UN praises Indian peacekeepers in S Sudan for humanitarian aid, critical work

United Nations, Jul 16 (PTI): Indian peacekeepers serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan have been commended by the world body and local communities for their vital help in repairing roads and providing solar lamps to a hospital.
Indian military engineers serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), along with peacekeepers from Bangladesh, China, Thailand and South Korea repaired over 2500 kilometers of roads to support economic growth in conflict-affected country, efforts that will go a long way in helping build a peaceful and prosperous future for the African country.
The peacekeepers spent six months working intensively levelling and grading roads as well as repairing supporting infrastructure, such as culverts and bridges.
They have focused on major routes from Juba to Bentiu (940km), Juba-Bor-Pibor (400km) and Malakal (200km), UNMISS said in a statement.
“I would like to thank the countries that have sent their engineers to serve the people of South Sudan. Their efforts are improving people’s lives as well as the prospects of South Sudan securing a peaceful and more prosperous future,” said David Shearer, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS.
Shearer said when South Sudan gained its independence, it inherited infrastructure that was in a dire state with only about 250 kilometers of sealed roads.
“War and weather have also taken a toll over the years, leaving many roads impassable in the rainy season. The efforts of our engineers to rehabilitate major supply routes will make a big difference to people’s lives,” Shearer said.
Outlining the advantages of improved infrastructure and basic amenities, he said that in many areas where roads have been improved, there has been a decrease in violence between groups and an increase in reconciliation and peace-building activities.
Significantly, improved road connectivity will enable humanitarian agencies to reach communities in need and save millions of dollars travelling by road rather than relying on transporting aid by air.
UNMISS will also be able to supply its bases and deploy peacekeepers to locations around the country more efficiently and effectively, Shearer said.
“Many families are also beginning to have the confidence to return to their homes as the security situation improves. Better roads will enable them to travel safely and more easily. Improved access will also encourage trade, create jobs and economic growth,” Shearer said.
India is the second largest contributor of uniformed personnel to South Sudan. Nearly 2,400 Indian military and police peacekeepers currently serve in the country.
Additionally, the Indian Battalion in the mission is also garnering appreciation for providing solar lamps to the Bor State Hospital, the only functioning public health facility in the capital of Jonglei State in South Sudan.
The pitch-dark facility created difficulties for staff and employees to provide necessary medical services at the hospital.
The Indian battalion installed 16 mass-usage community solar panels in the hospital.
UNMISS said the lamps, whose purchase was funded by individual contributions from the Indian troops, are located at the emergency and critical care area, maternity, pediatric ward and logistics areas.
“I am very happy that today we have outdoor lights in this hospital. It makes our work safe and secure. It also ensures that people who engage in criminal activities around the hospital cannot do that again.
“Moving around in between wards and sections was risky and emergencies at night was like groping in the dark,” said Abraham Lier, a worker at the hospital.
Jonglei Minister of Health Rachael Amuor Pach said Bor hospital environs will be better lit and staff and patients can conveniently move about with their critically needed services.
“It is very appropriate as it provides a solution to the problems which doctors here face when emergency cases happen at night,” she said, adding that “several equipment, including lights at strategic locations in the hospital, were destroyed during and after the war in 2013”.
Less than 1 per cent of South Sudan has access to electricity from the national grid.