I quickly discovered that the mission is a mosaic of diverse characters facing unique challenges and chasing different dreams. For example, in my role as UN Volunteer Public Information Officer, I hoped to use my writing to highlight the collective challenges, as well as accomplishments, of a nascent nation like South Sudan to a global audience. But I never really considered what I was doing as humanitarian work.
I have a law and human rights back ground, and I strongly believe that bullets have never been a source of peace in any setting.
I enthusiastically joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), sub-office Gambella, as an international UN Volunteer to contribute towards addressing the plight of persons of concern and provision of protection services which is the core mandate of UNHCR.
Since December 2015, I have been the ‘boots on the ground', managing and coordinating the fleet and transport facilitation for UNHCR staff.
South Sudan has been at civil war since December 2013, claiming the lives of tens of thousands of civilians and forcing more than four million people to flee their homes. The United Nations hosts about 200,000 of those who have been displaced in Protection of Civilians sites across the country.
When I arrived in South Sudan in August 2017, I knew very little about the country, its people and culture. But I came with an open mind and absolute willingness to learn from the experience as I began my new role as a Child Protection Officer serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in the Western Equatoria region.
During their assignments with peace keeping missions, UN Volunteers are known to demonstrate an exceptional level of professionalism, dedication and courage.
UN Volunteer midwives together with local volunteers help reduce preventable deaths and improve maternal and child health in South Sudan. We further our goals through mentoring, training, classroom teaching, and leading by example. We provide gender sensitive reproductive health services that range from care before family planning and pregnancy, antenatal care, labour, delivery, and postnatal care.
In East and Southern Africa, the achievement of SDG 3 is particularly crucial. According to WHO, Sub-Saharan Africa “confronts the world’s most dramatic public health crisis”. Mortality among children under 5 years of age remains high, with a rate of 84 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015. The incidence of HIV infection is still highest in sub-Saharan Africa, with 1.5 new infections per 1,000 uninfected people in 2015. In 2016, sub-Saharan Africa was home to 90 per cent of malaria cases and 91 per cent of malaria deaths.
How do you see the partnership between UN Women and UN Volunteers and why is this important?
The people of South Sudan deserve to enjoy life, deserve to have food, water, electricity, education and a prosperous future for their children. This is the spirit of volunteerism for me – volunteering to make people’s lives better. --Ia Saakadze, UN Volunteer Air Operations Assistant