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South Sudan: Timely action by Ghanaian peacekeepers proves ‘every second counts’

Ghanaian peacekeepers at the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have been commended for their lifesaving support to a man who was severely wounded during recent violent inter-communal clashes in the north of the country.

Their timely efforts in stabilizing and evacuating the victim showed how “every second counts” when providing medical assistance, according to a senior official at the mission. 

Lieutenant-Colonel R.K. Sagoe, Commanding Officer of the Ghanaian battalion, reflected on the events of 23 December. 

“We were on an air patrol to meet with local communities in Mir Mir, a village in the Unity region, following reports of conflict in the area”, he said

“Usually, during such interactions, we are met with great kindness by community leaders but this time there was a sense of urgency as soon as we were on the ground.” 

The blue helmets learned that a member of the community had been hit by stray bullets during an inter-communal clash the previous night. 

“The man had sustained injuries to his face, neck and shoulder. He needed help and immediate medical attention”, Lieutenant Totein Sulbein, the Platoon Commander, recalled. 

Urgent evacuation arranged 

The peacekeepers sprung into action. 

Staff Sergeant Abigail Bredzei, the battalion’s medical attendant, dressed the patient’s wounds, administering a pain reliever and stabilizing infusions.  

Other team members liaised with UNMISS headquarters in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to arrange an urgent evacuation to Bentiu, capital of Unity State. 

“The response from headquarters was speedy and we were able to fly the injured man from Mir Mir to Bentiu where he went into surgery. We are told that he is stable now,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Sagoe.  

“As peacekeepers whose main task is to protect civilians across South Sudan, this is the best outcome we could hope for”, he added. 

Lieutenant Sulbein offered further insight into the role of uniformed personnel from across the world serving under the UN flag. 

“The man would have died if we all hadn’t acted rapidly”, he said. “For us, as peacekeepers, being able to help communities when they need us the most, is always a cause for celebration.” 

Protecting civilians, saving lives 

UNMISS has been in South Sudan since July 2011, protecting civilians displaced by waves of conflict, facilitating conditions for the delivery of humanitarian aid, and supporting peace efforts. 

The mission routinely goes beyond its mandate to help the South Sudanese people, especially in terms of providing health care and carrying out lifesaving and critical tasks. 

Hiroko Hirahara, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Bentiu, highlighted how timely response is critical in situations like the one the peacekeepers encountered in Mir Mir village.  

“When you have someone so severely injured, every second counts. I’m very glad that the patrol team was able to coordinate all the moving parts to make sure we provide swift and timely medical assistance to save a life,” she said.

“I’m thankful to everyone in Juba for their support as well.  After all, we are here to protect civilians and save lives.”