The leaders of three Ebola-stricken West African nations are meeting heads of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to discuss the outbreak and what help they need to fight it.
Alpha Conde of Guinea, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone meet today in Washington with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.
The summit coincides with a dire World Bank worst-case scenario that Ebola could cost African economies US$32.6 billion.
The countries, fighting an outbreak that has killed 3800, are seeking extra treatment centres, protective equipment and money to pay health care workers. They also need financial help: the crisis has slowed their economies, drying up tax revenue and increasing health care spending.
The World Bank yesterday outlined a scenario that would see almost 12 per cent wiped off the economy of Liberia, the country worst affected by the outbreak, and 3.3 per cent off the entire West African region.
Analysts at Barclays predicted that, if the virus establishes itself further in Asia or the West, the impact on financial markets could be as bad as that caused by Asia's Sars outbreak a decade ago.
The virus is concentrated in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Under a "High Ebola" scenario, in which the virus spreads to neighbouring Nigeria and Ivory Coast, the World Bank estimated the cost to these economies would be US$32.6 billion - or 3.3 per cent of the combined GDPs of the countries affected - by the end of next year. It would also see growth across the region fall from 6.9 per cent last year to 5.6 per cent this year and 4.1 per cent next year. If the virus can be contained and managed, this "Low Ebola" scenario would still result in a US$3.8 billion hit.
"What we're paying for now is our failure to have invested in those countries before," said Francisco Ferreira, the World Bank's chief economist for Africa. They had only minimal health facilities even before Ebola hit.
Britain announced it would send hundreds of troops, a hospital ship and three helicopters to West Africa to tackle the outbreak. Troops will head to Sierra Leone where British military engineers and medics are overseeing the building of an Ebola hospital. Around 750 personnel will help set up treatment centres and an Ebola training academy.
RFA Argus, a medical ship with a 100-bed hospital on board, will be sent, as well as three Merlin helicopters.
Yesterday the US added an extra level of screening at five major US airports to try to catch any travellers from Ebola-ravaged countries who may be carrying the disease.
About 150 travellers a day will have their temperatures checked using no-touch thermometers, and health officials expect false alarms from fevers caused by malaria.
The extra screening likely wouldn't have singled out Thomas Eric Duncan when he arrived from Liberia last month, because he had no symptoms while travelling. Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the US, died yesterday in Dallas.
US Secretary of State John Kerry made a plea for more nations to contribute to the fight against Ebola, saying the international effort was US$300 million short of what's needed. He said nations need to step up quickly with a wide range of support, from doctors and mobile medical labs to basic humanitarian aid such as food.
The US military is working to build medical centres in Liberia and may send up to 4000 soldiers to help with the Ebola crisis.
"We have unique capabilities that nobody else has," US President Barack Obama said. "Our military is essentially building an infrastructure that does not exist in order to facilitate the transfer of personnel and equipment and supplies."
Obama called the new screening measures "really just belt and suspenders" to support protections already in place. Border Patrol agents now look for people who are obviously ill, as do flight crews, and in those cases the CDC is notified.
6 key events
In the United States
The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, has died.
Ebola patient Teresa Romero said she remembered once touching her face with her glove after leaving the quarantine room where an Ebola victim was being treated.
Pet put down
A social media campaign and a protest by Spanish animal rights activists failed to save Romero's dog, Excalibur. The pet was euthanised under court order.
In Sierra Leone
Burial teams returned to their work of picking up the bodies of Ebola victims, after a one-day strike to demand overdue hazard pay.
Health workers in Liberia also were threatening a strike if their demands for more money and personal protective gear are not met by the end of the week. The average health worker salary is currently below US$500 per month, even for the most highly trained staff.
The World Bank estimated that the economic toll of the largest Ebola outbreak in history could reach US$32.6 billion ($41 billion) if the disease continues to spread through next year.
- Telegraph Group Ltd, AP