UNMISS peacekeepers from Rwanda and Thailand team up with local communities and partners to plant trees and prevent malaria in Muniki, Juba. UNMISS photo.
CENTRAL EQUATORIA – As the United Nations General Assembly convenes this week in New York, world leaders are coming together to discuss, among other critical issues, climate challenges. For its part, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has been working with authorities and communities across this young country in the past couple of years, protecting civilians against the worst flooding in decades. A recent initiative by Blue Helmets serving with the UN Peacekeeping mission and partners used the concept of ‘Umuganda,’ from Rwanda – a nationwide holiday dedicated to community service—adapting it to help create green spaces for citizens living in the Muniki area in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. Peacekeepers from Rwanda and Thailand joined forces with the Juba City Council; the South Sudan Waste Management Union; Green Youth Empowerment (GYE); and the South Sudan chapter of the Rwanda Society for Family Health (SFH). Their aim: To plant trees, provide medical treatment for malaria and cleaning up the Muniki neighbourhood. The result: 628 trees were planted in five nursery and primary schools; local communities worked shoulder-to-shoulder with peacekeepers to remove stagnant water and clean up garbage as part of malaria prevention efforts; while medical peacekeepers from Rwanda tested and treated some 300 residents, including school students. “As peacekeepers—whether we are military, police or civilian—our job is to support local communities in building a peaceful, prosperous future. This activity combining tree planting and treatment for malaria prioritizes health and wellbeing,” said Brigadier General Abdullah Al Mamun, the UNMISS Sector Commander for Juba. For his part, Timo Wani Marcelino, Director of Muniki Block Council, welcomed the intervention.“Today’s event made us work together as one strong community, and we hope it will be replicated across Juba and other states. Such investments protect our families and give us the knowledge on how to improve our health,” he stated. Perhaps the simplest endorsement came from Francis Mena John, headmaster of one of the schools that benefited from the activity. “Our international friends from UNMISS inspire us to mobilize as communities and work to improve our lives. These fruit trees planted in our school will always be a reminder that if we work together, we can sustain one another.”