Russian crews performed their final maintenance checks as helicopters were dispatched one by one to remote corners of Southern Sudan on 6 April.
Heading west to Yambio, the capital of Western Equatoria State, UN Oscar 581 was tasked with delivering ballots and voting materials to Nagero constituency near the border with Western Bahr El-Ghazal State and the Central African Republic.
After refueling in Maridi and loading ballots and other material in Yambio, the helicopter landed on Nagero's football pitch more than four hours after departing Juba.
As the community looked on, elections staff from the State High Committee unloaded and verified plastic bins containing ballots and polling center materials before the helicopter left for Juba. The village disappeared again in a massive cloud of dust as the large MI26 lifted off.
With the first national multi-party elections in 24 years scheduled for 11-13 April, intense activity is underway to achieve the huge logistical challenge of conducting elections in the largest country in Africa.
UNMIS' airlift of ballot papers and other elections materials comes at the request of the National Elections Commission (NEC), the sole body responsible for conducting elections. The mission provides various types of technical and logistical assistance to support the NEC in handling these elections, including air support to reach remote polling locations in the vast and difficult terrain of Southern Sudan.
With 290 constituencies spread across the region's 10 states, many in areas with limited or no road access, air transport is essential for the successful conduct of elections.
Ballots and other election materials were distributed to state capitals primarily by the UN Development Programme, where they remained in the custody of the State High Committees, with security provided by the Southern Sudan Police Services (SSPS).
In collaboration with the NEC, UNMIS has assisted with the delivery of materials to over 70 constituencies in Southern Sudan and will move more than 150,000 kilograms of cargo.
The mission will also assist with the retrieval of material and completed ballots after people cast their votes in the various legislative and executive elections at the national, regional and state levels.