20 Oct 2014

Liberia president urges action on Ebola

8:58 am on 20 October 2014

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the whole world has a stake in the fight against Ebola.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Photo: AFP

In a "letter to the world" broadcast on, and commissioned by, the BBC she said the disease "respects no borders", and that every country had to do all it could to help fight it.

President Johnson Sirleaf added that a generation of Africans were at risk of "being lost to economic catastrophe".

The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people across West Africa, including 2,200 in Liberia.

International donations have so far fallen well short of the amounts requested by UN agencies and aid organisations, the BBC reported.

In the worst-affected countries - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - about 9,000 people have been found to have the Ebola virus, which kills an estimated 70 percent of those infected.

In the letter, read out on the BBC's Newshour radio programme, she goes on to say that the fight against Ebola "requires a commitment from every nation that has the capacity to help - whether that is with emergency funds, medical supplies or clinical expertise".

She said it was not a coincidence that Ebola had taken hold in three fragile countries dealing with the aftermath of war. Liberia had about 3,000 qualified doctors at the start of the civil war in the late 1980s - and by its end in 2003 it had just three dozen, she said.

Donors have given almost $400m to UN agencies and aid organisations, short of the $988m requested. Separately, the UN has also appealed for donations to a $1bn Ebola trust fund, intended to act as a flexible source of back-up money to contain the disease.

Oxfam calls for more action

Oxfam is meanwhile warning that Ebola could become the "definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation".

It is calling for European foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday to send more troops, funding and medical staff to west Africa.

Oxfam is battling Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and said it rarely urges military intervention but in this case troops have the logistical expertise and capacity to respond quickly in great numbers.

Chief executive Mark Goldring said developed countries cannot allow Ebola to immobilise them with fear, but must instead work to stop the epidemic getting worse.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs