UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. President Barack Obama said global efforts to fight the Ebola virus have fallen short and urged nations to step up the emergency response to the epidemic. Canada, meanwhile, announced it will provide another $30 million to the Ebola fight.
Ban said UN medical and logistics staff are preparing to depart for West Africa on the weekend as part of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER.
Guinea, Sierra Leona and Liberia have been the countries most affected by the virus, with more than 6,200 cases and close to 3,000 deaths, and their health systems are "buckling under the strain," Ban said.
He said global efforts to fight the disease have so far fallen short and called for a 20-fold increase in aid totalling almost $1.1 billion over the next six months.
There is "overwhelming momentum" for the UN to play a leading role in co-ordinating a ramped-up emergency response, he said.
"We will meet this challenge," Ban told the special UN session devoted to the Ebola crisis. "UN staff are prepared to help."
He chastised those who have tried to stave off the epidemic by closing their borders and suspending airline routes and ship traffic to affected countries.
"This only makes things worse, isolating countries when they need help most," he said.
'We're not doing enough': Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama, too, criticized the global response so far and told the special session that countries need to do more.
"We are not doing enough," Obama said. "Everybody has the best of intentions, but people are not putting in the kinds of resources necessary to stop this epidemic."
He called for a "fast and sustained" response and said international organizations have to move faster and cut through the red tape that has been stalling their efforts.
"If unchecked, this epidemic could kill hundreds of thousands of people in the coming months," he said.
"If ever there were a public health emergency deserving of an urgent, strong, co-ordinated international response, this is it."
Obama said Ebola is more than a health emergency and called it a "growing threat to regional and global security." He said the U.S. is working as fast as it can to distribute personnel, equipment and supplies from its command centre in Monrovia, Liberia.
The U.S. has dispatched 3,000 troops to the country who will set up a field hospital staffed by U.S. public health workers and a training centre where health workers from around the world can be trained to more effectively fight the epidemic.
He also promised to build treatment centres across Liberia and Sierra Leone with capacity to treat thousands and said the U.S. has plans to operate an air bridge between Senegal and the affected countries in order to get medical staff and supplies to where they are needed faster.
Paradis says aid effort not co-ordinated
Earlier in the day, Canada's international development minister, Christian Paradis, also criticized the manner in which the world has attempted to aid the countries struggling with Ebola.
and calls for improved co-ordination at the global level," he told reporters ahead of the Ebola meeting.
"The specific role of the UN and other lead agencies such as military and NGOs needs to be made clear. We salute the new initiative of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response."
Asked where the problem lies, Paradis said he didn't want to single out anybody.
"I think that the agreement here is that we need to be better co-ordinated... We want to do more in a more coherent way," he said.
The new funding is intended for treatment, prevention, including through better health education, and broad humanitarian support, including food and health services, Paradis said. It's in addition to $1.3 million pledged in August, $2.5 million in medical equipment and up to 1,000 doses of an experimental vaccine.
Vaccines pledged are still in Canada
But the 800-1,000 experimental vaccines promised in August still haven't been shipped from Winnipeg to West Africa, Gregory Taylor, the country's new chief public health officer, said Wednesday.
The Ebola vaccine was developed at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
In question period, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar asked when the vaccine would be shipped.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose said Canada "has very generously donated" the vaccine.
"It is now in the hands of the WHO whether or not, when and how it will be deployed, and we are seeking their advice on that."
'Even with 1,000 doses, the number of people with this disease are huge compared to that. Where should you ship it? How should you ship it?' - Gregory Taylor, chief public health officer of Canada
Canada's public health agency said the vaccine is ready to be shipped any time, but the WHO is still trying to figure out where it will go, how it will get there, including how to keep it refrigerated for the entire trip to West Africa, and who will be responsible for it when it arrives.
"We have such a small amount. Even with 1,000 doses, the number of people with this disease are huge compared to that," Taylor said in an earlier interview with CBC News. "Where should you ship it? How should you ship it? It is a live, attenuated virus, so that means it has to be kept at a certain temperature throughout or it kills the virus and it's inactive.
"You have to have a receiving facility that will receive the vaccine, and then you have to have confirmed consent because this is experimental. So, all of those issues are challenging, and I think it does seem like a long time, I know that, but there's huge issues with this."
He said one of the conditions of Canada providing the vaccine is that it be made available to local as well as international health workers fighting the epidemic.
"When we put this on the front lines, we're insisting that this be available to all health care workers," Taylor said. "There are other health care workers than just those flying in from developed countries. All the African countries have their own health care workers."