WASHINGTON - Sierra Leone's president on Thursday assailed the global community's slow response to Ebola as United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon called for a "20-fold" increase in resources to battle the epidemic.
President Ernest Bai Koroma told Ban and the heads of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank that the global reaction "has been slower than the rhythm of transmission of the disease."
"This slower-than-the-virus response needs to change," he said via video conference from his country, one of the three in West Africa severely hit by Ebola, which has so far killed nearly 3,900 people.
"Because of the time delay, it is going to cost us a lot more.... What is required is required yesterday," he said.
Koroma, Guinea President Alpha Conde and Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf pressed the group for a more rapid rollout of support to fight the spread of Ebola.
Conde said his country needed the rapid establishment of treatment centers with 1,500 more beds and 5,000 health care workers. Sirleaf also stressed the need to ramp up support within weeks to prevent the disease from devastating the region's economy.
The three leaders were addressing a high-level, emergency session of officials from top global and national health and relief agencies, non-governmental organisations and others to ramp up the Ebola response.
Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the group that the intensity and danger of Ebola's spread was something unseen since the outbreak of AIDS.
"I would say that in the 30 years I've been working in public health, the only thing like this has been AIDS," he told a top-level Ebola forum in Washington. UN chief Ban said resources to support the fight need to be increased 20-fold, and urged everyone involved not to hesitate to act.
"This is an unforgiving disease," he said.
"Cases are growing exponentially." He said that government officials and others involved in the fight need to move immediately when they see a threat.
"Do not wait for consultation. Just take action," he said.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim admitted that the world was "behind the curve" in the fight against Ebola.
The Bank warned earlier this week that if Ebola is not fully contained in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia by the end of the year, the economic cost to the whole of West Africa could rise to nearly $33 billion next year.
"The answer to this crisis is to stop it where it lies... we have just got to get moving," Kim said. "Spending more now is the smartest thing that we can do."