British Columbia

Ebola outbreak: not enough aid workers willing to fight it

Vancouver's Craig Kenzie works with Medecins Sans Frontieres to train people to deal with the Ebola crisis in West Africa. He says monetary donations may be pouring in, but that may not be the most helpful response.

Craig Kenzie of Medecins Sans Frontieres says there's "a huge need that's just not being met" in Africa

A Vancouver man training frontline workers to stem the spread of Ebola in West Africa says there aren't enough people willing to join the fight.

Craig Kenzie, a logisitics manager with Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), is helping establish a training facility in Amsterdam for aid workers.

He just finished a two and a half month stint in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, where the outbreak of Ebola continues to grow.

The typical length of a mission is four to six weeks, but his stay was extended because there was no one to replace him.

Kenzie shared his experiences with Rick Cluff on CBC Radio's The Early Edition.

What was it like being at ground zero?

It's challenging. You don't think about the significance when you're actually in the field. You kind of break it down, day by day. When you're on the ground, it does feel like a regular mission. You just keep going to work, and you move on.

It sounds like there's so much to do but resources are always an issue. Have the facilities in Sierra Leone been resourced properly to keep up with the spread of the virus?

We're well behind the spread of the virus. This is a unique outbreak where there's a lot of money spewing out, but there aren't enough people on the ground to use the money, and to keep up with the pace of the outbreak. We've been stretching and trying to open up as many facilities as possible. But one of the main issues, is the human resources. People who are willing to go into West Africa to combat the disease. If this was a tsunami, an earthquake, or a war, there'd be a lot more people on the ground. But with Ebola, it's pretty quiet out there.

Vancouver's Craig Kenzie is on the frontlines of the Ebola crisis for Medecins Sans Frontieres, working as a logistics manager. (P.K Lee/MSF)

What happens when people have contracted, or potentially contracted Ebola, what do they do when there's no room at the hospital?

The people coming to our facility are either from the capital, Freetown, Port Loko, Makeni, or the village districts surrounding Kailahun. A lot of these people are getting stuck in holding centres, with questionable amounts of food, while they wait to get a transfer to one of our facilities.

What keeps you wanting to go back [to West Africa]?

A lot of the missions that MSF works in, there's always a certain level of risk. [But] once you get past the stigma, once you know what you're dealing with, and you follow all the procedures, you can make yourself quite safe and do it effectively. There's just some hysteria surrounding the virus that prevents people from coming. Of all the missions I have done with MSF, on the ground, this is one of the clearest needs that I've ever worked in. You have a huge need that's just not being met. And it makes no sense.


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