Paris - European foreign ministers meet on Monday under
pressure to scale up their response to the Ebola epidemic after warnings it
could become the "disaster of our generation".
Ahead of the talks, Aid agency Oxfam, which works in the
two worst-hit countries - Liberia and Sierra Leone - issued a stark call for
more troops, funding and medical staff to be sent to the west African epicentre
of the outbreak.
"There is a very strong political focus on this as
the most immediate crisis facing us," a European diplomat said ahead of
the meeting in Luxembourg.
Another EU diplomat said Britain - which has a navy ship
bound for Sierra Leone laden with medical staff and supplies - hoped to
"galvanise EU action on Ebola".
"There is a real sense that this is a tipping point
and we must get to grips with it now," said the diplomat.
"If we can deal with it in the country, we don't
have to deal with it at home."
The worst-ever outbreak of the deadly virus has so far
killed more than 4 500 people, mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, but
isolated cases have now begun to appear in Europe and the United States.
Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring said the world was
"in the eye of a storm" as the charity warned Ebola "could
become the definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation".
"Countries that have failed to commit troops,
doctors and enough funding are in danger of costing lives," he said.
Part of the solution, the EU diplomats said, was giving
international medics - on the frontline in the Ebola battle - the confidence
they would receive EU-level care if they get sick, with access to medical
The World Bank has warned the battle is being lost
against the disease, which spreads via contact with bodily fluids and for which
there is no licensed treatment or vaccine.
A global UN appeal for nearly $1bn to fight the spread of
the disease has so far fallen short, although a spokesman told AFP more money
was coming in daily.
Out of $988m requested a month ago, the UN said Saturday
$385.9m had already been given by a slew of governments and agencies, with a
further $225.8m promised.
As the death toll in Sierra Leone rose to 1 200, the
country said it was putting Defence Minister Alfred Paolo Conteh in charge of a
new national Ebola response centre.
With panic spreading in Western countries fearing a
spread of the tropical disease, US President Barack Obama named an "Ebola
czar" to coordinate crisis response.
Obama also cautioned against "hysteria" after a
string of Ebola false alarms among a US public spooked by the news that two
American nurses had contracted Ebola after treating a Liberian patient who died
on 8 October.
"This is a serious disease, but we can't give in to
hysteria or fear," Obama said. "We have to be guided by the
At the Pentagon on Friday, an entrance was closed after a
woman vomited in a parking lot. US authorities later found no evidence that she
had contracted Ebola.
Meanwhile, US media reported on overzealous action taken
by some worried communities, including a group of Mississippi parents who
pulled their children from school because the principal had travelled to Zambia
- a southern African country far from the Ebola crisis in west Africa.
The US president played down the idea of a travel ban
from west Africa, as World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim criticised countries for
being overly focused on securing their own borders, rather than helping tackle
the epidemic at source.
The United States, Britain and Canada were joined this
weekend by France in carrying out airport screenings for passengers from
Ebola-hit zones. The EU is to further review the situation this week.
One 40-year-old passenger from Guinea, where the epidemic
began in December, was taken to a Paris hospital with a suspected fever on
Saturday but officials later said she was not suffering from vomiting or
Meanwhile, a woman suffering from abdominal pain and
fever was being treated in isolation at a military hospital near Paris, while
tests were carried out for Ebola.
As of 14 October 4 555 people had died from Ebola out of
a total of 9 216 cases registered in seven countries, the World Health Organisation