Indian peacekeepers serving in UN missions from Lebanon to South Sudan are being lauded for their tireless efforts and service in helping the communities in the host nations - from critical infrastructure development to starting language courses for young women. Indian peacekeepers deployed in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) last week started English language course for a group of young women of Souk Al Khan in their area of responsibility in south-eastern Lebanon.
The six-week course, for which 23 women have registered so far, kicked off at the Centre for Care and Development and will entail written and spoken expressions of the English language. According to UNIFIL news, the programme, initiated at the request of local authorities, will help the young women improve their participants' skills in the usage of English language in their everyday life. It will also help them enhance their employment prospects after having learnt an additional language.
"Between peacekeeping duties, UNIFIL peacekeepers regularly carry out various small-scale activities with the host communities, which boosts their bond and further facilitates the UNIFIL's core operational activities," UNIFIL said. Indian peacekeepers serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) undertook critical work to complete rehabilitation of the main supply route, 250-km long, linking Malakal to Melut.
The commanding officer of the Indian Horizontal Military Engineering Company, Lt Col Amit Sirohi, said the challenging task could only have been successfully achieved through strong collaborations. "I must admit that because of the continuous support from all three agencies that is the UN, the government of South Sudan and above all the people of South Sudan, we were able to complete the work well ahead of the deadline given to us," Sirohi was quoted as saying in an article from UNMISS.
The rehabilitation involved levelling and grading the surface to make it passable for both heavy and light traffic, a strategic move set to save both the peacekeeping mission and humanitarian agencies their already scarce resources which would otherwise have been used for costly air transportation of aid and manpower. Acting Governor John Odhong Adiang welcomed the development and thanked the peacekeepers for their timely interventions, saying the task has been well accomplished and in the shortest possible time period.
Separately, Indian engineers serving with UNMISS launched rehabilitation work on the main road linking Bentiu and Leer, where poor condition had made it impassable for the past three years. The UNMISS news said poor roads in the area have been a huge cause of concern for women who had to walk long distances to find food, with reports indicating that such roads contribute to cases of sexual violence.
Indian peacekeepers in South Sudan are also being lauded for convincing refugees and displaced persons to return home. The establishment last year of a new UN peacekeeping base in Akobo – the only one in the opposition-held territory – is helping build confidence by providing a protective presence. Forty Indian "Blue Helmets" currently serve at the remote and austere UN base which is manned by different troops on a weekly basis. Medical outreach to the town's inhabitants by Indian peacekeepers has in the past been praised by the local population.
The UN and humanitarian agencies are also supporting internally displaced people who want to make the journey home from a UN protection camp in Bor. With the establishment of the base and other UN efforts, Akobo is beginning to bustle with life again with the return of about 12,000 refugees and internally displaced families. More than 2,400 Indian peacekeepers are currently deployed with the UN Mission in South Sudan.
Apart from dutifully carrying out their peacekeeping responsibilities, Indian personnel also celebrate their culture, sharing important occasions with the local communities. The UNMISS article quoted Indian Ambassador to South Sudan S.D. Moorthy as highlighting the importance of community outreach activities undertaken by Indian peacekeepers around the country, including providing veterinary services and training for cattle owners, agricultural support, as well as vocational training for youth. "These are things that we can do at the local level that really benefit the local community, particularly those who are returning from refugee and internally displaced camps," he said.
(With inputs from agencies.)