Obama appoints Ron Klain as 'Ebola Czar'

  • AP, London
  • Updated: Oct 18, 2014 13:50 IST

An internal report revealed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) bungled efforts to halt the spread of Ebola in West Africa. The WHO draft report pointed to serious errors by an agency designated as the international community's leader in coordinating response to outbreaks of disease.

Meanwhile, Obama moved to step up the US response to the disease, naming Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to vice president Joe Biden, as the administration's point man on Ebola.

Klain is a longtime Democratic operative who also served as a top aide to vice president Al Gore. He does not have any medical or public health expertise. But the White House said he would serve as "Ebola response coordinator," suggesting his key role will be to synchronize the actions of many government agencies in combatting the disease.

"This is much broader than a medical response," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, citing Klain's experience in the private as well as public sector and his relationships with Congress.

"All of that means he is the right person for the job, and the right person to make sure we are integrating the interagency response to this significant challenge," he said.

Republican lawmakers continued pushing the administration Friday to consider restricting travel to the US from the three Ebola-stricken West African countries. But despite Obama's statement Thursday that he was not "philosophically opposed" to such a ban, Earnest affirmed the White House's resistance to such a move.

Republican Mike Leavitt, a former health secretary under President George W Bush, said Friday that he sees "lots of problems" with such a ban. While it may seem like a good idea, Bush administration officials who considered it to contain bird flu concluded that it would not work, while raising a host of difficult questions about who would be allowed to travel.

Other nations have taken steps to prevent travelers from the affected areas from crossing their borders. The Central American nation of Belize announced that it would immediately stop issuing visas to people from West African countries where Ebola had spread.

US officials continued their efforts to contain the fallout from the nation's first reported case of Ebola, Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian traveler who died last week at a Dallas hospital. To augment federal resources available in Dallas, the Obama administration said it was supporting or designating a White House liaison as well as a coordinator from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be stationed in the city.

Doctors at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland said that a Dallas nurse, Nina Pham, brought there for Ebola treatment was very tired but resting comfortably Friday in fair condition.

"We fully intend to have this patient walk out of this hospital," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.

Another nurse to contract Ebola, Amber Vinson, was being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Her uncle and family spokesman, Lawrence Vinson, said in a statement Thursday night that she was stable.

Despite the stepped up attention to disease, though, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim warned Friday that officials in many countries were focused too much on their own borders.

"I still don't think that the world has understood what the possible downside risk is not just to the west African economy but to the global economy. And we are still losing the battle," he said.

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