UNMISS travels to previously almost-inaccessible village in Western Equatoria, raises awareness on COVID-19
Basukangbi, a remote village with no communication networks some 50 kilometers from Yambio in Western Equatoria, depends largely on farming as the sole income-generating activity. For most of their lives, farmers here have usually undertaken a four-hour bicycle ride to the nearest town Nzara to sell their produce and buy essential supplies for their families.
However, thanks to funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), this arduous journey has recently been greatly reduced due to the construction of a tarseal road which was handed over to the South Sudanese government in March this year.
As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in South Sudan, UNMISS peacekeepers on patrol also benefitted from the improvement in road conditions to Basukangbi as they were able to reach their destination in just half-an-hour.
Visiting peacekeepers interacted with local community leaders and members as they assessed the security situation in the area.
More importantly, they used this opportunity to sensitize the community on the dangers of the coronavirus and how they can keep themselves as well as those around them safe and healthy. Peacekeepers also handed out posters and leaflets with World Health Organization-approved health measures to residents in their local language. “We are very secluded from the main towns here; therefore, to be able to read such important information on the pandemic in Zande, our language, is very helpful. We are grateful to UNMISS for their help,” said Margret Elikana, co-executive director of Basukangbi payam (administrative division).
For his part, Peter Basukangbi, Ms. Elikana’s counterpart, expressed his appreciation towards the mission for its role in maintaining calm in the area which has been threatened by armed groups as well as its proximity as well as porous borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo
Speaking of the advantages of good road conditions, Mr. Basunkangbi said that farmers in his area have doubled their efforts to cultivate more crops. “We are hopeful for an increased harvest which will enable residents to gain more income while minimizing the efforts they have to take to sell their produce in Nzara and Yambio,” he stated.
Adding to this, Ms. Elikana urged humanitarian partners to take advantage of the improved accessibility and train farmers on how to produce more food as well as support them with agricultural tools.“Farmers here need to be trained on modern, high-yield farming practices and they need equipment that will enable them to farm on larger scale so as to produce enough for personal consumption as well as for sale,” she explained.
Furthermore, Ms. Elikana underscored the importance of a stable government and improvement in security as she believes that the South Sudanese people have suffered enough from civil war. “We now deserve to reap the dividends of peace,” she concluded.