Peacekeepers partner with women in clean-up campaign in Eastern Equatoria
Wielding hoes, slashers and rakes, more than 40 women with infants strapped to their backs joined Rwandan peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) this week in a community-wide clean-up campaign in Ilihum, Eastern Equatoria.
“The borehole and marketplace are essential to our community and should always be protected,” said Regina Joseph, one of the participants. “Good hygiene is needed to ensure that people have access to clean drinking water and uncontaminated food.”
Mounting refuse has been a long-standing issue for the village’s residents, which have had to struggle with widespread health and social concerns stemming from poor sanitation and upkeep.
With gloves on their hands and a tune on their lips, volunteers that day proudly brandished a wide variety of thrash-threatening tools in their quest for a happier tomorrow, filling in potholes around the central borehole and clearing overgrown vegetation to eliminate potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes, snakes and other menaces to a wholesome society.
Weed-whacking is not only fun but also serves as a mitigation measure against threats like malaria, crime and (semi) public defecation. According to residents, local criminals and the temporarily loo-less have made dense bushes their preferred hideouts from unsuspecting victims.
“We used to live in fear that criminals and enemies lurking behind tall grasses would abduct our children, but now we feel more secure,” said Nisrin Jildo, a vendor at the village market.
Iliuhm’s open-air market is situated under a large sprawling tree, providing shade from the blazing afternoon sun and partial protection from rains. But as business grows and attracts an increasing number of vendors, particularly women, the time will come when the impressive canopy won’t be able to shelter everyone.
“We would benefit greatly from additional structures to offer extra shade for the women working in the market,” said Okot Daniels.
Regular clean-up and maintenance have the potential to provide long-term benefits for the people of Ilium, including saving on medical services and hence transportation costs to reach the hospital in Torit, several miles away.
Civil-military engagements initiatives such as this one are part of the peacekeeping mission’s efforts to strengthen confidence and build trust between UN staff and local communities.