Literacy Rates in South Sudan
The Republic of South Sudan, more commonly known as South Sudan, has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. It is a very young nation, having only declared independence from the Republic of Sudan in July 2011. However, recent data shows that only 26.8 percent of South Sudanese people aged 15 or older are literate. Additionally, while 35 percent of men can read and write only 19.2 percent of women possess these important skills. The government has created several initiatives over the past few years to improve literacy rates in South Sudan.

Factors Affecting Literacy

One reason literacy rates in South Sudan are so high is the fact that approximately 2 million, or about 70 percent of children in South Sudan are out of school, mostly young girls. Instead of attending primary school, children often work alongside their families for survival.

Implementing quality literacy programs for children is also costly, and South Sudan has been struggling to fund equal opportunities for all students. For the many who are unable to communicate via writing or consume written media, radio is often a popular alternative for getting the news.

Efforts to Improve Literacy

In recent years, the government has worked to improve literacy rates for both children and adults in South Sudan. For school-aged children, The General Education Strategic Plan, 2017-2022 has been proposed. Also referred to as the Strategic Plan, it has three primary goals: “to improve the quality of general education; to enhance the management capacity of senior staff of the Ministry, State Ministries, the County Education Department and affiliated institutions; and to promote Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to improve the employability of youth and adults in the next five years.”

According to the Strategic Plan, the government’s alternative education system (AES) has three programs working to improve literacy rates and overall educational quality in South Sudan:

  • The Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) is designed for children ages 13 to 17, but people up to age 25 are allowed to attend.
  • The Community Girls’ School (CGS) is intended for primarily young girls who have not yet reached grade 5; and
  • The Pastoralist Education Program (PEP) is designated for both children and adults in pastoral areas of the country.

As gender disparities are significant, specific efforts have been created that focus on providing education for Sudanese girls. In addition to the Community Girls’ School, funding from an organization called Girls’ Education in South Sudan (GESS) will help more women and girls be able to attend school, thus improving the literacy rate among South Sudanese girls and women.

There are also two programs that have been specifically created for adults who cannot read or write: the Basic Adult Literacy Programme (BALP) and the Functional Adult Literacy Program (FALP). Intensive English courses (IECs) are included in these programs, giving participants the opportunity to improve their skills with the English language.

Moving Forward

Addressing low literacy rates in countries such as South Sudan is crucial to reducing global poverty. Without the ability to read or write, communication skills are weakened and employment opportunities are limited. Therefore, giving people the chance to access to an improved education such as literacy skills lowers the chance of one being in poverty and gets them on the path to an overall higher quality of life.

A. O’Shea
Photo: United Nations

Countries Recovering from WarCivil war often erupts in countries that suffer from perpetual poverty. At the same time, war only serves to intensify poor living conditions in regions that are already vulnerable. In countries ravaged by war, people are displaced, infrastructure is destroyed and often entire industries are disrupted, destroying the resources that a country needs to keep its people alive. This devastation often persists even after a war is over. However, several formerly war-torn countries are making significant strides when it comes to post-war reconstruction and sustainable development. Here are three examples of countries recovering from war today.

