Lydia Mpeh is on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 in South Sudan. Originally from Cameroon, the UN Volunteer serves as a medical laboratory technician in the Rumbek region, using her expertise to manage the lab at a hospital operated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
“My assignment entails collecting and testing samples from people who may be affected by COVID-19, as well as anyone who has had contact with them. I am responsible for ensuring proper laboratory diagnosis, the availability of reagents (substances added to a system to test if a reaction occurs), and the functioning of our equipment,” says Mpeh.
The first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in South Sudan at the beginning of April. Prior to that, Mpeh played an important role in educating UN staff in her area about the risks of the virus, as well as how to prevent it.
"As medical personnel, I am on the frontline of fighting this pandemic and keeping our UN staff safe, so that they can continue to carry out their very important work," Mpeh says.
UNMISS is making a significant contribution to the national-led effort to respond to COVID-19. It is renovating hospitals across the country, installing water tanks and generators, providing tents and beds to help treat more people in local communities, as well as supplying personal protection equipment and ambulances.
About 45 of the 111 medical civilian personnel serving in UNMISS locations across South Sudan are international UN Volunteers. Their vast experience makes them well-prepared for the COVID-19 crisis and they are carefully following all guidelines established by the United Nations, as well as working closely with the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health in South Sudan.
"These volunteers are working long hours in difficult conditions, far away from their families and friends, to make a difference to the lives of people in need," says David Shearer, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for South Sudan and Head of UNMISS. "They really are unsung heroes – not only in the battle against COVID-19, but also in enabling the UN to carry out all of its life-saving and life-changing work for communities across South Sudan."
The work of UN Volunteers across the world has also been praised by UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, who said, "Through their commitment, resilience and creativity, they embody the values of the UN as they support their host communities."
Mpeh is committed to continuing her vital work in South Sudan despite the threat of COVID-19 to her own health and well-being.
“At this critical moment when the world is grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, my prayer is that we should remain calm, vigilant, support each other and practice the prevention strategies shared with us by authorities. Together we shall emerge as champions,” says Mpeh.