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After 12 Years Korean Medical Unit Departs Sahara

After 12 Years, Korean Medical Unit Departs UN Mission in Western Sahara

New York, May 15 2006 8:00PM

A military medical contingent from the Republic of Korea that has been supporting the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) for the past 12 years has departed, passing the baton to its counterpart from the Malaysian Armed forces.

The Korean Medical Unit (KMU) has provided health advice as well as primary and preventative medical care to the military and civilian staff of MINURSO since 1994, expanding its services in March 2004 to include assistance to the Sahrawi people travelling to meet their family members under the exchange programme organized by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

When required and feasible, the KMU has also provided humanitarian medical aid to civilians in remote locations, including helping persons involved in mine incidents.

Nearly 550 Korean doctors, nurses, paramedics and support staff have served with MINURSO. The KMU has held over 48,000 medical consultations during this twelve-year deployment, at locations throughout the Territory and in the Tindouf area in Algeria.

The Republic of Korea has participated in peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Angola, East Timor, Georgia, Kashmir, Burundi, Sudan, Afghanistan, Liberia and Cyprus. In East Timor and Georgia, a total of five Korean military personnel lost their lives in the cause of peace.

During a change of command ceremony held Saturday at the MINURSO headquarters in Laayoune, the Commander of the KMU formally handed over responsibility to the Commander of the Malaysian Medical Unit.

“The Korean Medical Unit has been key to the work of MINURSO for the last twelve years,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, Francesco Bastagli, told those present. “It was also an important expression of the partnership between the Republic of Korea and the United Nations in support of world peace and security.”

Also attending the ceremony were the Mission’s Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Kurt Mosgaard, as well as military and diplomatic officials from the Republic of Korea and Malaysia, and the senior representative of the African Union for Western Sahara.

MINURSO was established in 1991 to organize a self-determination referendum in the Territory. Last month, the Security Council extended its mandate through October and called once again on the parties and States in the region to end the impasse prevailing in Western Sahara.

ENDS

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