February 16, 2013 (JUBA) – The United Nations Mission in South Sudan has involved eight sniffer dogs to enable it protect civilians affected by the two-month conflict that hit the nation.
- A sniffer dog inspects a UN vehicle in South Sudan (UN photo)
“They are here to search and indicate if people are bringing in weapons or explosives or other contraband,” said Robert Thompson, UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Chief of Operations.
The dogs, he added, are currently undergoing training with UNMAS and its MineTech contractors to acclimatize to their new environment.
“They will be stationed at main gates of the UN Mission (UNMISS) in the country and protection sites in the capital, Juba, working alongside the UN Department of Security and Safety and the UN Police as they carry out daily searches until the end of June,” Thompson stressed.
He said the animals, flown in from Afghanistan, would mainly check for contraband items and will be deployed at the UN headquarters in Juba and other places.
“The dogs will be primarily for the protection of civilians’ sites, but we will also use them on the main gates both at UN house and Tongpiny compound. The dogs will also be flown to other areas like Bentiu and Malakal when needed,” said Thompson.
“They are expected to be in the country up to June this year,” he added.
Thousands of people, UN estimates show, are believed to have been killed and some 870,000 others have fled their homes since fighting broke out on 15 December in South Sudan between the forces of President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar.
At least 75,000 people are reportedly seeking refuge at eight UN bases throughout the country, while another 140,000 or more fled to neighbouring Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan.