On the World Day of Families, find out more about Dr Risiku Amusa’s whose long time dream of putting her skills to the service of peace came true 20 years ago when she joined the United Nations Peacekeeping mission in the Ivory Coast. Since then, she has helped protect countless numbers of civilians and peacekeepers alike in some of the most volatile contexts in the world. Like her, most peacekeepers have to be away from their families but a few UN Peacekeeping missions allow for families to unite, like UNTSO, in the Middle East, which she joined this year.
I have been away from my family for almost 20 years but with this mission, UNTSO, I can bring my son back here with me. He is a teenager and it is a perfect time to be together. As soon as the school ends in Cote d’Ivoire he will be able to come and join me and live with me. Sometimes being alone in a non-family duty station can feel lonely and sad but the other missions where I worked, from Cote d’Ivoire to South Sudan, Liberia and Haiti were too dangerous for me to bring my loved ones. It will make it easier because it is hard being away from our family. But I knew it would be part of my life because I have always wanted to become a doctor, from my early childhood and I knew I wanted to work in the humanitarian field. I started working in public and private hospitals until I had the chance to join the United Nations. It was under difficult circumstances though. The year was 2004 and my native Ivory Coast was rocked by violence following elections there and which led to a civil war. A United Nations mission was set-up to control the line of separation after the country was divided in two.
United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) peacekeepers patrol the streets in Ivory Coast to protect the local population on 14 August 2012. Photo: UNOCI My family was in a safer area but I felt compelled to go and help the people who were caught up in the violence and the Blue Helmets supporting them. One of my worst memories was in 2010 when a spike in violence affected dozens of civilians and peacekeepers who came to us seeking care with serious injuries and there was so much suffering. From the time the mission opened in 2004 until it closed in 2017, over 100 peacekeepers had been killed. There was a lot of violence in the country.
In other missions I have also faced challenges like in Haiti, where I served with MINUSTAH. We struggled to find spaces in hospitals to take care of the most severe cases but I managed to establish a good relationship with some of the hospitals when I arrived and luckily ensured our patients received the critical care they needed. My role is to make sure people are safe so it’s essential that I look at risks and find ways to mitigate them. That happened too when COVID hit us and I had to quickly find ways to protect our peacekeepers and the populations alike by establishing protocols to prevent the spread. It is one of my most proud moments though because we really contained the disease then.
That is my job, protecting people and making sure they are safe. This is my 6th peacekeeping mission and I have seen the impact we have. When I go back to the Ivory Coast I can see how developed and peaceful the country is and it gives me hope that we can achieve peace elsewhere. For 75 years, UN peacekeepers have worked alongside international partners, community leaders and Member States to save and change lives in the world’s most fragile political and security situations. These are ordinary people striving to achieve extraordinary outcomes in often difficult and dangerous situations. They are People for Peace and these are their stories.