Washington: US President Barack Obama today said West Africa has been "overwhelmed" by the Ebola crisis and that the world must never allow such a tragedy to happen again.
A day after leading calls at the United Nations for a swift global effort to confront the disease, Obama issued a challenge to inventors to come up with new protective gear for health workers on the front lines.
"Hospitals, clinics, treatment centers are overwhelmed, leaving people dying on the streets," Obama told a global health summit at the White House.
"Public health systems are near collapse," he warned, saying that economic growth was slowing and governments were being stretched in West Africa.
If Ebola is "left unchecked experts predict that hundreds of thousands of people could be killed in a matter of months," the president said, calling on the world to do more to prevent such epidemics.
"We have got to make sure we never see a tragedy on this scale again. We have to make sure we are not caught flat-footed," he added.
Obama laid down a challenge to inventors to come up with more comfortable and functional protective gear kits for health workers working in highly infectious areas in West Africa.
"If you design them, we will make them. We will pay for them," Obama said, adding that he hoped that newly designed gear could be deployed in West Africa within months.
Last week, Obama ordered 3,000 US troops to West Africa and deployed the resources of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help tackle the epidemic.
His efforts helped to unleash growing momentum in the international effort to combat Ebola. Obama praised the latest contribution, the dispatch of 500,000 items of ventilated protective gear from Japan.
Despite the widening global effort, Obama and health experts warned at the United Nations this week that still more needed to be done.
Health systems in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been unable to stem the epidemic, which has killed 3,000 people since the start of the year, and are in dire need of doctors, nurses, medical equipment and supplies.