New York - The United States called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council Thursday on the Ebola crisis in West Africa, saying the situation on the ground is "dire" and getting worse every day.
US UN Ambassador Samantha Power said the United States has asked the 193 UN member states to come to the meeting with "concrete commitments" to tackle the outbreak, especially in hardest-hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
"The trendlines in this crisis are grave, and without immediate international action we are facing the potential for a public health crisis that could claim lives on a scale far greater than current estimates, and set the countries of West Africa back a generation," Power told reporters on Monday.
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"This is a perilous crisis but one we can contain if the international community comes together to meet it head on."
The worst Ebola outbreak in history has hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea hardest and also reached Nigeria and Senegal. It has been blamed for more than 2 200 deaths. Ebola is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of sick patients, making doctors and nurses especially vulnerable to contracting the virus that has no vaccine or approved treatment.
"We can contain this," Power said. "We know how to do it and we must avoid panic and fear, but our collective response to date has not been sufficient. We must move forward aggressively in a coordinated fashion."
Power said the meeting on Thursday afternoon would mark a rare occasion when the Security Council, which is responsible for threats to international peace and security, addresses a public health crisis.
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Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to brief the council along with World Health Organisation chief Dr Margaret Chan and Dr David Nabarro, the recently named UN coordinator to tackle the disease, as well as representatives from the affected countries.
A diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official announcement has not yet been made, said it would be only the second time the council takes on a public health issue.
The late former US ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, organised a council meeting in January 2000 on the Aids pandemic, which was addressed by then vice president Al Gore.