Medal parade honours Ghanaian peacekeepers who saved countless lives during climate emergency
UNITY – Over the years, Ghanaian peacekeepers have proven themselves invaluable in their service to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Last week, 700 Blue Helmets from Ghana, including 68 women, received UN medals for their brave service in the notoriously challenging environment of Unity state.
Major Hawa Ackah, one of the honorees, expressed her gratitude, saying, "We are here to help achieve the mission’s mandate. It has been thrilling, fun, and rewarding. This is my first time in South Sudan, and I feel like we have all been able to contribute so much to the people here. So, I am happy to be recognized for my service through today’s medal."
One of the most remarkable achievements of the Ghanaian peacekeepers was their response to the catastrophic breach of the dyke surrounding the Bentiu internally displaced person’s camp on 9 October 2022.
Despite having no formal engineering training, they managed to contain torrential waters that threatened to wash away the IDP camp along with UNMISS and humanitarian bases. Their actions saved countless lives.
Major Raymond Opoku, a first responder that night, recalls the challenging task.
"That day was no different, it’s what we were sent on the ground to do every day—keep the people of Bentiu safe. However, the water levels rose dramatically within a short period of time, and it was an unprecedented emergency. I’m proud to say we rose to the occasion and managed to keep many displaced people safe by promptly shoring up dykes," he revealed.
During their deployment in Unity state, peacekeepers from Ghana peacekeepers went beyond their security and protection duties by engaging in outreach activities with local communities.
They provided sanitary supplies and training to women, veterinary services, and handed over essential supplies to schools, leaving a lasting impact on the people they served, as acknowledged by state Governor, Joseph Monytuil.
“The state government and the people of Unity state are immensely thankful to UNMISS peacekeepers from Ghana. Your contribution in ongoing flood responses protected the lives of internally displaced persons and others in Bentiu. In addition to ensuring a sustained peace across Unity state, you put a smile on the faces of the people of Unity state through your numerous interventions, which made lives easier. We can’t thank you enough,” stated the top state official at the medal pinning ceremony.
For his part, UNMISS Force Commander, Lieutenant-General Mohan Subramanian, made a special trip to present medals to the battalion, acknowledging their remarkable contribution to UNMISS's peacekeeping objectives.
“This battalion, in just eight months, has been a major part of UNMISS’s endeavor to build a durable peace. In the past two years, Unity state has been in the grip of an extraordinary climate crisis and we as the UN family, in partnership with state authorities and communities, have mounted an extraordinary response. Our peacekeepers from Ghana have been instrumental in this response, in addition to their regular protection duties. These 700 women and men from Ghana have served admirably under the UN flag and it is my honour to pin these medals on them,” said Lieutenant-General Subramanian.
A special visitor from the Ghana Armed Forces, Air Vice Marshall Mike Appiah-Agyekum, Deputy Chief of Staff (Administration), was also eloquent in his praise of these brave women and men.
"The Government and people of Ghana as well as the Ghana Armed Forces are proud of the successful tour of duty by our troops in UNMISS. We salute their dedication and commitment to the mission's objective to build a lasting peace in South Sudan. I especially commend their heroism in October last year when they stepped up to save lives and help rectify a dangerous situation with extreme flooding," he stated.
Acting Head of the UNMISS Field Office in the state, Jane Lanyero Kony, was brimming with pride as she looked on.
“Because of the agile and robust response by Ghanaian peacekeepers, UNMISS was able to prevent the Bentiu IDP camp, which houses more than 110,000 people, from becoming submerged. This is a remarkable achievement,” she averred.
“I urge every member of the contingent—wear your medals with pride not only because you have earned it, but also because you have made your country and the UN proud.”