UN Volunteers saving lives in Darfur

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11 Jun 2012

UN Volunteers saving lives in Darfur

The only Electro-medical Technicians working for any peacekeeping mission round the world to date are UN Volunteers serving with the African Union – United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). When Ibrahim Vuni from Uganda and Leonardo Viray from The Philippines were deployed to Darfur in June 2008, neither man knew he was going to help build from scratch the Mission’s world class medical services.

In 2007, when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that the conflict in Darfur was the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, an unprecedented peace operation was deployed to this land. UNAMID was installed to protect civilians and to contribute to security for humanitarian assistance, among other commitments.

With “close to 20,000 troops, 6,000 police and a significant civilian component”, the Mission was committed to ensure not only the safety of the people of Darfur, but also the living conditions of all its personnel. To meet this responsibility, UNAMID built its entire medical services from the ground up.

Today the UNAMID Medical Section operates four Level 1 clinics (in El Fasher, Nyala, El Geneina and Zalengei) and boasts the only UN-owned Level 2 hospital in the world, (at El Fasher). This hospital is bringing medical specialists, health care professionals, as well as state of the art medical equipment to the region.


Among the professionals at present, 26 UN Volunteers are serving in UNAMID’s Medical Section, including nurses, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, medical doctors, and Ibrahim and Leonardo who were there almost from the start.

  Leonardo Viray working at a UNAMID’s laboratory. Photo: Olivier Chassot

After training in their respective home countries, each man became interested in sharing his abilities and knowledge for a greater cause. Their assignment upon their arrival in Dafur as UNV Electro-medical Technicians presented them a big challenge in the establishment of a Mission’s entire medical services. But challenges abound as they continue their work at UNAMID.

Ibrahim and Leonardo are in charge of ensuring the quality and efficiency of all medical equipment and instruments in UNAMID. And this is no small job. For each clinic and the hospital these UN Volunteers take care of proper installation, calibration, breakdown repairs, and corrective and timely preventive maintenance of all medical equipment, including the operation theatre, life support equipment and the laboratory and radiology machines.

Working silently in the background, Ibrahim and Leonardo make possible every step of the medical attention provided for the Mission, from diagnosis to life support.

“In any health care service delivery, the quality and efficiency of the services depends very much on the proper functioning of the medical equipment used by the doctors and other health care personnel,” says Ibrahim, about his role as a technician. “Even under normal and careful use, instruments may fail to func-tion properly, and this is where my ability and skills come in handy.”

Aware of the importance of their contributions, these UN Volunteers expressed their satisfaction and pride in what they do. “Seeing the patients recovered from illness makes me feel very happy because in some way we had helped them,” Leonardo says.

“More inspirational and satisfying than repair-ing broken medical equipment is the possibility that this gives doctors and clinical staff to save human lives,” Ibrahim explains.

By Natalia Herrera Eslava, UNV Field Unit