Women peacekeepers on the front lines of COVID-19

May 28, 2020

29 May is the International Day of UN Peacekeepers — a day to pay tribute to our uniformed and civilian personnel. As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, this year’s theme is “Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace”.

Women are on the front lines of UN Peacekeeping’s COVID-19 response. From implementing proper hygiene and sanitation policies, distributing protection kits, to combating misinformation, women play a key role in ensuring that peacekeeping missions are able to execute their mandates, protect communities, and support national authorities during this global health crisis.

Leading up to this year’s International Day of UN Peacekeepers, we’re spotlighting 12 women peacekeepers who, in all their diversity, make invaluable contributions to the COVID-19 response all across the world.

Likiso Silwa, Radio Host, South Sudan

Likiso Silwa is a Radio Host with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Having worked with Radio Miraya for the past three years, Likiso believes that when it comes to separating facts from fiction in South Sudan, people rely on the UN radio station to provide them with accurate, impartial news.

“I make sure to research my stories thoroughly because people depend on us to bring verified facts to their living rooms. With COVID-19 creating panic and misinformation, our role has become even more critical,” says Likiso. All in all, she urges people to take care of each other during this unique moment in history.

Major Kirti Mohanan, Medical Officer, D.R. Congo

Major Kirti Mohanan from India is a Medical Officer serving with the UN Mission in the D.R. Congo (MONUSCO). As leader of 800 personnel, she is making sure that prevention, protection and proper hygiene are top priorities for responding to COVID-19. She also plays a key role in ensuring that key health information is distributed in a calm, reassuring manner.

“Most difficult has been dealing with the panic and assuring them that these small steps will be most effective in containing the spread and keeping the cases to a minimum,” she says.

More than that, she is also utilizing her vital experience supporting D.R. Congo’s Ebola response to implement regular temperature checks and hand-washing.

Aglah Afi Etonam, Nurse, Darfur

Aglah Afi Etonam is a Nurse from Togo, serving with the police component of the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Working at a clinic in Central Darfur, she helps save people’s lives and joins patrols as a medical team member.

The favourite part about her job is being able to assist locals and help them feel healthier. As part of UNAMID’s efforts to prevent and combat COVID-19, she is assigned temperature screenings at HQ for all personnel.

Lt. Aniko Petro, Force Hygiene Officer, Cyprus

Second Lieutenant Aniko Petro from Hungary is serving as Hygiene Officer with the UN Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). In response to COVID-19, she is integral to the mission’s efforts to keep communities and personnel safe and healthy. This includes providing advice on disinfection, designation of isolation facilities and developing a hygiene plan.

Additionally, she continues working on all other hygiene and environmental and health-related issues such as analyzing water samples and providing training on other health risks. “I’m ready to step up to any challenge that comes my way,” she said.

Nyalani Nyoni, UN Police team leader, Abyei

Nyalani Nyoni of Zimbabwe is UN Police team leader with the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Her responsibilities include implementing awareness-raising programmes for local communities on gender, children’s rights, human rights and law. Adhering to current health measures, she is conducting campaigns on COVID-19, and disseminating critical and accurate information.

Public health emergencies such as COVID-19 disproportionately affect women, even more so in conflict-ridden countries and societies. Nyalani’s job is crucial to empowering women to continue to actively participate in COVID-19 decision-making and in political peace processes.

Noella Fatoumata, Warehouse Assistant, Central African Republic

Noella Fatoumata is a Warehouse Assistant with the UN Mission in Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Her primary tasks are to collect, protect, keep, distribute and manage the flow of goods and materials allocated to staff for the smooth running of the mission.

This vital task is especially important during COVID-19, to ensure missions remain organized and key resources remain stocked. Noella’s role shows that no job is too big or too small; every woman on the frontline of the COVID-19 response is making a positive contribution to the continuity of UN Peacekeeping.

Dr. Zahra Shaitly, Pharmacist, Lebanon

Dr. Zahra Shaitly is serving with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). As a pharmacist, she is both an essential personnel and front-line responder in the COVID-19 crisis. Since the beginning of the preparedness response measures, she has been providing logistical support. A key task has been providing personal protective equipment to all staff as per WHO guidance and to optimize patient care.

Dr. Sanaa Abdelghany, Physician and Gender Officer, Darfur

Dr. Sanaa Abdelghany is serving with the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). As part of UNAMID’s COVID-19 response, she is delivering awareness-raising sessions to staff at the mission’s headquarters in Zalingei, Darfur. She strongly believes that social distance does not mean social isolation, and is still safely engaging in community outreach both online and offline with local communities.

“Amid COVID-19, I raise awareness in Arabic among national staff and cleaners on preventive measures. I also record Arabic radio programmes,” says Sanaa.

Captain Marie Carrigy, Information Operations Officer, D.R. Congo

Captain Marie Carrigy of the Irish Defence Forces is serving with the UN Mission in D.R. Congo (MONUSCO). Having had to extend her tour at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, she will remain apart from her family for a while longer as she combats the virus, alongside her colleagues in the DRC.

“We worked with the population of DRC during the Ebola crisis and we will continue to work with them during COVID-19,” she affirms. “We are staying here to continue to protect the local population.”

Focusing on mitigating risks and ensuring the continuation of all essential duties, she is making sure that personnel will be able to respond to the pandemic as well as support mission objectives to maintain stability and security.

Staff Sergeant Hanatou Souley Dodo, Nurse, Mali

Staff Sergeant Hanatou Souley Dodo from Niger is a Nurse with the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). As for all health personnel, her response during the COVID-19 crisis can be summed up in two words: assist and save.

“My deployment is continuing in support of the Nigerian battalion and local populations,” she said. “I am a strong woman whose ambitions are synonymous of dedication and selflessness.”

Christina Rosati, Senior Security Reform Officer, South Sudan

Christina Rosati is the Senior Security Sector Reform Officer with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), supporting implementation of the transitional security arrangements of the peace agreement.

“I am privileged to have known and worked with a number of outstanding women throughout my career, and have the utmost respect and admiration for the women we serve around the world,” she says. “Our work is not stopping because of COVID-19 restrictions; we are just forging new pathways.” Christina is confident that if there is peace, all challenges can be overcome, including COVID-19.

Lieutenant Dr. Arya Khadka, Medical Doctor, Central African Republic

Lieutenant Dr. Arya Khadka is a Nepali peacekeeper serving as a medical doctor with the UN Mission in Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

“Every day is unpredictable. It’s like being on duty 24-hours a day because you cannot really anticipate what is going to happen next. COVID-19 is a battle that everyone is facing, and we all are warriors,” she said.

Dr. Khadka is responsible for taking care of medical staff and personnel, conducting trainings to educate them on COVID-19 and symptoms and measures to fight it. She is also involved in creating isolation facilities for uniformed personnel as part of the mission’s preventative efforts.

“It feels sad to be away from my family,” she said. “I have an 88-year-old grandma who calls me and says, ‘if the situation were normal, you would be with us at home.’ I tell her that it’s true, but there are people who look up to me with hope, and I have a great responsibility. When I say that, she smiles and tells me I’m doing a great job.”

Women peacekeepers on the front lines of COVID-19 was originally published in We The Peoples on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.