Africa is behind the Covid curve. Now it’s here there are specific issues; for example it’s very hard to lockdown, if the market closed then the people don’t eat, the South Sudanese mostly share small houses and then there are health complications, TB, HIV, malnutrition. On the positive side the population is very young and it is very hot.

I’m in Juba the capital and live on one of our bases. Overall the mission has 20,000 people; 15,500 troops, 2,000 police and the rest are civilians spread across the country. Most of the people on this base are lucky and have a two-room brick house, as the boss I have a slightly bigger one.

The number of cases is small, likewise the relative number of tests. We had four cases in the UN but managed to contain it. We do have our own clinics, but they’re set up for gunshot wounds, not for a pandemic.

The UN’s job is not just peacekeeping, we also have a US$1billion relief program. If we don’t continue that then more people might die from other causes. It’s a very hard balancing act, taking no risks yet doing our jobs and not spreading the virus.

The government need support, but we are in it together. We are helping prepare hospitals and provide equipment and training. If we can help South Sudan get through this and not lose any of our own, we’ll think we’ve done a pretty good job. I’ll see this through.

I grew up in Papatoetoe. Most of my working life has been in conflict zones. There were a couple of spells at home in politics, I advised Phil Goff and later was a Labour MP and leader of the Opposition. I haven’t thought about retirement, I still have lots of other things to do. New Zealand is my Turangawaewae.

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Image supplied by interviewee

This interview and the others in the series are an extension of my new book “This Is Us” that will be published by Exisle and released on the 1st of June 2020. These interviews are slightly different from the ones in the book as they focus on New Zealanders living abroad in this time of isolation. If you can think of suitable interview subjects please let me know via pete@petecarter.nz .

Exisle have now released This Is Us as an e-book you can buy it here.

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Pete Carter is the author of This is Us. Due out in June 2020 it will be published by Exisle and tells the story of more than 200 New Zealanders in words and pictures. The book is really a portrait of the nation and how it is made up. Pete wrote Our Dog Benji a children’s book illustrated by his nephew, published by EK in 2017. He is also the author of two books of poetry. He has had magazine articles published and poetry in anthologies. As a photographer he has had two solo exhibitions and work included in group exhibitions in NZ and overseas and has sold work to and been commissioned by corporate clients.

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