|Police guard a roadblock during Sierra Leone's three-day lockdown earlier this month|
Canada contributed another $30 million to the fight against the Ebola outbreak in Africa on Thursday and welcomed a UN plan to co-ordinate the international response to the crisis.
International Development Minister Christian Paradis said the new money will be channelled through the Canadian Red Cross and other agencies.
The announcement came as U.S. President Barack Obama warned that the world has not done enough to fight a crisis which he said poses a grave threat to regional and global security.
“There is still a significant gap between where we are and where we need to be,” Obama told a high-level United Nations meeting. The outbreak has the potential to become a human catastrophe, he said.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim warned Thursday of a potential “meltdown” of the African continent. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said the number of cases doubles every three weeks. He wants almost $1 billion in aid over the next six months to tackle the outbreak.
Canada earlier contributed $5 million and hundreds of doses of an experimental vaccine to fight the deadly outbreak. Canadian specialists and mobile labs are on the ground in the infected region.
“As the number of cases continues to rise, it is obvious more needs to be done,” Paradis told a news conference in New York. “We need to combat the disease as well as the fear that surrounds it if we are to be successful.”
He said the international response needs to be better organized.
“Canada continues to be deeply concerned by the inadequate co-ordination of efforts at this time. The specific role of the UN and other lead agencies such as the military and (non-governmental organizations) needs to be made clear.”
He said the fallout from the disease will resonate for years.
“The economic and social impacts will be felt long after it’s contained.”
The most severely affected countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, have very weak public health systems and a shortage of medical personnel and infrastructure. They only recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability.
The virus has killed about 3,000 people in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal and Nigeria since the outbreak began in the summer.
The epidemic continues to spread and health experts warn that the number of cases could skyrocket in the coming months without better efforts to contain the virus.
The World Health Organization says earlier Ebola outbreaks came in remote villages near tropical rainforests in central Africa, but the latest involves major urban areas in the west of the continent.
The agency says the average fatality rate for Ebola is around 50 per cent, although it has climbed as high as 90 per cent in some outbreaks.
It says this epidemic is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976, with more cases and deaths than all the others combined.
Margaret Chan, director of the health organization, told the UN meeting the virus is still ahead of containment efforts.
The United States has sent 3,000 troops to Liberia to set up facilities and form teams to train locals to treat Ebola victims. Congress has started to respond to the president’s call for $1 billion in aid.
But Obama warned other nations that the U.S. can’t go it alone.
“Everybody’s got to move fast in order for us to make a difference,” he said. “If we do, we’ll save hundreds of thousands of lives.”