UNMISS raises awareness on COVID-19 on challenging patrol to faraway Maridi
At long last, a patrol team of peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan managed to navigate the rough road to Ibba County in Western Equatoria State. They brought important information on how to prevent and stay safe from COVID-19, too.
After several months of not seeing any UN peacekeepers in their remote area, residents were worried.
“We feel unprotected when we don’t see UNMISS vehicles passing by here, so today I was happy to see them,” said James Arkangelo, one of the locals. “We are requesting that the road is repaired and maintained, because without it our traders cannot bring us the basic commodities and services we need,” he added.
The road in question, linking Western Equatoria State with the capital Juba, is almost impassable because of crater-like potholes caused by heavy rains.
Lucky Mbakadi, a resident who hired two trucks to bring necessities, stressed the need for it to be repaired during the current dry season. His rented vehicles have been stuck for months.
“Actually, the road is not really there anymore. There are like 18 trucks stuck along the way,” he said.
Christopher Murenga, head of the peacekeeping mission’s field office in Yambio, agrees that regular patrols to remote locations are important to fulfill the mandate to protect civilians and find out what kind of challenges in such places are facing.
“We need to visit the communities and sit down with their representatives to discuss how things are going. They trust us, and their presence gives communities confidence to go about their everyday lives,” he said.
On this particular occasion, the patrol team had an added role to play: the launch of a COVID-19 awareness campaign in the area, using tricycles and motorbikes equipped with loudspeakers transmitting important messages in different languages. The activity, undertaken in Mvolo County as well, is the brainchild of the peacekeeping mission and conducted in cooperation with the Community Empowerment Agency for Transformation.
“The message we want to forward to our community is that they should keep in mind that COVID-19 is still around and that everyone must follow the protection guidelines to keep themselves and others safe,” said Joyce Philip, who listened to the public service announcements aired at Ibba’s local market.
These precautionary measures include frequent hand washing, maintaining sufficient physical distance between oneself and others, wearing a face mask, coughing and sneezing into one’s flexed elbow and to avoid crowded places whenever possible.