Team spirit

According to Chief Operating Officer in Bentiu Tom Ferreira, whether there is a heaven or not depends on each person’s belief. People may create a heaven of their own or try to work in the most positive way of thinking. For him, Bentiu is the heaven, for this place nurtures team spirit, mutual support and encouraging cohesion among peacekeepers and between peacekeepers and local people. For all these, he believed that the L2FH No.1 of Vietnam would quickly become part of that team spirit.

It is true! In only less than a month, the L2FH No.1 of Vietnam got used to the conditions and raised the national flag to take over the field hospital from the U.K. in Bentiu, then started to receive and treat patients. During the two following weeks, the hospital treated 56 in-coming patients and the number after a month is more than 100. This was impressive and UN Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix sent a congratulation letter to the staff of L2FH No.1 of Vietnam, expressing his joy over the quick deployment of the Vietnamese peacekeepers in Bentiu.

Staff of L2FH No.1 of Vietnam and children of South Sudan

It was the team spirit, solidarity and serious working attitude of the Vietnamese peacekeepers that helped the hospital overcome hardships and challenges in those first days in Bentiu.

New vitality…

During those early days in Bentiu, the barracks of the hospital consisted of only a few buildings, without any trees. However, after a few weeks, a new vitality and new appearance were brought about to the barracks. The hospital’s staff planted trees and flowers in boxes right in front of their rooms. The barren small pieces of land, which cracked for the lack of water, and places where only grass could grow are now covered in the lushly green color of vegetables thanks to the wonderful hands of those seemingly only knowing how to conduct operations on patients.

It seems that the harsh weather condition in Bentiu has given the 63 members of the hospital more strength. Despite the heat and rocky roads, the hospital staff safely completed the transport of 30 tons of equipment sent from the capital of Juba to Bentiu. The watch shifts at the front post of the hospital have been maintained strictly regardless of day or night. Each member of the hospital is always ready to undertake multi-duties regardless of their positions or ranks.

Every day at 4 am, cooks of the hospital start to prepare meals for the whole staff. In the early days of the hospital in Bentiu, when the field cooking-tent was not yet set up, the cooks of the hospital had to stand in the scorching sun to cook meals for the whole unit. The heat seemed impossible to do any harm to the cooks and… the meals of the unit. It even helped the cooks naturally dry spiced pork, beef and fish to make more dishes for the whole staff.

…and challenges

Every morning, the UNMISS base in Bentiu applies anti-mosquito sprays. For many, especially those from countries without malaria, this disease is a haunting experience. According to Major Phan Tan Dan, a preventive medical physician of the hospital, that is because the parasites in Bentiu often cause acute malaria. The warning at the time when Vietnam’s L2FH No.1 arrived in Bentiu was that about one third of a Ghana battalion stationed there contracted malaria.

However, with the experience in preventing and curing malaria of Vietnam, the disease is not a big problem. The hospital has prepared enough medicines and medicine-soaked mosquito nets. The staff of the hospital believe that they can protect them from malaria.

In addition to malaria, there is also a warning against rabies. In fact, poor local people could not take care of their dogs and they became wild. These wild dogs often attacked people.

Running water is also very rare in Bentiu, as it is supplied by a system of hand-pumps sponsored by UNICEF. However, it is not enough for all people. In the base where the L2FH No.1 is stationed, there are a lot of notes reminding the staff of saving water.

Life in Bentiu is just like what Tom Ferreira said: not easy, even hard. No one can be sure what would come, as the situation of conflicts may change swiftly. However, the “heaven” of Bentiu is where the medical staff of the Vietnam People’s Army can train their willpower, not only fulfilling the noble peacekeeping mission, but also further beautifying the image of Uncle Ho’s soldiers and the land and people of Vietnam.

Translated by Huu Duong