Vietnam’s L2FH Rotation 1 was deployed to the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in October 2018. Now it has been replaced by the L2FH Rotation 2. Both hospitals have successfully fulfilled and been successfully fulfilling the mission of ensuring health care for the U.N. staff in Bentiu and staying ready to respond to any medical crises that may occur.

Although Bentiu is one of the major bases of the UNMISS, accommodating forces from various countries, its sub-bases can only be accessed by dirt roads. The total number of U.N. personnel there is over 1,600, excluding the staff of other civil society organizations such as Doctors without Borders (MSF - Médecins Sans Frontières), the World Food Organization (WFP), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the U.N. Protection of Civilians area (POC), home to over 100,000 South Sudan refugees.

Vietnam’s level-two field hospital is located in the central area of the U.N. base in Bentiu, next to the British and Indian military units. Without the national flag of Vietnam fluttering in the wind and the sign post, which reads “Vietnam’s Level-2 Field Hospital in Bentiu” at the entrance, it is difficult to locate the barracks of the Vietnamese hospital. That is because most of the units in Bentiu have similar rows of container houses or canvas houses.

Harvesting vegetables

Vietnam’s L2FH, however, stands out like an oasis in the “hot spot” of Bentiu. In an area of 300sq.m, the hospital’s vegetable garden is meticulously taken care of by the doctors and medical staff, creating a rare green space in the arid base.

Bentiu is a harsh land, it is seared by the scorching sun in the day with the outdoor temperatures sometimes reaching up to 45-50 degrees Celsius. A lot of efforts, therefore, have been made to turn the dry strip of land in the hospital’s barracks into flower beds and vegetable rows. It’s been just over a year since the L2FH Rotation 1 of Vietnam came to settle down there and the space has truly transformed.

Initially, when the hospital of Vietnam took over the barracks from the U.K. hospital, the sea freight had not arrived, so there was a shortage of clean water for cooking and professional activities. For 3 months, all medical examinations and treatments at the hospital took place in canvas make-shift tents. Food was also prepared in a make-shift kitchen and the staff was mainly served frozen food. Therefore, besides professional tasks, the hospital’s staff quickly planted vegetables and began to raise poultry to improve their daily meals, while strengthening and completing the infrastructure of the hospital.

The hospital now has a spacious mess hall in the 120sq.m area, convenient for food preparation, cooking, serving daily meals and receiving international guests. Clothes-lines, clean water tanks, barbed wire fences, electricity generators, and security cameras of the hospital have also been rearranged in a scientific manner. Lieutenant Colonel Bui Duc Thanh, Director of the hospital, proudly revealed that all items for daily activities such as tables, chairs, and shoe-lockers were all made by the “amateur carpenters” of the hospital.

The daily meal also captured a lot of attention, as the hospital is mainly provided with frozen food, which is not as delicious as fresh food. What’s more, the menu must be prepared three months in advance so it can be sent to the UNMISS logistics sector. Therefore, right after settling down, the staff started to raise poultry and plant squash, green vegetables, and more. Now the daily meal is more eye-catching and rich in homeland flavors. Everything has now completely changed for the better.

No one can refrain from being homesick when working for a long time far from home. Longing for Vietnam in this place, however, seems fleeting because even in a U.N. base like Bentiu, people still see the images and feel the presence of their families, units and Fatherland.

Translated by Huu Duong

Part 2: A patrol session of U.N. military observers