Pakistan to send helicopter to Mali mission: UN spokesperson

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan will send an attack helicopter to join a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the violence-torn West African nation of Mali after several nations withdrew, or announced plans to pull out, personnel, a spokesperson for the secretary general said.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman to António Guterres, said India will supply a utility helicopter unit for the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA, and all three are expected to be deployed by March next year.

“These provide much-needed [armed escort] to our forces and are critical for early warning and rapid response to protect civilians,” the spokesman told reporters at his regular press briefing at UN headquarters in New York.

“The UN continues to discuss with member states the deployment of new assets and plans to fill longer-standing gaps in addition to those resulting from recent announcements” of withdrawals, he said.

MINUSMA was established in 2013 to support foreign and local troops battling militants, but in recent months there have been repeated instances of tensions between the Malian authorities and the mission.

MINUSMA has about 12,000 military personnel deployed in the country. The three largest contributors are Chad, Bangladesh and Egypt.

Despite the dangerous nature of the MINUSMA, Pakistan Army doctors serving in Mopti, a town in the fifth administrative region of Mali, have continued to perform, earning praise for their work. They operate a state-of-the-art hospital staffed with 75 medical personnel, including 10 women, according to the UN.

The hospital operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the administration is always on alert. All specialities are covered, from pharmacy to gynaecology. However, its main purpose is to perform life-saving and urgent surgery when peacekeepers are injured, it was pointed out.

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