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U.N. Launches ‘Unprecedented’ Mission to Combat Ebola

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The U.N. announced a new mission to combat Ebola in West Africa on Thursday, promising greater resources on the ground as cases of Ebola hit 5,335.

“The gravity and scale of the situation now requires a level of international action unprecedented for a health emergency,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a U.N. Security Council emergency meeting on Thursday.

The goal of the mission, called U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, is to stop the outbreak, treat the infected, ensure essential services are available, preserve stability and prevent further outbreaks. Ban said he plans to have a team on the ground by the end of the month.

The U.N. had previously estimated that they would need an additional $1 billion to keep the number of Ebola cases in West Africa within the tens of thousands. So far 2,622 people have died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea alone.

“Ebola matters to us all. The outbreak is the largest the world has ever seen,” Ban said, calling for a 20-fold increase in assistance. “The number of cases are doubling every three weeks. There will soon be more cases in Liberia alone than the four-decade history of the disease.”

The Security Council also unanimously passed a resolution calling countries to provide health personnel and supplies, and declared that the outbreak was a threat to international peace and security. The resolution was co-sponsored by 131 countries, which is the greatest number in the council’s history, according to Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

The meeting comes after President Obama committed a deployment of 3,000 U.S. military personnel and over $500 million in defense spending to West Africa earlier this week. Reuters reports that French President François Hollande announced the deployment of a military hospital to a remote part of Guinea.

Other countries that Ban thanked for offering support so far include: Canada, China, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Rwanda, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda and the U.K. There will likely be more stepping up in the future.

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