Vietnamese peacekeepers aid the impoverished in South Sudan

May 29, 2021 - 08:00
Senior Lieutenant, doctor Từ Quang cannot forget the words written on a board at a school in Bentiu Town, the Republic of South Sudan.
Vietnamese peacekeepers forces move tables and chairs to present the Bentiu B Primary School. — Photo courtesy of Từ Quang

HÀ NỘI — Senior Lieutenant, doctor Từ Quang cannot forget the words written on a board at a school in Bentiu Town, the Republic of South Sudan.

“Let us live in peace and love. Let us forget the last things."

“Just a few short words, but they make a strong impression on the reader. Those words contain the desire of children and the people of South Sudan, the desire to live in a peaceful, stable environment and have opportunities for development. However, due to the ongoing conflicts since South Sudan declared independence in 2011, the children here have no or very little chance of accessing an adequate education,” said Quang.

Quang is the captain of the Airborne Emergency Team at the Level-two Field Hospital No 2. He recently finished his term at the United Nations (UN) Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan.

Participating in the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Republic of South Sudan from November 2019, Quang was assigned to be in charge of the Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC). CIMIC plays the role of a bridge between the military bloc and the civilian bloc within the UN, participating in co-ordination work between the UN, international humanitarian organisations and local authorities, helping run humanitarian and sustainable development tasks in the area.

“The school we visited is one of the examples of the mounting difficulties that people here are facing," Quang said.

With more than 1,600 students, the Bentiu B Primary School has only three buildings, including two solid houses and one cottage. The brick walls of the houses are cracked and the corrugated iron roof has holes in it. As for the cottage, both the roof and walls made of soil are crooked.

Due to war, conflict and poverty, the school is no longer able to maintain operations. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the country since April 2020 has forced students to miss school for many months now. Students can't come to class and the school is deserted.

Aiming to help local students have better conditions to study, the hospital's staff have made most of their time to help out in ways outside of their expertise. They used every piece of wood from wooden containers to build tables and chairs for the children. After nearly a year, 31 sets of tables and chairs and 100 sets of letters have been completed.

During the handing over of new tables and chairs, students at the Bentiu B School also received gift bags with books, pens and a small piece of paper introducing Việt Nam and late President Hồ Chí Minh.

At the ceremony, a spokesperson of the hospital said: “When you read this paper, you will see that Việt Nam is a country located on the Pacific coast and has an area only half the size of South Sudan. The two countries are more than ten thousand kilometres apart. This distance is very far, but we hope that it will be shortened by the knowledge gathered through the books read on these tables and chairs, recorded in these notebooks. With knowledge, you can help your families and rebuild South Sudan. One day, we believe we will be able to welcome you to visit Việt Nam, shall we agree?"

The question was answered with incessant applause as soon as the translation finished.

As a country that had gone through wars, Quang said Việt Nam understood the value of peace.

These soldiers, born during peace, appreciate the things today's generation is enjoying like being able to go to work, go to school and live in a peaceful society. Therefore, when participating in UN peacekeeping and despite operating in harsh conditions, Vietnamese soldiers are always aware of their responsibilities.

Since 2014, Việt Nam has sent 53 officers to work at the UN missions in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Witnessing firsthand the poverty and hardship of people in areas heavily affected by sectarian conflicts and political instability, Lieutenant Colonel Nguyễn Thị Minh Phương has many unforgettable memories from her tenure in South Sudan as a military observer.

"Seeing the image of a little girl aged 16-18 holding twins as small as two newborn kittens and crying bitterly because their mother didn't have enough breast milk because she also had nothing to eat, my heart sank," said Phương.

Realising the extremely important and meaningful mission of peacekeepers, Phương promised to make every effort to complete the task well, contributing to speeding up the implementation of peace agreements, rebuilding South Sudan after the conflict so the people here can soon have a peaceful and prosperous life. — VNS