By Manohari Katugampola
Sri Lanka Army has been recognized as a professional and disciplined organization and has been highly acclaimed by the United Nations peacekeeping missions. In this context, the service of the Sri Lanka Army has been further requested to impart its services to maintain peace and security.
The Republic of South Sudan is a landlocked country in East-Central Africa which has a twelve million population. The ethnic conflict in South Sudan turned into a horrible civil war bringing many civilians death and majority been displaced. The brutal terrorism affected the civil communities causing immense harms day by day. With the raising of inter-communal clashes among the civilians, the United Nations Security Council Resolution brought an amicable settlement to the crisis situation. The United Nations Missions in South Sudan (UNMISS) is the newest United Nations peacekeeping mission for recently independent South Sudan.
In this scenario, in December 2013 an invitation was received by Sri Lanka from the United Nations Security Council to deploy a contingent in South Sudan. The request was accepted by the then Commander of the Sri Lanka Army General R.M.D Rathnayake and the then the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapakse. At that time the present Commander of the Army Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva was the Sri Lankan Ambassador and the Deputy permanent Representative to the United Nations Headquarters, made several visits to Sri Lanka to make arrangements to construct the level 2 hospital in Bor on the request of South Sudan. Having earned a good name for defeating the brutal terrorism in Sri Lanka the Government of South Sudan declared to employ Sri Lankan Armed Forces for the UN Peace Support Operations.
After completion of a ten-day United Nations Pre-Deployment Short Course, the troops consisting of the Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps, Engineer Services Regiment and Sri Lanka Electrical and Mechanical Engineers left for South Sudan on 04 April 2014 with a team of 12 Officers and 50 Other Ranks Commanded by the Commanding Officer of the Level II hospital, Lieutenant Colonel Dr. S.N Semage, presently the Deputy Director of Directorate of Army Preventive Medicine & Mental Health Services. This well planned medical project originated under the United Nations mission guidelines.
The SRIMED Level 2 hospital in Bor South Sudan was well equipped with secondary care medical facilities consisting of operation theatres, labour rooms, Intensive Care Units, Emergency Departments, Out-patient Department, Dental surgery, Pharmacy, Medical store, Radiology Unit, Medical Laboratory, ECG room, sterilizing Department, Biomedical engineering section, Medical waste disposal section, Freezer mortuary, Isolation ward and other wards, aero medical evacuation facility with ambulatory resuscitation and ventilation capabilities etc. This new SRIMED Level II hospital in Bor South Sudan was declared open on July 25 of 2014 by the Director, Mission Support, UNMISS Ms. Stephany Scheer as the Chief Guest and the UNMISS Force Commander Lieutenant General Johannes Tesfamarium, Head of the Mission and Force Commander of United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyeias the Guest of honour on the occasion.
The Sri Lankan Army troops established this hospital amidst several challenges to cope with the urgent medical requirements. Less availability of infrastructure facilities, broken logistic supply chain, inability of transportation of cargo, short period of time to establish a hospital with a less staff were some of the significant challenges.However the troops were able to succeed in establishing a professional hospital comprising of medical specialists, medical officers, dentists and administrative officers to ensure medical services with utmost dedication and commitment.The hospital entirely maintained by the team of Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps personnel by providing with ultra-modern facilities and medical equipment.The Sri Lanka Army installed and provided necessary medical facilities as a second line health care to all UN personnel serving there. At present the Sri Lanka Army has sent six contingents consisting of altogether 411 Officers and Other Ranks to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
The Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps serving the United Nations Mission in South Sudan Level II hospital received the United Nations Peacekeeping Medals this year in May for its higher standard medical services, the commitment and professionalism of the staff. The UN Peacekeeping Force Commander Lieutenant General Shailesh Sadashiv Thinaikar presented the medals to the Sri Lankan medical staff who are serving in UNMISS Level II hospital.
Lieutenant General Shailesh Sadashiv Thinaikar and the Head of the United Nations South Sudan Operation Office Ms. Deborah Gwen Schein appreciated the dedicated invaluable service and the commitment of the staff of the Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps. Moreover, the government of South Sudan has recommended this SRIMED Level II hospital as one of the well-planned and fastest medical projects manned by the Sri Lanka Army. Continuing the service further at the United Nations Missions in the South Sudan, the seventh batch of professional medical staff and the crew is scheduled to leave for South Sudan in the coming month of July.