MONROVIA, Liberia (Xinhua) – A 140-member contingent of Chinese peacekeepers in Liberia stand as a shield in the frontline of a battle against the deadly Ebola virus currently ravaging the West African country.
“Ebola is one of the most difficult challenges that Liberia has faced since the 2003 civil war, so the local government is going through a very tough period,” said Deputy Contingent Commander Bai Haitao to Xinhua.
Stationed in the Liberian coastal town of Greenville, Bai and his men protect UN staff, civilians and essential facilities like airport, which enable doctors and aid workers to ferry in supplies.
“There are not enough medical officers, medical treatment centers, isolation rooms for patients or suspected patients, for the people who are confirmed patients. There was a big gap in administration,” said Bai.
To help alleviate the pressure on the local government, the Chinese peacekeepers have established a medical centre with two doctors and five nurses. These doctors and nurses represent a strong line of defense against the growing need for care.
In the wake of the Ebola outbreak, the Chinese government has sent the best equipment, vehicles, weapons and medical supplies to help the peacekeepers to serve the local people, said Bai.
The peacekeepers also have to tackle resistance to Ebola treatment from the local populace. “There are some people that still don’t believe Ebola is real, even though you can see on the streets that Ebola is real. Some people still believe that Ebola is a conspiracy,” he said.
The peacekeepers have made an effort to protect not just the physical security of UN personnel but also their health.
Since Ebola has arrived in Liberia, some foreign military observers from other African countries do not pay too much attention to protective procedures against Ebola, and the Chinese peacekeepers are working to change their minds and make sure the military observers are safe.
“We found out that some still have close contact with local people, they still buy food without first investigating the hygiene, and we try our best to train them and to teach them, and we also share our protective equipment with them,” said Bai. “We share our gloves, our masks, we share everything we have with them. It is really hard for us to leave them alone because we are one family and we need to do our best to help them.”
The peacekeepers also engage in environment protection, monitoring and keeping local bird species safe, even picking up snakes inside the UN compound and letting them go alive outside.
During their spare time, the peacekeepers are working to build a football field for the base, as well as a track for running, and are also making a shooting range.
There are also Tai Chi and Yoga experts on the peacekeeping team, who are teaching other UN personnel those techniques to relieve stress and help them feel comfortable in the unforgiving environment.