The leaders of Liberia and Sierra Leone canceled trips to Washington for next week’s meeting of African leaders, as they fight to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in their countries.
Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma has canceled his trip to the summit hosted by his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama, according to the website of the West African nation’s presidential office. The medical aid group Medicins Sans Frontieres says Sierra Leone has become the epicenter of the worst outbreak of the disease on record.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who has also dropped plans to attend the Washington event, has closed down schools and markets, and quarantined some areas to contain the epidemic. Travel for government officials will be restricted to the vice president and ministers attending the Africa summit, she said in a speech broadcast nationwide yesterday.
The outbreak of Ebola has killed 729 people, most of them in Guinea, where it was first reported, as well as in Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization. The group is joining the governments of the stricken nations to pump $100 million into an intensified push against the disease.
The U.S. government is providing “a range of support” for the countries and organizations battling the virus, Eric Schultz, a spokesman for Obama, said yesterday. He said the schedule for the Africa summit hasn’t been altered.