7 examples of UN Peacekeeping’s response to COVID-19

Sep 23, 2021

By Charalampia Armpounioti

UNPOL officer of MONUSCO hands facemasks to local police in Goma, D.R. Congo, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Photo: MONUSCO)

In March 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, due to its presence in over 110 countries and the sustained risk of further spread around the world. Since then, the COVID-19 outbreak has radically disrupted all aspects of life as we knew it. The impact of the virus has disproportionately affected people around the world, especially in fragile settings marked by violence and conflict.

Committed to their mandate to protect vulnerable populations around the world, UN Peacekeeping missions have continued to carry out their mandates, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. They also joined the fight to mitigate the COVID-19 spread by adjusting their operations and providing support to host countries in multiple ways.

Here are examples of how missions responded to the COVID-19 pandemic :

  1. Supporting the response of local and national authorities

Peacekeeping missions have been actively supporting the efforts of host governments and authorities to combat the virus. For example, earlier this year, UNIFIL coordinated training sessions to share best practices on COVID-19 for frontline health workers, and has been facilitating PCR testing in villages in South Lebanon. UNMISS peacekeepers helped local authorities disinfect a University in Wau to ensure access to education for all.

In Mali, MINUSMA has contributed to the national efforts to curb COVID-19, among others, through a Quick Impact Project for the building of a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) laboratory in Mopti and trainings for healthcare providers. In the Central African Republic, MINUSCA has been funding the national efforts to fight the virus.

In addition, our missions also helped protect vital social services that were under threat due to extended lockdowns and other COVID-19-related restrictions. In Kosovo, UNMIK provided hygiene and personal protective equipment to the more than 2,000 staff members from correctional facilities and courts across the country, so that they can continue their work. Similarly, to ensure equal access to legal aid, the mission funded the Kosovo Law Institute’s Free Legal Aid Center, which kept offering legal help remotely during lockdown.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, UN Police officers of MINUSMA sanitize detention centres in Bamako, Mali. (Photo: MINUSMA)
UNIFIL peacekeepers conduct a COVID-19 related disinfection training with civil defence volunteers from south-eastern Lebanon. (Photo: UN Photo/ Pvt Nerea Gonzalez Dasilva)
Female peacekeepers from China at the mission’s hospital in Wau, South Sudan, provide free medical services to communities. (Photo: UNMISS)
MINUSMA hands over a new PCR laboratory in Mopti. (Photo: MINUSMA)

2. Making life-saving donations

Throughout the pandemic, we have actively been supporting efforts to fight the virus through generous donations. From face masks, antibacterial soaps and hand washing equipment for local populations, to ambulances, medications and medical devices for hospitals and COVID-19 protection kits for local schools, UN Peacekeeping missions have been providing critical supplies to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and protect local communities.

To support the national COVID-19 response, MINUSMA distributes 48 tons of medical material and equipment, critical for the support and protection of local populations across Mali. (Photo: MINUSMA)
UNIFIL Italian peacekeepers donating medications and medical devices to the Lebanese Red Cross. (Photo: UN Photos / Corporal Marina Dore)
In collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme, UN police officers serving with UNMISS hand water drums, hand sanitizers, soaps, face masks and disinfectants to South Sudan police in Unity State. (Photo: Luk Riek Nyak/UNMISS)
UNMIK donating 3D printers and almost 150 packs of filament for printing face protection shields to the Gračanica Innovation Center and the Center for Diversity and Minority Development (SMAART) in Klokot/Kllokot. (Photo: UNMIK)
To support vulnerable communities in the fight against COVID-19, MONUSCO peacekeepers deliver soap, toothbrushes, hygiene kits & clothes to inmates of the Makala central prison in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Photo: MONUSCO)

3. Community awareness-raising and information sharing

Acknowledging the vital importance of timely and accurate information in periods of crisis, UN Peacekeeping missions have been raising awareness on ways to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Their sensitization initiatives have been particularly important with the rapid spread of misinformation and disinformation around COVID-19 in many mission countries.

The activities of the missions ranged from awareness-raising with journalists to sessions with inmates, trainings with local populations and information sharing during patrols. Peacekeeping missions have been using local communication channels, including radio and social media, to reach communities and share up-to-date information. In South Sudan, Radio Miraya provided critical information to help curb the spread of COVID-19, while in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Radio Okapi played an equally important role broadcasting classes in math, French, reading and writing, health, environmental education and hygiene for around 22 million children per day, due to stay-at-home orders.