3 Examples of Countries Recovering from War Today

  1. Yadizi Farmers are Recultivating Former ISIS Territory
    When the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIS) swept through the Sinjar region of northern Iraq in 2014, they displaced millions of farmers who relied on that land to make their living. ISIS persecuted the local Yadizi people for their religious beliefs and tried to destroy their farms in order to prevent them from ever being able to live in Sinjar again. In 2015, the allied Kurdish forces retook Sinjar, but the devastation of the land and the constant threat of land mines has since caused many Yadizi farmers to fear returning to their homeland.However, the Iraqi government has begun funding post-war recovery efforts in order to allow the Yadizi people to take back their land. A Yadizi woman named Nadia Murad, winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, has started a project called Nadia’s Initiative. A group called the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has also begun to clear landmines from the land of the displaced farmers. Although progress has been slow, partly due to limited governmental support in recent years and heavy regulations on the transportation of fertilizer, the region is slowly but surely recovering.
  2. The Central African Republic is Working on Protecting its Forests
    After years of political instability and a series of coups, as of 2016, the Central African Republic has a democratically-elected president for the first time in its history. Although the election of President Touadera signaled a step in the right direction toward peacebuilding, there are many areas that still need to be addressed.One particular problem for the Central African Republic is the widespread practice of illegal logging. The country’s forests are one of its biggest resources and wood is its top export, but corrupt public officials have allowed a massive trade in illegal lumber to arise, threatening the sustainability of the forests and undermining recovery efforts. Forest managers attempt to stop the problem but are often threatened by public officials who profit from the illegal lumber trade. However, many in the Central African Republic are working on changing the status quo. In 2016, the country renewed an accord with the European Union that incentivizes the country to reform forestry laws and crack down on illegal logging in exchange for favorable trade agreements. This renewal of the country’s greatest natural resource will help post-war recovery by strengthening its income from trade, building relationships overseas and giving resources for the reconstruction of damaged buildings.
  3. South Sudan is Using Mobile Money to Reignite the Economy
    The country of South Sudan is in the middle of recovering from a civil war that lasted five years and killed about 400,000 people. Part of the devastation wreaked by this war was the collapse of the South Sudanese economy, as cell towers were destroyed, trust in financial institutions was eroded and corruption began to overtake the country’s banks. According to AP News, “Around 80 percent of money in South Sudan is not kept in banks” primarly because most residents are rural and live too far from the major cities where the banks are located. Of course, there are other barriers as well, including the fact that only 16 percent of the population has a government ID (which means more expensive withdrawals and no money transfers) and concerns about the stability of the country’s banking system.As a part of the country’s post-war recovery, the South Sudanese government is working with mobile carriers to create a system called mobile money, in which people can bank from their phones instead of relying on the country’s physical banks and ATMs. This system allows people to easily participate in the Sudanese economy and since studies have shown that having access to services such as banks helps economic growth, the mobile money boom will be invaluable to South Sudan’s post-war recovery. The government is also working on setting up biometric identification for all citizens to use in banking, and on restoring damaged mobile infrastructure in order to make services like mobile money available anywhere.

Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr

Popes help end international conflict
The Pope stands in the international arena as a unique authority without traditional elements of influence that countries hold. In place of an impressive military or a large economy, the Pope controls the hearts and minds of 1.28 billion Catholics globally.

Over the course of the past century, various Popes have stepped up in international discussions as mediators, condemned human rights violations and organized days of prayers and fasting for those caught in conflict zones. Here are the five most well-known examples of how Popes helped end international conflict.

Pope Benedict XV and WWI

Pope Benedict initially attempted to stop Italy from entering WWI and, when that failed, he offered papal peace mediation throughout the war. He wrote up the 1917 Papal Peace Appeal, which focused on free seas, war reparations, disarmament and Belgian independence. It emerged as a skeleton of a treaty that the leaders of the various states would expand upon, the negotiations in which “the Holy See would not necessarily itself be involved.” In the end, the Treaty of Versailles copied the points of the Papal Peace Appeal two years prior but excluded the Pope from talks.

Pope John Paul II and Poland’s Solidarity

As a native Pole, Pope John Paul became personally invested in the swift conclusion of martial law in Communist Poland in 1981. The Pope directed the Primate of Poland to meet with the Polish Prime Minister at the time, Wojciech Jaruzelski, to broker peace talks between the worker union Solidarity and the government. Additionally, John Paul II published a letter in which he substantiated this meeting and supported the goal of peace.

Pope John Paul II, Israel and Palestine

In 1993, after three years of negotiations, the Pope established diplomatic relations with Israel under the condition the country invite him to regional summits. When talks broke down between Israel and Palestine after the 1994 mosque massacre in the West Bank, the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin asked Pope John Paul II to help restart the discussions. Unfortunately, the Palestine Liberation Chairman, Yasser Arafat, rejected this offer of mediation due to his resolute stance that he would not resume talks unless the Israelis guaranteed that Palestinian women, children and holy sites would have protection. By 2000, the Holy See legitimized Palestinian territory, stopping just short of fully recognizing it. This put the Vatican on extremely good terms with both Israel and Palestine and strengthened its sway in the region.

Pope Francis, Israel and Palestine

In a continuation of the previous Pope’s work in the region, Pope Francis invited the leaders of Palestine and Israel to the Vatican for a day of prayer in 2014. He requested both sides to live in peace together, advocating for the two-state solution. Rather than force politically charged discussions, the Pope simply brought the two leaders together for a prayer summit followed by a private discussion. Years later, Francis’ 2018 Christmas Address further urged for peace in the region.

Pope Francis and South Sudan

South Sudan, with 70 percent of its population Christian, plunged into civil war in 2013 after an alleged coup that the vice president designed. Two years into the conflict, Pope Francis privately met with South Sudanese President Kiir in Uganda while he was visiting the region. In a similar manner to how other Popes helped end an international conflict before them, Francis aimed to create an open dialogue between the warring factions. In 2019, Pope Francis invited President Kiir to the Vatican to discuss and encourage the implementation of the 2019 ceasefire agreement.

