The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo a “public health emergency of international concern”.
The move may encourage wealthy donor countries to provide more cash.
But the WHO stopped short of saying borders should be closed, saying the risk of the disease spreading outside the region was not high.
The outbreak in DR Congo has killed more than 1,600 people.
This week, the first case was detected in Goma, home to more than a million.
“It is time for the world to take notice,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva on Wednesday at which the emergency was declared.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies welcomed the move.
“While it does not change the reality on the ground for victims or partners engaged in the response, we hope it will bring the international attention that this crisis deserves,” it said in a statement.
How bad is the situation in DR Congo?
The outbreak, the second largest in history, started in August 2018 and is affecting two provinces in DR Congo – North Kivu and Ituri.
More than 2,500 people have been infected and two-thirds of them have died.
It took 224 days for the number of cases to reach 1,000, but just a further 71 days to reach 2,000.
About 12 new cases are being reported every day.
Why hasn’t the outbreak been brought under control?
Tackling the disease has been complicated by conflict in the region.
Since January, there have been 198 attacks against healthcare workers or Ebola treatment facilities leading to seven deaths and 58 injuries.
Another major problem has been distrust of healthcare workers leading to about a third of deaths being in the community rather than at a specialist Ebola treatment centre.
It means those people are not seeking treatment and risk spreading the disease to neighbours and relatives.
There has also been difficulty tracking the spread of the virus.
A significant number of cases are coming as a surprise as those affected have not come into contact with known Ebola cases.
Could the disease spread further?
The WHO says the risk to neighbouring countries is “very high”.
Uganda has already had some isolated cases including two people – a five-year-old boy and his 50-year-old grandmother – who died from the disease. Rwanda is also at risk.
This week a priest died from Ebola in the city of Goma, which is home to more than a million people. The city is a major transport hub and sits on the DR Congo-Rwanda border.
The WHO said cases there were a “game-changer”, however, there have been no reported cases of the disease spreading in Goma.
Is the world doing enough to help?
The WHO has been clear for months that it has insufficient money to tackle the problem.
It had estimated that it needed $98m to tackle the outbreak between February and July. Yet it faced a shortfall of $54m.