Monday, November 30 2020


Vietnamese peacekeepers in South Sudan steel themselves for COVID-19 fight

Update: April, 14/2020 - 10:39


A medical worker sprays disinfectant at the second level-2 field hospital in Bentiu. — Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defence

BENTIU — As war-ravaged South Sudan confirmed its first case of COVID-19 last week, medical officers of Việt Nam’s second level-2 field hospital stand ready to join the fight against the pandemic while undertaking their UN peacekeeping mission in the country.

Since the hospital is located near UN Camp in Bentiu which shelters more than 110,000 people, Vietnamese medical staffers might be exposed to the coronavirus if an outbreak hits, according to the Ministry of Defence.

The poor medical facilities and public health preparedness capabilities along with a shortage of personal protective equipment increase the risk of infection to local people and medical forces.

Facing this danger, the second level-2 field hospital has worked with health experts in Việt Nam and other medical facilities of the UN mission to raise awareness of UN peacekeepers about the pandemic and develop efficient response plans.

Lieutenant Colonel Võ Văn Hiển, the hospital’s director, said they had deployed a mobile emergency team to perform casualty evacuation, medical evacuation and other special tasks handed over by the mission.

Sub-lieutenant Từ Quang of Aero-Medical Evacuation Team (AMET) said the UN Peacekeeping Mission tasked the hospital to implement health scanning for people at Rubkona Airport to promptly handle infections and prevent community transmission.

Despite the small number of passengers since the mission has limited flights between Bentiu and South Sudan’s capital Juba, it takes a lot of effort to ramp up infection control and scanning due to the lack of medical supplies, Quang said. Meanwhile, wearing hazmat suits in hot conditions is another challenge.

Vietnamese medical officers help a man declare his health status at Rubkona Airport. — Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defence

All medical officers of the field hospital have participated in online UN training on pandemic response plans. With limited access to the internet, doctors have to print all documents and guidance on COVID-19 prevention.

However, as South Sudan is prone to infectious diseases, the hospital has made thorough preparations for emergencies by stocking up on medicines and supplies.

If a UN officer is suspected infected with the virus after visiting a disease-hit area and being in close contact with a COVID-19 patient, they will be sent to a quarantine unit for examination and treatment.

Medical officers of the third level-2 field hospital, which is newly established to replace the second level-2 field hospital in the future, have contributed to the fight against COVID-19 by improving direct splash protection shields, making them lighter, safer and easier to use.

Some 1,000 shields were sent to doctors and medical staff of HCM-based Military Hospital 175.

These efforts were applauded by UN inspection team for pushing back the disease and protecting community health. — VNS

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