waiting in clinic - image CAFOD
When the people of South Sudan went to a referendum in January last year to decide on whether to split from Sudan, the result was decisive. Nearly 99% voted in favour of independence.
The world’s youngest country marks its first anniversary on 9th July. There has been relative progress in improving South Sudan's crumbling infrastructure, with roads and telecommunications networks expanding; however the challenges facing the country still remain immense.
Almost 4.7 million people, more than half the population are not able to grow or buy enough food to eat. According to the UN's World Food Programme, the cereal deficit for 2012 is estimated at more than 470,000MT - almost half the country's total consumption requirements for the year.
CAFOD's Country Representative based in the capital Juba, Telly Sadia said: "There has been a poor harvest, food supplies in the northern border areas have been constrained by the closure of the border with South Sudan by the Sudan government and bad roads and rising fuel and food prices have left the country extremely fragile.”
South Sudan is dependent on oil for 98 per cent of its revenues. The decision in January to halt oil production until a dispute with Sudan over transit fees is resolved has sparked rampant inflation. People have not been able to afford to buy the country’s stable food – the cereal crop Sorghum – as prices for this and other basic foods have sky-rocketed.
Mori Francis, part-time radio journalist with Radio Bakhita, a Catholic radio station supported by CAFOD, talks in his latest blog about food price inflation: “Juba is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Prices have shot up. Fruits have become a luxury food for ordinary people. I used to buy an apple for half a South Sudanese dollar but today it costs 2 dollars.”
In addition to the food crisis, the influx of tens of thousands of South Sudanese returnees and those fleeing conflict in the border areas is exacerbating the food shortages. Since October last year, 372,000 South Sudanese have returned from Sudan, those that arrive have no means of earning a living, and schools and health services are already severely under resourced through years of neglect because of the war. The influx of returnees has left these services barely able to function.
In March this year CAFOD visited some of the rural areas in the diocese of Yei and saw the dire situation many of the returnees are in - unable to plant and grow their own food because of the drought, with uninhabitable school buildings and fearing for their children’s wellbeing because of lack of clean water and lack of health clinics nearby. Through Caritas Yei, CAFOD has been able to respond with food distribution, and building water boreholes in returnee villages providing clean safe drinking water.
In a pastoral letter to mark the first anniversary of independence, the Catholic Archbishop of Juba, Paulino Lukudu Loro and the Anglican Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, have published a joint pastoral letter praising the positive developments they have seen in road and telecommunications infrastructure over the past year but also express in their letter a real vision of the future.
"We dream of two nations at peace with each other, cooperating to make the best use of their God-given resources, promoting free interaction between their citizens, living side by side in solidarity and mutual respect, celebrating their shared history and forgiving any wrongs they may have done to each other. We dream of people no longer traumatised, of children who can go to school, of mothers who can attend clinics, of an end to poverty and malnutrition, and of Christians and Muslims who can attend church or mosque freely without fear. We call on the governments of both countries to work towards making that dream a reality.”