Indian peacekeepers provide much needed medical assistance in Akobo
Life for Jikmir Puol has not been easy.
The 30-year-old is a mother of five and all she wants for her children is “a better life and future”.
But that is a difficult ambition to achieve in South Sudan which has been plagued by violence since civil war broke out in 2013. In her community in the Jonglei region, there is ongoing fighting as well as the constant challenge of accessing much-needed aid, including food, clean water and medical care.
Wrapped in an orange sarong, with International Medical Corps in bold blue print, Jikmir has taken her two-year-old son Jok to a medical camp run by the Indian peacekeeping battalion serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), in Akobo, in the north-east of the country.
She is worried about the impact of a persistent eye infection.
“At birth my child was seeing very well but now he is having eye problems. I have brought him here to the UNMISS medical clinic so that they can help,” said Jikmir Puol. “I have been taking him to other clinics here in Akobo, outside of Akobo, but unfortunately I cannot get any medicine for him.”
While she is most concerned about her son, Jikmir has her own health issues having lost her left eye and she has an open wound on her face.
Rather than seeking help for herself, all of her efforts are dedicated to ensuring her son doesn’t suffer like she has.
“I started having eye problems when I was the same age as my child. I did not know what was happening to me until I lost my eye. I do not want the same thing to happen to my child,” said Jikmir.
Five months ago, the Head of UNMISS, David Shearer, announced a “new approach” to peacekeeping in places like Akobo in response to calls from the community and local authorities for an expanded security presence. The Indian battalion was deployed to establish a temporary base in the remote opposition-held territory to protect civilians and help make it safer for humanitarian agencies to deliver aid.
Along with their regular duties, including foot patrols around the town, the peacekeepers established the medical camp to provide health care to the local community, helping strengthen the relationship with the community and complementing the already existing medical services provided by humanitarian partners such as International Medical Corps.
“As a medical professional, along with my paramedical staff, we are doing justice to our profession by looking after the patients and doing whatever we can do for the community,” said Dr Amandeep, who serves with the Indian battalion.
“Together with NGO staff at International Medical Corps, we are proud of what we are doing. Everyone is doing their bit for the community.”
The peacekeepers see about 100 patients on the days the medical camp is operational with the most common cases being hygiene and sanitary related.
“The ladies are coming with urinary tract infections and the little children are coming with problems of eye flu and diarrhea,” said Dr Amandeep.
While the doctors continue to face challenges such as the language barrier as well as logistical challenges to get medicine and medical supplies to the remote town, they are determined to overcome these obstacles to provide much needed assistance to vulnerable people, including children like Jok.