While on patrol, Moroccan peacekeepers from MONUSCO sensitize the population of Pinga on protection measures against COVID-19. (Photo MONUSCO / Force)
Irene Lasu, radio presenter for the UN Mission in South Sudan’s Radio Miraya, providing critical information during the COVID-19 pandemic. ​(Photo: UN Photo/Isaac Alebe Avoro​)
During a patrol in the Central African Republic, an UN Police officer from Indonesia explains the importance of COVID-19 barrier measures to local children. (Photo: MINUSCA)
UNMISS Female Engagement Team from Nepal sensitizes a group of local women in Cueibet on COVID-19 and distributes sanitary pads, medical masks and soaps. (Photo: UNMISS)
After receiving training from MINUSCA, young taxi-motorcyclists in the Central African Republic crisscrossed the 27 districts and sub-districts of Bria and informed a total of 30,000 people in French and Sango about COVID-19 prevention measures. (Photo: MINUSCA)

4. Vaccine roll-out

International cooperation against the common enemy resulted in the development of vaccines that can be critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. To help protect the most vulnerable populations in their host countries, we facilitated the arrival and transportation of vaccines.

The missions also launched vaccination campaigns for their personnel, to ensure that peacekeepers will remain safe and are able to continue their vital work in protecting civilians, facilitating political processes, supporting disarmament, promoting human rights and assisting in the rule of law, amidst the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Arrival of the first vaccines in Mali with support from MINUSMA in March 2021. (Photo: MINUSMA)
UN Peacekeeping personnel receive vaccine shots, so that they can remain safe and continue protecting the populations they serve. (Photo:UNMISS)
Arrival of the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines for UN personnel in Bangui, Central African Republic. (Photo: MINUSCA)
In January 2021, the Greek Cypriot co-chair of the bi-communal Technical Committee on Health met the Turkish Cypriot co-chair in the bufferzone to deliver the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines. (Photo: UNFICYP)

5. Supporting civil society and local actors

As part of its COVID-19 response, UN Peacekeeping also supported initiatives undertaken by civil society and local actors.

In Mali, MINUSMA joined civil society stakeholders in efforts to mobilize local communities in the fight against the deadly virus. In Cyprus, UNFICYP teamed up with representatives from several civil society organizations from across the island to host online networking sessions on mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. In collaboration with women-led NGOs, UNMIK supported 200 women and men from various communities in creating 200,000 protective cloth masks that were distributed for free across the country.

UNMIK supports women-led NGOs for the sewing of 200,000 protective cloth masks. (Photo:UNMIK)
UNFICYP holds an online networking session with civil society organizations on mental health and the importance of inner peace during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: UNFICYP)
Catherine Amboga-Rimmele, a UN Volunteer working with UNMISS in Malakal, South Sudan, started a project with local tailors making face masks to help protect staff and displaced persons from the COVID-19 virus. (Photo:UNMISS)

6. Supporting disproportionately affected groups

As part of our response, we took a series of actions to support those disproportionately affected by the pandemic, such as young people, women, children or displaced persons. In the Central African Republic, MINUSCA supplied displaced persons in Bouar with COVID-19 protection kits, while UNMISS and UNMIK made generous donations to ensure equal access to education for all children.

Peacekeeping missions also encouraged civil society groups to join the fight against this common enemy. For example, in Cyprus, UNFICYP organized online discussions where youth could express their concerns about the sanitary crisis and formulate ideas for addressing its consequences. In Kosovo, the mission supported a youth-led NGO in producing 15,000 masks and face shields for frontline workers.

Young cyclists in Kosovo deliver 600+ reusable masks to 200 Albanian, Serbian, Roma and Ashkali families in Lipjan/Lipljan. (Photo: UNMIK)
A peacekeeper serving with MINUSCA is helping a young kid in the Central African Republic stay safe by providing him with hand sanitizer. (Photo:MINUSCA)
With MINUSMA’s support, youth radio station “La Voix des Jeunes et des Enfants” has been helping increase COVID-19 awareness amongst Malian youth. (Photo: MINUSMA)
To facilitate equal access to quality education for all, UNMIK & NGO Balkan Sunflowers distribute tablets to children of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian community. (Photo:UNMIK)

7. Adapting operations and supporting personnel

UN Peacekeeping adapted its daily operations to include mitigation measures against the spread of COVID-19 to help protect peacekeepers and local communities, while maintaining operational continuity. Peacekeepers continued to work tirelessly for lasting peace, while applying critical mitigation measures such as observing social distancing and strict handwashing protocols.

For everyone’s safety, we adjusted our operations, asked Member States to delay the regular troop rotations, implemented strict handwashing, physical distancing and temperature check protocols, set up water and soap stations across mission facilities and established working-from-home policies both for civilian staff in missions and for headquarter personnel.

In light of this unprecedented health crisis, we also focused on providing our personnel with mental health support.

UNFICYP peacekeepers from UNPOL and the military component join forces to keep the Mission free from COVID-19. (Photo: UNFICYP)
MINUSCA Indonesian peacekeepers after taking a mandatory COVID-19 test. (Photo: MINUSCA/Dany Balepe)
Under Secretary-General Jean-Pierre Lacroix working from home during lockdown. (Photo: UN Peacekeeping)
To minimize the spread of COVID-19, MINUSMA has amped up their efforts against the spread of the virus through regular disinfection and sanitation procedures. (Photo: MINUSMA)
Temperature check at UNIFIL facilities. (Photo: UNIFIL)

For more examples of UN Peacekeeping’s COVID-19 response and for the most up-to-date information, visit our website.

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