It is hard to imagine a crisis with the severity and reach of the Ebola epidemic currently sweeping West Africa. The outbreak of this deadly virus has presented the biggest global health emergency we've seen in years, perhaps even decades.
Almost 5,000 people have been infected so far this year, of whom almost half have died. The outbreak has spread across multiple countries, but is mainly focused in three West African states: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
The gravity of the situation is reflected in the international response. The World Health Organisation (WHO) have called for $1 billion to fight the virus, while President Obama labelled the outbreak 'a threat to global security' and committed 3,000 US troops to the effort in Liberia. The United Nations Security Council - a body charged with maintaining world peace - has called on all countries, the African Union and the EU to provide technical expertise and medical help, including training health workers.
William Pooley, the British nurse who contracted and overcame Ebola, commented that his survival was linked to the superior level of care he received compared to those in African countries. The gulf between the standard of medical treatment available for those in rich and those in poor countries is indicative of the necessity of development and aid. In situations like this, it requires governments to move beyond politics and help those who need it.
It's not only human life that's in danger. The epidemic has the potential to devastate the already fragile but growing economies throughout the region, with the World Bank warning that Ebola could 'wreck already fragile states' without a rapid response.
UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced the welcome news that Britain is giving more than £100 million to the effort against the virus, including providing hospital beds and medical support for 700 people in Sierra Leone. Other countries also need to step up, not just with cash but with in-kind support. Ebola is not a problem that will disappear simply by throwing money at it and then standing back. Rather, we need concerted, consistent action from donors and from regional governments, including encouraging international medical staff to volunteer to travel to the affected countries.
With better public awareness, stronger infection controls and strengthened national health systems, the crisis could have been prevented. Now it's up to world leaders to show they're serious about tackling Ebola and helping the world's poorest. We at the ONE Campaign are urging UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to use all his influence in the coming days to ensure governments act. But he needs to hear from you too. If you want to help, please sign our petition now and add your voice to the call for decisive action on Ebola.