Pakistani peacekeepers protect thousands of South Sudanese from floods via dykes: UN

UN

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 08 (APP): Hundred of kilometres of dykes, built and maintained by engineers from Pakistan serving with the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) four years ago, are keeping some 300,000 residents of Bentiu, the capital of the country’s Unity state, protected from flood waters, the Mission said Wednesday.

These dykes, which earned widespread praise from the communities, were erected in 2020 when overflow from a swelling Nile River crashed through the state and never receded.

“We may not be the ones saving people from bullets, but we are protecting them from floods,” said Captain Taimoor Ahmad, a Flood Officer with the Pakistani engineering unit in Bentiu, which is surrounded by large bodies of water.

‘His (Capt. Taimoor’s) words underscore the evolving nature of UN Peacekeeping where environmental catastrophes pose as great a threat as armed conflict,” according to the Mission’s press release.

Incessant rainfall and consequent flooding have erased villages, submerged critical infrastructure and made agriculture – once the primary source of income and food – all but impossible, propelling hundreds of thousands to seek sanctuary in the Bentiu Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp, safeguarded by the dyke system.

“These protective mud structures, however, demand constant surveillance and maintenance,” the press release said.
For over three years, it said, Pakistani ‘Blue Helmets’ have tirelessly worked to preserve them, a task that has become crucial for the survival of both the IDP camp’s residents, the UNMISS Bentiu Field Office, as well as for the secure delivery of critical humanitarian assistance.

The durability of the dykes, which have withstood many challenges, reflects the Pakistani engineering unit’s adaptability and commitment, it was pointed out.

“We monitor over 80 kilometres of dykes daily. Over three years, we’ve accumulated significant knowledge, ensuring the well-being of everyone here,” said Major Saad Sultan, a Pakistani operations officer, during an inspection on the southern dyke.

Despite the challenges of working in the middle of climate disasters, compounded by food crises, conflict and the outbreak of disease, Captain Taimoor Ahmad said he remains committed.

“If I help build just one dyke, I’m indirectly saving hundreds or thousands. That makes all the hard work and sacrifice worth it,” he added.

APP Services