India to deploy 2 medical teams in DR Congo, S Sudan to help combat COVID-19
BL Soni

India, which is among the largest troop contributors to the UN peacekeeping, will deploy two medical teams in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan after a request by UN chief Antonio Guterres to scale-up health infrastructure in the areas managed by the Indian peacekeepers to help contain the COVID-19 outbreak.

India's Permanent Mission to the UN said in a statement that the country responded to a request from UN Secretary-General Guterres and mobilised all efforts to assemble two teams of medical specialists to be deployed in hospitals at the UN missions in DR Congo and South Sudan.

"This gesture has been welcomed," the Indian mission said.

India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti on Friday tweeted: "Indian peacekeepers rise to the call to combat COVID! In response to request of UN Secretary General, India is rushing two medical teams to Africa to strengthen Indian peacekeeping hospitals - one in Goma, DR Congo and other in Juba, South Sudan".

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the world, the UN Secretariat has set up a System-Wide Medical Evacuation Task Force to ensure high quality treatment facilities for people serving the United Nations in field locations.

Guterres has decided to scale-up the Level-2 and Level-3 hospital facilities, managed by the Indian peacekeepers, at the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) to mitigate and contain the COVID-19 outbreak at these two locations.

Based on a request, India will be deploying two medical teams of 15 medical personnel each at Goma in the DRC and Juba in South Sudan in the second half of September, 2020.

The main hub of command and control centre of MONUSCO is located in Goma, where the hospital by India has been operational since January, 2005 and has 90 Indian nationals including 18 specialists.

Due to the increasing number of coronavirus cases in the area, the 'Level-3' facility, which is the highest level of medical care provided by a deployed UN unit, will now further be upgraded to a Level-3 Plus facility.

In Juba, the 'Level-2 plus' hospital by India, operational since December, 2016, has 77 Indians, including 12 specialists.

The Indian facility in Juba is presently one of the top-level of medical facilities existing in South Sudan. This facility will now be upgraded from Level-2 plus to a Level-3 facility.

Of the total 16,306 troops deployed with UNMISS, India contributes the largest number of troops at 2,420 personnel.

The country is the second largest contributor of troops to MONUSCO, with 2,030 Indian troops deployed with the UN Mission, which has a total of 15,159 peacekeepers.

India's long-standing contribution to the UN peacekeeping has been widely lauded by the world organisation. Women of the Indian Armed Forces Medical Services headed to the UN Peacekeeping mission in the Republic of Congo (ONUC) in 1960 to assist with the set-up of a 400-bed hospital.

India currently contributes military and police personnel to the UN peacekeeping operations in Abyei, Cyprus, the DRC, Lebanon, the Middle East, Sudan, South Sudan and Western Sahara as well as one expert to the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia.

Over the last 70 years, more than 160 Indian military, police and civilian personnel have lost their lives while serving in the UN peacekeeping missions around the world, the highest from any troop-contributing country.

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