September 2014 – WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday called the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a “national security priority” for the United States and said it must rise to the same level of urgency for the rest of the world. The world’s lack of preparedness for outbreaks like Ebola is “unacceptable,” Obama declared at a Global Health Security Agenda Summit at the White House. Obama said nations must address disease outbreaks and other biological dangers “as the security threats that they are” and not just as humanitarian and economic concerns. The president faulted the international response in crises such as this one, describing it as typically too little, too late scrambling. Such delayed, hit-or-miss efforts result in greater spread of disease and lives lost, he said. Ebola has already killed 3,091people this year in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, with projections that the death toll could reach the hundreds of thousands. “It is our moral obligation and it is in our national self-interest” to help those countries, Obama said. His 20-minute address to an audience representing more than four dozen countries covered themes the president has voiced repeatedly in the past 10 days, including a major ramp-up, involving 3,000 troops, of the American response to the Ebola’s spread.
On Thursday at the United Nations, he cautioned that the U.S. effort would need significant, sustained support from many countries. Friday’s discussions at the White House were part of the fourth meeting this year of the Global Health Security Agenda, which was launched in February – well before Ebola erupted in West Africa – with the goal of safeguarding the world from infectious disease threats. Participants included ministers and senior officials from countries on every continent and from international organizations. The meeting was also attended by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice. The presence of Hagel and Rice highlighted just how much Ebola has moved beyond the usual circles of a health emergency – and what future emergencies could hold. “Today the danger is Ebola,” noted Rice. “Tomorrow it could be another flu outbreak or a terrorist armed with a biological weapon.”-Politico