Indian peacekeepers awarded UN medals for excellent and varied work in Upper Nile State
Protecting civilians, undertaking a variety of engineering assignments, offering health services to humans and animals alike: no task seems to be beyond the capabilities of the 1,160 peacekeepers from India currently serving in Upper Nile State. No surprise, then, that they were recently awarded UN medals for their outstanding and multifaceted work.
“It is an honour to receive this medal, which will embellish my uniform for the rest of my career,” said Major Pooja Nair, a doctor and one of only two women in the current Indian contingent. “We provide medical services to peacekeepers and the local population, but we also share our knowledge on prevention of diseases and gender-based violence,” she continued.
Like for many of her colleagues, this is Major Nair’s first experience as a UN peacekeeper, a unique opportunity to engage with both colleagues from other countries and local communities in and around the towns of Malakal, Kodok and Renk, all in Upper Nile State.
Her excitement to serve with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and to keep vulnerable populations safe is shared by Captain Akhilesh Rana, a fellow medal recipient.
“My main duty here as a soldier is to protect civilians who are under physical threat. We do that both by patrolling high-risk areas and by escorting humanitarian convoys that bring assistance to those most in need. That way, we ensure that the much-needed help reach local populations safely,” he said when quizzed about his work.
Indian engineering troops have also rehabilitated key roads in the state, including the 75-kilometre-long route from Malakal to Abwong via Baliet.
The contingent is also well known, and beloved, for its frequent mobile veterinary clinics in different parts of Upper Nile State. Literally thousands of cows, goats, donkeys, sheep and other animals, including the occasional dog, have been given precious veterinary services rarely available to cattle owners in the country. Recently, the vets treated no less than 1,749 animals in Renk – in only two days.
Fortunately, having fur is no requirement for receiving assistance from the Indian peacekeepers. An interest in capacity building, and hence an increased likelihood of making a decent living, goes a long way.
“We have a strong belief in supporting income-generating activities, like vocational trainings. With skills, one can earn money and feed a family. In December last year, we organized trainings in carpentry, masonry and on how to make use of rain and water, and we hope that participants will be able to make a living. We want to be remembered for having left positive memories people living here,” said Colonel Vijay Rawat, the commander of the contingent.
He could have mentioned computer literacy workshops for girls and boys as well, but he may have forgotten. The fortunate ones who attended them probably have not.