Pakistani peacekeepers serving with UNMISS construct earthen dykes to prevent flooding in Bentiu
Floods caused by heavy rainfall in Unity state have caused much suffering to local communities here.
Recently, the state’s capital Bentiu was nearly submerged by a fresh deluge when Acting State Governor, Joseph Montyuil, requested urgent assistance from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Engineers from Pakistan deployed here were quick to act, moving heavy equipment to sites which were most threatened and rapidly began constructing dykes to divert the flow of water away from the town.
“The minute we received information from the Field Office that communities need our urgent intervention, we swung into action,” reveals Lieutenant-Colonel Hameed Akbar, Commanding Officer, Pakistan Military Engineers Task Force. “Time was of essence and so we speedily relocated essential equipment from other projects to intervene in Bentiu,” he continues.
Swampy soil and snake-infested waters notwithstanding, Pakistani peacekeepers completed more than 4 kilometers of dykes in record time.
“The speedy assistance given by UNMISS peacekeepers really saved us from calamity,” says Franco Duoth, Chairperson of the Disaster Management Committee. “The volume of water approaching Bentiu was huge and left unchecked, the town and surrounding areas would have been completely submerged causing untold misery and displacement,” he avers.
Acting Governor Montyuil agrees. “Without UNMISS’ timely intervention, we would have faced a crisis like no other. The prompt action from Pakistani engineers, including pumping out water from homes and buildings which were already flooded, has saved Bentiu communities from much despair,” stated the Acting Governor.
“The currents were massively strong and it was challenging for our engineers to complete these dykes, though we are trained for such emergencies,” says Captain Yawar Abbas, Project Leader. “However, we are glad that we managed to help stop what could have been a major protection and humanitarian emergency here.”
“This is exactly why we deploy to UN Peacekeeping—to help people who need us the most. We feel honoured that we have been of assistance and contributed towards the UNMISS mandate,” adds Commanding Officer Akbar.
While the imminent threat to Bentiu has been mitigated, the overall dangers of flooding remain.
“The volume of water in Unity state is so high that it may take years to recede fully,” warns Mr. Duoth. “Water levels are still rising, and we need support from the national government to mitigate this crisis,” he adds.