KHARTOUM, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- At a United Nations camp of Chinese peacekeepers in western Sudan's Darfur area, red lanterns and colorful flags signal the coming of the Spring Festival amid the volatile security situation.x Sheng Ming, a pilot from China's first helicopter unit to fly over Sudan, was on his 200-km route Thursday to transport supplies to local people in an area where there was no guarantee of his security.
At the same time, another helicopter took off, carrying tons of supplies to the Marrah mountainous area, an almost no-fly zone where armed militants have their hideouts. A UN helicopter had been shot down there by gunmen.
Wind and dust plague the Darfur region with a scorching climate all year round. Tribal disputes, armed robbery and attacks on civilians are frequent.
The first Chinese helicopter team of 140 peacekeepers arrived in the war-torn North African country last year with four multipurpose Mi-171 helicopters as part of China's participation in the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
They undertake a number of tasks including air patrols, transporting peacekeeping forces and supplies, and evacuating personnel.
There are no real holidays or festivals for the blue helmets, whose homes are thousands of miles away.
The Chinese peacekeepers have hung lanterns and Chinese knots, the traditional paraphernalia of Spring Festival celebrations, at the gate of their barracks. Peacekeepers of other nationalities are invited over to learn Chinese calligraphy and paste duilian, the traditional hand-written Chinese couplets, at the door. They celebrate birthdays and make dumplings together.
During the Spring Festival, we will stay on alert as the mission areas are a battlefield for us, said Miao Weimin, a first-class pilot in the unit.
China has been actively involved in UN peacekeeping operations for over 25 years.
There are now over 2,600 Chinese peacekeepers in restive regions around the world, according to a UN report published in July 2016.
In 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping committed 8,000 troops to the UN peacekeeping standby force, a fifth of the 40,000 total troops committed by 50 nations.
"We hope our peaceful flight tracks will cover the whole mission area and contribute to the peace and stability of the Darfur area," Chai Hua, a political instructor of the unit, said.