Years of civil war have devastated infrastructure and community services across South Sudan. The lack of adequate fire prevention and fighting services has been a huge problem with large blazes damaging markets, homes and taking lives, particularly in the capital where communities live and work in congested conditions.
With only one fire truck that often broke down, it has been impossible for local authorities to provide much-needed protection in Juba. Firefighters serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan have done their best to bolster local services by rapidly responding to assist during large blazes.
However, this was a challenge given the Mission has only four international fire services personnel, supported by national staff, who are required to cover all fire prevention and response 24/7. So, UNMISS decided the best way to help was to hand-over some much-needed equipment.
“I know that the local fire team has been a little short on fire trucks and we have assisting you in the past, but I’m hoping that two new trucks, including a fire engine that pumps about 250 litres a minute and a tanker that holds 10,000 of water, means you will be able to respond much more effectively and rapidly,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, David Shearer, to local firefighters at the handover ceremony.
In addition to the vehicles, UNMISS also provided protective equipment, including trousers and jackets, boots and helmets, as well as hoses and other tools. The gift was gratefully accepted by the Director of Central Equatoria’s Fire Service.
“It has been quite good with the UNMISS firefighters because, whenever there was a fire outbreak in Juba, we could request assistance from UNMISS and their response was prompt,” said Major General Pascal Lado. “Now that you have given us the trucks, we are going to exert our efforts in order to protect people’s lives and properties so that they live comfortably.”
The Head of UNMISS paid tribute to the firefighters from South Sudan as well as those working for the peacekeeping mission who show true courage by risking their lives to save others. He acknowledged the strong relationship between the local and international firefighting teams.
“This handover represents the very good cooperation between UNMISS and South Sudan. We hope there are no fires. It is always good to be ready but never to have to take action. But if we have to take action, then in the future, we will be able to do it more effectively,” he said.
As the South Sudanese fire-fighters proudly drove their new trucks away, UNMISS has pledged to provide further training and support to ensure that, together, they can protect civilians and their livelihoods so they can look forward to a brighter future.
Source: UN Mission in South Sudan