WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama met with the presidents of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia at the White House on Wednesday to pledge more U.S. support for the nations hardest-hit by the Ebola virus.
Obama also used the meeting to mark progress the U.S. has made in helping West African nations combat the Ebola epidemic, which has waned after killing more than 10,000 people last year. Sierra Leone is reopening schools for 1.8 million students this week after the outbreak forced the children to stay at home for nine months, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
“Last week, there were fewer than 40 new cases; so we’ve seen major progress,” Obama said during the meeting with Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Alpha Condé of Guinea and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone. “Now we’re focused on the shared goal and that is getting to zero.”
The Ebola crisis, which threatened to become another foreign-policy quagmire for Obama, has since become one of the administration’s favorite examples of its ability to solve global challenges. In addition to hosting Johnson Sirleaf twice at the White House in the past two months, Obama has invited several American Ebola survivors to meet with him in Washington, some multiple times.
Earlier this year, Obama hosted a ceremony to honor U.S. troops and aid workers who had combated the spread of the disease. Most of the 2,800 troops who were deployed to West Africa to help fight Ebola have returned.
In a report released Wednesday, the World Health Organization said 37 Ebola cases were confirmed in the week ending April 12, up from 30 the previous week.
On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry signed a memorandum of cooperation between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the African Union setting up the African version of the CDC to combat diseases.
“The West African Ebola epidemic reaffirmed the need for a public health institute to support African ministries of health and other health agencies in their efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to any disease outbreak,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement.