The 850 Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers who were on peacekeeping duties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) return home next week under stringent screening to ensure they do not have the deadly Ebola virus.
In a joint press statement by the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Health and Population, it was clear that the health element was a priority in the announcement that the troops would return home between September 4 and September 11.
The statement assured the public that the returning troops are all healthy, adding that they are currently in a UN village in the DRC undergoing thorough screening and observations on their medical conditions.
Reads the statement in part: “The Malawi Defence Force has also put in place all necessary measures, as required by the World Health Organisation [WHO], to ensure that nobody contracts the Ebola disease while in the mission area.
“Upon arrival in Malawi, the Ministry of Defence, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Population, will again screen all the troops for Ebola infection and, thereafter, will be actively followed up and monitored in their respective duty stations twice daily for 21 days for any sign and symptom of Ebola. This is in line with Ministry of Health Port Health Standard Operating procedures.”
In an interview yesterday, MDF spokesperson Major Paul Chiphwanya said that another Malawian contingent of troops will immediately replace the returnees, whom he saluted for successfully concluding their tour of duty.
The MDF battalion has been in the DRC for a year-long tour of duty under the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (FIB).
Under the FIB, the Malawi troops are operating alongside other peacekeepers from Tanzania and South Africa. They are charged with the mission of neutralising armed groups in the DRC’s north Kivu through joint combat missions from time to time.
But the Ebola outbreak was declared in August last year in the DRC—including in the northern and southern Kivu and Ituri areas, with 2 997 confirmed cases and 1 998 deaths reported. The MDF lost six soldiers during one of its fights with the enemies of peace in the DRC in November last year. The bodies of the fallen troops were flown back home for burial but after that fight, two other MDF soldiers are officially listed as missing to this date.