As part of its ongoing support to the national-led COVID-19 response in South Sudan, various arms of UNMISS, including military peacekeepers from Ghana as well as civilian staff from Relief, Reintegration and Protection (RRP) and Engineering sections in the mission’s Bentiu Field Office joined hands to initiate and implement extensive renovations on the Bentiu Infectious Diseases Centre to upgrade it to a fully-equipped isolation centre for coronavirus patients.
A total of eight structures were upgraded by UN peacekeeping team, including two accommodation units, three wards, one triage unit, a kitchen and a laundry. Engineering staff from the Field Office were ably supported by the technical expertise and skilled labour from Ghanain peacekeepers deployed in the Unity region.
The centre was then handed over to the State COVID-19 Task Force at a ceremony which took place on 11 August 2020.
Speaking at the short event, Mr Peter Koang Chuol, the State Task Force representative, thanked the mission for its efforts to protect residents in Bentiu from the virus while the World Health Organization (WHO) commended the RRP staff for their role as key facilitators between the Ministry of Health, humanitarian partners and the mission to ensure appropriate resources for the refurbishment of the centre. Mr Chuol added that efforts are ongoing to ensure accurate testing and identification of cases in Bentiu.
For his part, Duoi Biem Kueignang, Director-General, State Ministry of Health urged residents to adhere to the preventative measures approved by the WHO to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the Unity region, which, at the time of writing, had 11 confirmed cases. “All of us need to wear masks, make sure we maintain physical distance and practice good hand hygiene. This is not about individuals but about coming together to make sure that entire communities are safe,” he averred.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Moses Dak William, State Secretary-General: “This is not the first time UNMISS has helped us create health infrastructure. A key example is their renovation of the hospital in Bentiu in 2015. We greatly appreciate their ongoing commitment to ensuring the health and welfare of our citizens and will operationalise this isolation centre without delays.” Mr. William also handed over two vehicles to be used as ambulances to the newly refurbished facility.
In his remarks, Norbert Niyodusenga, Acting Head of Field Office & Protection of Civilians Adviser, underscored the mission’s commitment to the people of South Sudan. “Whether there is violence, a health emergency or a natural disaster such as floods, UNMISS is here to serve the South Sudanese people. At a time when COVID-19 is wreaking havoc around the world, our commitment to helping the government protect its citizens is strengthened even more and we are doing everything we can, within our capacity and mandate,” he stated.
The event was also attended by other mission representatives from its field office, humanitarian partners including UNICEF, OCHA and Concern Worldwide, the commanding officers of the Ghanain and Mongolian battalions stationed in Bentiu, as well as Chief of Staff, UNMISS Sector Unity.
This handover is part of the mission’s ongoing CIMIC (Civil-Military Cooperation) activities aimed at addressing cogent needs of host communities.