President Barack Obama will convene a summit Monday at the White House of the heads of every key African nation -- except three: Ebola-plagued Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. And as of now, the African Ebola epidemic, the largest on record, is not officially on the summit agenda.
As their epidemics spin out of control in a contagion more than three times larger than any prior Ebola outbreak, Presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Alpha Condé of Guinea and Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone are staying home. They are taking drastic measures in hopes of slowing the spread of the deadly hemorrhagic disease: Banning public gatherings, closing schools, deploying their armies to stop attacks on health workers and maintain quarantines.
It is tragic that Sirleaf, Condé and Koroma will not be able to plead their nations' cases at the White House summit because their countries desperately need help.
There is great danger that the fear of the virus spreading globally will stigmatize Liberians, Sierra Leonians and Guineans, and that their West African neighbors -- especially Nigeria -- will try to ward off Ebola by isolating the countries in ways that will hurt their fragile economies, further imperiling the health of their people.
It is time to take a cold, clear look at the implications of this out-of-control epidemic and think carefully about what steps the international community should take next.