Following the decrease of rebel activity in the Congo’s Equateur Province, UN troops and service agencies now battle random banditry, poaching, a cholera epidemic and other effects of dire poverty in the vast rainforest province of the Congo. In this post we share some highlights of the UN efforts as reported on the mission’s web site http://monusco.unmissions.org.
With the extension of the mandate for the world’s largest UN peacekeeping force for another year, there’s a much better chance that legislative and presidential elections will be held in late November this year. On a recent visit to the still ungoverned eastern Congo, MONUSCO’s (the UN mission’s official name) chief staff person Roger Meece declared, “I can assure you that everything is in place to provide security for the
upcoming elections.” Security as the priority for the UN was further signaled by Meece’s commemoration on September 18 of the 50th anniversary of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarsjkold’s death in a plane crash during the early period of post independence conflict in the Congo.
In a now peaceful Mbandaka, the UN’s anti mines unit recently organized and funded the scanning of an area around the Mbandaka airport for buried ordinance. Having declared the land safe, MONUSCO announced on September 6 that construction would begin on the construction of a new terminal for Mbandaka.
Banditry and looting by armed former rebels continue to plague some parts of the province and UN investigators have accompanied Congolese police in efforts to maintain law and order in the villages of Ilenga and Bosenga not far from Mbandaka. To the south, poachers hunt elephants and prey on villagers in the remote Salonga National Park and surroundings despite deployment of the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) with UN advisors.
On the health front, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Equateur was hit hardest by the cholera outbreak in Congo this year. While cases are now on the decline, WHO figures show 1981 cases were treated in Equateur with 119 deaths in 8 of the province’s 20 health zones.
On the opening of the new school year in September, UNICEF promised to push Congo’s Ministry of Education to improve furnishings in primary school classrooms of those provinces where enrollment is below 75 % of the school age children. According to UNICEF figures, 1.2 million children have been newly enrolled in primary school in the six targeted provinces, with Equateur still having the lowest rate of enrollment in the country. One can hope that UNICEF’s efforts may also result in more regular payments for teachers in Equateur Province as well as outlays for classroom furniture. Currently, Equateur parents have to contribute to a fund in each school to keep teachers in the classroom.