC's Kas Roussy