South Sudan

UNMISS provides hope and assistance to Central Equatorians tormented by violence and food insecurity

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FILIP ANDERSSON

Residents in Lasu, a village bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, have long lived in fear of being caught up in clashes between different armed groups in the area. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan is patiently trying to restore a sense of hope, trust and security in the community.

In the face of widespread food insecurity, one way of assisting both civilians and government troops has been the peacekeeping mission’s recent distribution of high-yielding seeds and farming tools. The local community handed over land to the army, where the soldiers would be able to grow their own food. In return, the army is sharing their surplus with Lasu residents, thus building a bridge of confidence and trust that has long been missing.

A medical camp organized by Nepalese peacekeepers and benefitting more than 500 men, women and children in need of healthcare has also been organized and well received, and the same goes for weekly confidence- and trust-building patrols undertaken by the same blue helmets, based at the peacekeeping mission’s field office in Yei, some 32 km from Lasu.

Brigadier General Jai Singh Bainsla, the UN peacekeeping mission's Commander for Sector South, is proud of what his men and women have accomplished.

“We promised the people of Lasu that we would do all we can to assist them, and now, today with the cooperation of the communities living here, we have been able to make at least a humble beginning. These initiatives, however small they may be, go a long way to cement the trust and faith that local communities have in the peacekeeping mission,” he said.

Civilians living in Yei, notably internally displaced persons, have also benefitted from initiatives taken by UN peacekeepers. A prime example is the idea of Major Andres Santiago Haro Yepes to collect clothes and shoes from UN staff in Juba. He and his staff managed to gather, wash, pack and hand over footwear and clothing items to 85 of the neediest men and women staying at the camp for the internally displaced people in Yei.

“We had to leave all our belongings behind when we fled from Ombasi to escape the violence there, so receiving this assistance makes a huge difference in our lives. We our most grateful,” said Peter Ajok, one of the beneficiaries of the distributed items.