By wielding their immense power in these five instances, these popes helped end international conflicts. At the very least, their efforts as a neutral party created opportunities for hostile forces to move towards peace. While this list highlights major interventions by recent popes, these men also influence international politics every day in extraordinarily subtle and powerful ways.

Daria Locher
Photo: Flickr

South Sudanese Children Released from Hostage Situation

On July 23, 2019, 32 South Sudanese children were released from a hostage situation. These children were released to their families and other community members in Leer County, in northern South Sudan. These children were abducted by political opposition groups, with some of the boys abducted as early as 2016. Since the abduction, these 32 children were forced to witness armed conflicts and even participate as child soldiers. Unfortunately, the abduction of these 32 boys is not an uncommon incident; it is a daunting aspect of the South Sudanese civil war.

South Sudan has been in unrest since December 2013, when a civil war was sparked by conflict between the nation’s president and vice president. Supporters for President Salva Kiir were pitted against opposition supporters for Vice President Riek Machar, creating a power struggle over which regime would control the country. This resulted in five years of violence against armed forces and unarmed civilians. The devastation from this civil war has resulted in an estimated 400,000 deaths and has caused nearly 2.5 million refugees to flee the country.

Of the many atrocities committed within this civil war, the recruitment of children into armed forces is one of them. Recruitment, in this case, means the abduction or sale of children. Child abduction across South Sudan has become more frequent due to the nation’s civil war. In 2018, the U.N. last reported that around 19,000 children have been forced into armed groups across South Sudan. Young boys are typically made into child soldiers, while the abducted young girls are made into child brides. It is not uncommon for young girls to be sold into marriage, as the nation’s civil war has economically damaged many communities.

Where these abducted children end up is a mixed bag; some of these children are taken by armed opposition groups, while some of the child soldiers wind up in South Sudanese government forces. For the children integrated into government armed forces, their placement there is not condoned by the nation’s army, South Sudan’s People Defense Force (SPLA). A spokesperson for SPLA, Lul Ruai Koang, publicly stated, “We don’t want child soldiers… We gave their names to UNICEF.” In other words, if there are child soldiers found within SPLA ranks, their information will be given to UNICEF. From there, UNICEF is in charge of what happens to these children.

As for the South Sudanese children released from their hostage situation on July 23, 2019, UNICEF has enrolled all 32 boys into a three-year integration program. This program will provide for the boys’ basic needs, along with additional educational and psychological programs. As of July 2019, UNICEF has assisted 3,143 children throughout South Sudan after they have been released from armed forces. UNICEF’s reintegration programs have become essential in helping these children cope past their traumas and become functioning members of society.

“These children are deprived of a childhood and have seen things children should never experience,” South Sudanese UNICEF representative Mohamed Ag Ayoya said about the July hostage release. “However, it is not too late to give them a future, and that future started today.”

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Flickr

Hyperinflation

When it comes to global poverty, an important factor of a country’s economy is its inflation rate. Inflation occurs when the value of a nation’s currency decreases, but the prices for goods increase. Inflation affects many facets of everyday life, such as nationwide poverty rates, food and medical supplies.

Hyperinflation occurs when inflation rates rise quickly and uncontrollably. Hyperinflation is reached when an economy’s inflation rate is at least fifty percent for a thirty day period. However, high inflation rates consistent over a prolonged period of time also qualify as hyperinflation.  Here are three countries in hyperinflation today.

Venezuela

In the 1970s world energy crisis, Venezuela was a highly profitable oil producer. After oil prices dropped once the energy crisis ended in the 1980s, Venezuela’s chief export greatly declined in revenue and its economy began to suffer. Despite the decline in exports, Venezuela still needed to spend large sums of funding on the importation of basic goods for its people. This led to inflation, as the country dug itself into deficit spending. To pay for imported goods, Venezuelan banks then printed out paper notes not backed by actual wealth.

Now, inflation in Venezuela has reached monumental levels of devastation. Venezuela has been in hyperinflation since November 2016, when the inflation rate exceeded 50 percent. The International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation in Venezuela will exceed ten million percent by the end of 2019.

Because of this economic crisis, poverty is widespread. In 2017, the poverty rate across Venezuelan households reached 87 percent. On top of widespread poverty, food and medical supply shortages are rampant across Venezuela. The health of its people has deteriorated as weight loss and the spread of disease inflict the nation.

