Humanitarian indicators among world’s worst, need continued stability to improve Extreme poverty and underdevelopment to remain atop Sudan’s challenges after voteJUBA, January 6, 2011
– Even as this month’s referendum on Southern Sudan’s
independence marks a watershed moment for the region’s identity, the longstanding humanitarian difficulties of extreme poverty, economic underdevelopment and dire child and maternal health problems will continue to require focused efforts for years to come, aid experts say. International support to maintain the fragile peace will also be crucial.
Southern Sudan, where one out of seven children dies before reaching age five, has some of the worst human development indicators in the world. The autonomous South also faces large numbers of returnees from the North who will need assistance to resettle and rebuild their lives. There is potential of unrest or armed conflict around the January 9 referendum, part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement
that ended decades of war, if lingering issues of wealth sharing, border demarcation, citizenship and security are not resolved. World Vision
is calling on local, regional and global leaders to prioritize ensuring peace as a basis of lasting development and better lives for all Sudanese.
“Whatever the outcome of the referendum, leaders must promote the well-being and protection of civilians, particularly children, so the people and communities of the region have the opportunity to reach their potential,’’ said Edwin Asante, program director for World Vision South Sudan. “Any approach to a lasting peace must address access to resources, and seek to resolve conflicts at all levels - national, state and local – and we’ve seen that a stable peace is the foundation for development," said Ansante.
On returnees and displacements:More than 120,000 people are estimated to have returned to South Sudan from the north ahead of the referendum, already exerting considerable pressure on social infrastructure.
Mass movements of people may lead to a jump in acute malnutrition or outbreaks of disease amid difficulty accessing life’s basic provisions such as food, clean water, or shelter.
Further conflict can also increase risk of disease outbreaks and the vulnerability of children.
“We are hoping for the best during the referendum process, but we have prepared for any humanitarian response. We continue to respond to populations of internally displaced persons and to the people coming from the north, ahead of the referendum, into the transit camps. The pre-positioned relief aid includes food, blankets, mosquito nets, cooking pans and soap," said Asante.
“While non-governmental organizations including World Vision are monitoring the conditions of returnees, it is the responsibility of the government of South Sudan to provide support for their immediate material needs, livelihoods, land, transportation and re-integration,” said Asante.
On minimizing conflict:Sudan is rich in oil and mineral resources, but more than two decades of war and local conflicts have brought a devastating humanitarian crisis to the region.
“Authorities will have to ensure equitable distribution of local level economic and livelihoods opportunities in order to avert further conflict over resources such as land, cattle, water and food," said Asante. “Forging more community-based peacebuilding and reconciliation is necessary to progress in development, as is investing in education for the young people of Sudan."
On international roles:“Real progress and development will require that the international community partner with the Sudanese long after the referendum. We encourage the U.S. government to look beyond immediate humanitarian needs and invest in a long-term focus on Sudan, working with the Sudanese to build a better future," said Jesse Eaves, Policy Advisor for World Vision in the U.S,.
“International guarantors of the CPA including the U.S., the U.K. and the African Union have a role in maintaining the fragile peace after the referendum. Together they can hold the authorities in both North and South accountable for treatment of civilians, and they can press for and monitor dialogue on key issues including nationality, border demarcation, revenue sharing and citizenship in order to prevent any further violence in Sudan,” said Eaves.
On child protection:There are currently 1,300 children actively serving in units of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), according to the U.S. Department of State. The SPLA had set a deadline of December 2010 to demobilize all children within its ranks but failed to meet that deadline.
“The U.S. must hold militaries responsible for using children in their armed forces, and provide assistance to demobilize children and return them to their homes,” said Eaves.
Fast Facts on South Sudan:
Sources: UNDP and Southern Sudan Commission for Census, Statistics and Evaluation
- South Sudan’s total population is 8.26 million
- More than half live below the poverty line of less than $1 (US) per day
- One out of four adults is literate
- 72% of the population is below the age of 30
- More than half (51%) of the population are children and teenagers
- 83% of the population is rural; most depend on crops or animal husbandry as main income
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve the world’s poor – regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit, www.worldvision.org/press