The brother of a Canadian-American journalist diagnosed with Ebola said Friday that he's trying to get Ashoka Mukpo home as soon as possible.
“When I first heard that it had happened, I was scared, but that quickly led to us thinking, what are the next steps to getting Ashoka home,” David Mukpo said. “The hardest part is knowing Ashoka’s alone out there and he doesn’t have us with him. Whatever we can do to get him back as soon as possible is the top priority for everyone.”
Ashoka Mukpo was born in B.C. and lived in Halifax. He holds dual Canadian and American citizenship.
Three of his brothers live in Halifax, where the family moved in the late 1980s and stayed until the early 1990s. Ashoka Mukpo often visits the city. Both took the name of his mother’s first husband, who founded the Shambhala Buddhism community.
Speaking in Halifax, David Mukpo said his brother had worked in Liberia on and off for several years, working as a journalist for Vice and Al-Jazeera.
“When Ashoka first went to Liberia, you have a tremendous amount of fear and a tremendous amount of anxiety about it, but at a certain point you stop having that be a part of your day-to-day life,” David Mukpo said.
“When he tells you he feels he can make a difference in a place he actually cares about, it’s hard for me to let my own fear for him get in the way of what he feels is the right thing to do.”
He said the Liberian doctors are doing the best they can, but he will get better treatment in the U.S.
The Shambhala community is rallying to the family. “It provides strength and perspective,” Mukpo said.
Their parents said Friday that their son was in good spirits.
"Obviously he is scared and worried," said his father, Dr. Mitchell Levy.
Ashoka Mukpo was hired Tuesday to be the second cameraman in Liberia for NBC's chief medical editor and correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman.
Mukpo has been "seeing the death and tragedy and now it really hit home for him. But his spirits are better today," added Levy, who appeared on NBC's Today show with his wife, Diana Mukpo.
Their 33-year-old son was being treated in the Liberian capital of Monrovia and was scheduled to return to the United States during the weekend for treatment, his mother said.
"I think the enormous anxiety that I have as a mother or that we share as parents is the delay between now and him leaving on Sunday," she said, adding she hopes his symptoms do not worsen rapidly. The couple lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
Snyderman and her team also were returning to the U.S. and being placed in quarantine for 21 days "in an abundance of caution," NBC News president Deborah Turness said Thursday.
In a phone interview with Today on Friday, Snyderman said all the gear she and her crew used was being disinfected because they all shared work space and vehicles.
She believes she and her team were at a low risk because they have been "hyper-vigilant."
Before the Ebola outbreak, he had been doing nonprofit development work in Liberia, said Philip Marcelo, a Boston-based Associated Press reporter who met Ashoka Mukpo last year while on assignment in Liberia for The Providence Journal.
'He was really into the culture'
Marcelo said Mukpo was a researcher for the Sustainable Development Institute, a Liberia-based nonprofit shining light on concerns of workers in mining camps outside Monrovia.
"He really was into the culture," Marcelo said. "He seemed to have a lot of passion for it."
ABC News said Levy issued a statement saying his son has been involved in human rights works in West Africa for the last several years and was aware of the risks. But he felt compelled to go back to Liberia when the Ebola crisis erupted.
"Doctors are optimistic about his prognosis," Levy said.