Peacekeepers persevere in assisting local communities

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5 Mar 2024

Peacekeepers persevere in assisting local communities

Despite relentless and daily exchanges of fire since early October 2023, UNIFIL peacekeepers have stayed their course in assisting local populations with their pressing needs during these challenging times.

Across the mission’s 1,060 square kilometre area of operation in south Lebanon, the peacekeepers have provided medical and veterinary support, school support, food and solar panels, among others, to local communities.

One such support activity in the south-eastern village of Al Fardis was thwarted recently due to exchanges of fire throughout the day. A medical camp by UNIFIL’s Indian Battalion (INDBATT), which would benefit about 30 local patients, was postponed to another day.

As the peacekeepers took cover, they spoke about how the escalation of tension across the Blue Line has affected their work and interactions with local communities.

Lt. Col. Juan Martinez of Spain, who arrived in south Lebanon in November 2023 to serve with UNIFIL for a third time, says the peacekeepers are trying to “do our best” in the given situation.

“I am used to working in a different situation, interacting with the people,” said Lt. Col. Martinez, who also served with UNIFIL in 2008 and 2015. “We are waiting for the situation to improve.”

UNIFIL’s language interpreter for 17 years, Adel Karam, thinks maintaining communication with local communities is important.

“The new situation has affected our work… when the situation permits, we go out with military peacekeepers to assist communities,” says Mr. Karam, expressing expectation that he would be able to extend regular assistance to local schools and municipalities.

Due to the escalation along the Blue Line, UNIFIL peacekeepers have had to adapt to a completely new and constantly evolving situation in south Lebanon.

Despite the change in the operational environment posing a serious challenge to Security Council resolution 1701 that forms the core of UNIFIL’s mandate, the mission’s operational tempo has remained intact, with more than 400 daily activities ranging from operational to CIMIC (civil-military cooperation) activities.