Ebola must be stopped at source, not via travel bans: World Bank's Kim

By Anna Yukhananov
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim is interviewed at the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit in Washington October 16, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

By Anna Yukhananov

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Closing national borders to people from countries hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak is "not an effective strategy" for stopping the deadly disease, the president of the World Bank said on Thursday.

There is only one way to end the Ebola crisis, which is to stop the spread of disease in the three worst-hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the World Bank's Jim Yong Kim told the Reuters Climate Change Summit.

"All this talk about closing our borders ... it's as if you were in a burning house, in your room, and you start putting wet towels under the door to keep the smoke from coming in," Kim said.

"That is not an effective strategy. We've got to get back to putting out the fire," he said. "You either put it out, or it spreads: that's the bottom line."

Several U.S. lawmakers, including House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, have urged temporary travel bans to the United States from the countries hardest hit by Ebola.

The disease has killed at least 4,400 people, predominantly in West Africa, and the rate of outbreak continues to increase.

Thomas Eric Duncan, a visitor from Liberia diagnosed with from Ebola, died in a Dallas hospital this month. Two nurses involved in his treatment have since tested positive for the Ebola virus.

"If the fear evolves into closing our borders, we're going to take our eye off the ball," said Kim.

Kim said U.S. hospitals could increase their effectiveness in stopping the disease from spreading, but it would be impossible to prevent any person in contact with the disease from traveling, especially as cases have now spread to Spain.

"The most important thing to prevent more and more cases coming is to maintain our focus in getting the response right," he said at the summit, held in the Reuters Washington bureau. "And we’re not close yet, we’re not close."