Issues and Challenges

The Spirit of 'Pinktober': Spreading Breast Cancer Awareness in Darfur

The efforts of Blue Helmet Lady Officers of Pakistan in the UN mission in Darfur, South Sudan, stand as a continuation of Pakistan's durable and long-established traditions of peacekeeping and contribution of our ideological ethics of integrity, empathy, tolerance and loyal servitude for the ultimate cause of mankind. In the sunburnt air of Darfur, Lady Officers of the Pakistani contingent persevere admirably and prove themselves up to completing all tasks they are designated. 
For efficient realization of a peacekeeping mission, a clear vision and a detailed action plan is key. The recent pandemic has disturbed the tightly wound schedules as uncertainty and confusion descends proving to be corrosive even to the sturdiest of us. Our mission awaited us and we looked forward to working towards helping those in need; finally, on September 12, 2020, fresh Pakistani peacekeepers landed in Darfur. 
Reaching our destination was a source of subtle relief for us. We found ourselves in the middle of the crisis-struck region away from our loved ones, but the spirit of humanity and the resolve to keep our mission supreme did not make us budge or bend. We launched ourselves with a reinvigorated thinking aligned with the global safeguards in the face of COVID-19. 
With anticipation and enthusiasm for the sacred duty that lay ahead, the sheer force of compassion was enough to keep us, the healers among Pakistani peacekeepers, working day and night with fervour savouring our exhaustion like a reward. We felt it our duty towards the underprivileged Sudanese and so, we made continuous efforts to maintain the work environment despite the severity of the circumstances. 
Since October is dedicated to breast cancer awareness, we were determined to evoke through our agenda the true spirit of ‘Pinktober’. The campaign kicked off with sensitizing the Lady Officers and nursing officers of the Pakistani Contingent to the subject and impart unto the ability to equip the Sudanese women with knowledge about this unpredictable disease and self-examination techniques that could be life-saving for them. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, Pakistani peacekeepers took the opportunity to lessen the misery of the crisis-struck Sudanese brothers and sisters by organizing a free medical camp in Kabkabiya, which also included our Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign. The venue was decorated with pink ribbons keeping in mind the theme of Pinktober. Everyone involved was full of passion to do more and to do it better. Our team scouted the location beforehand for a sound grasp of arrangements that needed to be made to enhance the experience for the patients.
The dawn of October 24 set forth an environment buzzing with compassion and energy among our ranks. Around 1236 Sudanese women benefitted from this camp. Multiple lecture sessions were delivered in the native language with emphasis on ‘Early Detection-Saves Lives’, prescribed procedures for breast self-examination and designated line-of-action if a lump is detected was explained. All risk factors were explained, caution was advised, questions from audience were welcomed and answered, and informative leaflets in Arabic were handed out. 
The local notables attended the event and commended the efforts of Pakistani peacekeepers who meticulously and whole-heartedly rose to the occasion. The local women showed a deep sense of gratitude to all the lady peacekeepers for creating so much awareness about this potentially life-threatening disease. Amongst them the ones who spoke English offered to volunteer for all subsequent camps to help as interpreters as a token of their appreciation. These lady interpreters also offered to spread awareness regarding breast cancer in their own regions taking help from the leaflets that were provided as a part of the campaign. 
Audrey Hepburn said, “Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Not a career. Not wealth. Not intelligence. Certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity.” The poverty-stricken, malnourished and illiterate masses of Sudan called earnestly to our conscience and compassion; any and all hardships faced by the team felt like a small price to pay compared to the utter satisfaction of helping others. HH


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