UNITED NATIONS -- President Barack Obama urged world leaders to increase their efforts to stop the spread of Ebola and assist the victims of a debilitating and painful contagious disease that experts say is in the midst of its most significant outbreak ever.
"Ebola is a horrific disease," he said at a special high-level meeting at the United Nations.
"It's wiping out whole families. And it has turned simple acts of love and comfort -- like holding a sick friend's hand, or embracing a dying child -- into potentially fatal acts. If ever there were a public health emergency deserving of an urgent, strong and coordinated international response, this is it."
He said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was "mounting the largest international response in its history. I said that the world could count on America to lead -- that we will provide the capabilities that only America has, and mobilize the world the way only America can."
Obama's remarks come weeks after he marshaled considerable resources, including up to 3,000 troops and medical experts as well as supplies, and sent them to Liberia -- Africa's ground zero in the war against Ebola.
On Thursday, Congress approved the use of leftover Afghanistan War money to begin funding Obama's $1 billion request to help fight the outbreak.
But he said the United States cannot do it all alone.
At the high-level meeting, several countries, including Germany, Japan and France, pledged tens of millions of dollars to help. Cuba has sent doctors.
The United Nations has also established the first-ever Mission for Ebola Emergency Response team, which arrived in Accra, Ghana, earlier this month.
Three countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, have borne the brunt of Ebola's advance across the continent, so far claiming about 3,000 lives and sickening about 6,000, according to World Health Organization estimates. There were also a few cases reported in Nigeria and Senegal since the disease is believed to have appeared last December.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who spoke at the meeting via satellite feed, said the disease had killed 1,700 people in her country, including 85 health workers.
Perhaps more alarming, a recent study by the World Health Organization and Imperial College, London, that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, predicted that as many as 20,000 people would be infected by early November.
Margaret Chan, WHO director, speaking before the high-level meeting Thursday, said the outbreak is rapidly gaining the upper hand and that it is "still running ahead, jumping over everything we put in place to slow it down."