The South African contingent of the UN’s largest peacekeeping mission – MONUSCO – is along with the rest of the mission sticking to prescribed and recommended methods to keep coronavirus at bay while doing their “day jobs”.
Leila Zerrougui, MONUSCO head and special representative of the UN Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), said the central African country, like most countries worldwide, was facing “an unprecedented threat, a common enemy – COVID-19 – which spares no nationality, community or religion”.
She said in a statement: “The UN system in the DRC – which includes MONUSCO, as well as agencies, funds and programmes – is taking all necessary measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus in the DRC, in accordance with decisions taken at national level and in line with recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO).”
This includes a suspension on rotation of MONUSCO uniformed personnel. This will see the current SA National Defence Force (SANDF) deployment remain on post until such time as the current stringent efforts to halt the spread of coronavirus are either eased or lifted.
There are currently more than 1 100 South African airmen, military medics and soldiers on MONUSCO strength. By far the majority are part of MONUSCO’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) and bring military air and land skills to the brigade in its efforts to protect civilians.
The precautionary measures, Zerrougui said, were implemented to protect all MONUSCO personnel, “the communities we serve and the Congolese population as a whole”.
The measures do not, in any way, affect MONUSCO’s primary mission – helping vulnerable populations, protecting them from threats to physical security and ensuring the DRC can engage in path of stability, peace and development. This includes, she said “protection of civilians and humanitarian assistance, particularly in the east of the country”.