Joseph Wilner from Haiti and Nusrat Shaheen from Pakistan are among the UN Volunteers preserving water resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Both serve with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO). Their service has had a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the Bukavu population. This is their story.
As one of the fastest-growing cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bukavu faces challenges due to the lack of clean water. According to provincial water supply, the population of Bukavu has grown from 650,000 in 1993 to three million presently.
To address the challenge of providing clean water to everyone, Joseph Wilner, UN Volunteer Water and Sanitation Technician, leads a team of three water and sanitation engineers. Together, they launched awareness campaigns for the population in Bukavu on the proper use of water. They spread knowledge about the danger of using polluted water and the risk of waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera. Additionally, they organized a community cleaning drive of river shores and Lake Kivu.
Joseph and his team improved water and sanitation facilities in three localities in Bukavu. Ten new toilets and latrines were added, along with a new plumbing system. They also facilitated access to clean water at Bukavu prison and improved sanitation facilities for the detainees.
I sent a request for assistance with cleaning the septic system. The septic tanks were cleaned and disinfected immediately. As a result, the environment was protected, reducing the risk of disease. The situation at our hospital would have been much worse without the effort of UN Volunteers. --Dr Rau de Cirimiri, Head of the Bureau Diocesain des Medicales Hopital General de Reference, Bukavu City
Another international UN Volunteer, Nusrat Shaheen manages water and sanitation interventions to reduce waste production. In her role as Environment and Waste Management Specialist, Nusrat collects, evaluates and reviews data from some 70 sites, with a view to improving mission environmental planning, action and reporting.
Nusrat supported the installation of efficient plumbing and launch of the Jumbo Water Bottling System within MONUSCO. Introduced by the engineering section, this system aims to reduce plastic production by replacing the use of multiple 1.5 litre bottles with a 20 litre bottle.
Her UN Volunteer assignment takes her to remote locations where she inspects and proposes solutions to further reduce waste. Nusrat faced challenges adapting to a new culture, language barriers, a non-family duty station and the toll of serving in a peacekeeping mission. She was evacuated to Rwanda and Uganda in the wake of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Yet she persevered.
Nusrat’s commitment and hard work boost the positive energy and dynamic of the whole mission-level WATSAN team. It has enabled the team to focus on the initiative approach in activities outside of day-to-day responsibilities. As a manager, I feel enthused to have such a committed and dedicated young volunteer expert on my team. --Rajeev Sivanesanathan, WATSAN Engineering Technician at MONUSCO
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 322 UN Volunteers serve in the peacekeeping mission, 130 of them women.