Business leaders call for greater global support against Ebola outbreak

Business leaders call for greater global support against Ebola outbreak

A group of 11 chief executives of firms operating in West Africa have called for more international support to combat an Ebola outbreak in the region, marking the largest organized business response to the crisis caused by the deadly virus.

The call to action comes at the same time the US and UK announced military will begin aid to fight an epidemic has claimed the lives of at least 2,100 people in five countries since February.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press," President Obama said the epidemic was a "national security priority" and added that soldiers would be involved in setting up isolation units and other equipment, as well as providing security for public health workers from around the world.

"If we do that, then it's still going to be months before this problem is controllable in Africa," Obama said. "But it shouldn't reach our shores."

British military engineers and medics are also being sent to the area, mainly Sierra Leone, the British High Commission said on its Twitter feed on Monday.

Preventative measures not enough

Attempts to keep the deadly virus out of work sites range from turning away anyone who has come from countries where Ebola is present to installing infrared heat monitors to measure body temperatures of employees as they pass through mine gates.

Similar devices have been deployed in airports to identify carriers during outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), bird flu and swine flu.

According to the business leaders, the three worst hit countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia— need the “immediate opening of humanitarian and economic corridors.”

The chief executives, who include Mark Bristow, CEO of Randgold Resources (LON:RRS), and Lakshmi Mittal, chairman of steelmaker ArcelorMittal (NYSE:MT), said that without the support of the international community the situation for many of the region’s economies, which are just returning to stability after decades of civil war, would be “even more catastrophic.” Other signatories included Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) and Iamgold (TSE:IMG).

In iron ore-rich Guinea, where the first deaths from Ebola were confirmed in March the government anticipates $50 billion of mining investments over the next decade, Minister for Mines Kerfalla Yansane said last week.

Nearly a third of global mineral reserves are in Africa and the continent as a whole offers the highest prospects for unearthing new mineral resources, according to geologists.

Image from archives.