Currently, the Venezuelan government rejects the International Monetary Fund’s option to default on its debt. Venezuelan U.N. representatives have commented that in order for the nation to progress, it needs internal structural changes, not foreign aid.

South Sudan

South Sudan’s economy is also almost entirely oil-based. Of the countries in hyperinflation, South Sudan is the newest, gaining independence from British rule in 2011. However, South Sudan was quickly caught in a civil war from 2013 to 2018, soon after its founding. Damage to oil fields and other resources due to warfare severely affected the revenue of South Sudan’s exports. Inflation began as the struggle for resources and funding inflicted this budding nation.

South Sudan’s current economic crisis has caused mass poverty and food insecurity for its civilians. According to recent reports from the U.N., 43 percent of South Sudanese households are food insecure. At its peak, inflated food prices reached about 513 percent in December 2016. By the end of December 2018, the inflation on food prices dropped to 51 percent but is still hyperinflammatory by definition.

Unfortunately, South Sudan is currently not focusing on any poverty-reduction programs. According to the World Bank Organization, South Sudan’s overall inflation rate was an estimated 130.9 percent by the end of 2018; by the end of 2019, it is expected to drop to 49.3 percent, just under the hyperinflation threshold. However, given the financial instability of the nation, South Sudan will remain under close observation of the International Monetary Fund and similar entities for the foreseeable future.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s economy thrived in the 1980s and early 1990s, after declaring its independence from British control and creating its own domestic dollar currency in celebration. In the 1990s, however, Zimbabwe’s agricultural-based economy took a major hit after a series of crop failures. Compounded by the high costs of imports and funding for the war, Zimbabwe’s economy began to falter. In a panic to pay for goods, Zimbabwean banks rushed to print excess bills, leading the nation into hyperinflation.

Zimbabwe’s economy reached hyperinflation in March 2007, just passing the 50 percent threshold. For the next year, the nation’s inflation was a tumultuous series of highs and lows, eventually reaching a staggering 79.6 billion percent in November 2008. Eventually, Zimbabwe was forced to abandon its domestic currency, as its own population boycotted using the drastically inflated Zimbabwean dollar.

Despite the nation’s inflation rate lowering back down to 59.4 percent as of February 2019, Zimbabwe is still struggling to limit its cost of imports and boost its revenue from exports.

Potential Solutions

While there are numerous potential ways to address hyperinflation, a common solution for this phenomenon is dollarization — the abandonment of a failing domestic currency in favor of a stable foreign currency. A notable success story of dollarization is Montenegro, where the considerably weak Yugoslavic dinar was replaced with the euro, a more stable currency used widespread across the European Union. Before total dollarization, the inflation in Montenegro peaked at 26.5 percent in 2001. After adopting the euro, the country’s inflation is under one percent, as of 2019.

Of the three countries in hyperinflation today, Zimbabwe did utilize this method of dollarization; however, as of 2019, it abandoned dollarization, triggering the start of nationwide economic problems yet again. Overall, for these three countries in hyperinflation today, maintaining dollarization may be their best chance in regaining economic stability.

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Wikimedia

Mental Health in South Sudan

After years of violent conflict and civil war, many South Sudanese are suffering from mental health problems caused by trauma. With little to no government funding and cultural stigma attached to psychological health issues, thousands of people struggle to cope and heal from decades of war. USAID’s program Viable Support to Transition and Stability (VISTAS) is working to bring healing and restoration to the war-torn people by conducting trauma awareness workshops.

A History of Conflict

South Sudan, the youngest nation in the world, declared its independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of civil war and fighting. Only two years after gaining independence, conflict once again erupted in South Sudan, this time between the infant nation’s president and vice president, leading to a civil war that lasted for five years. Around 400,000 South Sudanese people lost their lives during the war, including women and children, while many more suffered unthinkable traumas and hardships. According to UNICEF, three-quarters of South Sudanese children have never known anything but war, and as many as 19,000 of them were kidnapped or recruited to join armed groups. Numerous accounts of South Sudanese women being sexually abused and raped by opposition forces circulated throughout the war.

End of the War Brings New Battles

Although the fighting has officially ceased, South Sudan’s restoration is just beginning. Years of violence and trauma have left their mark on the mental health of many in the nation. Although data is limited, several studies show that the conflict has had a severe effect on the mental health of South Sudanese civilians and soldiers alike. Nearly 41 percent of respondents in a survey conducted by the South Sudan Law Society and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The South Sudan Medical Journal reported that PTSD, depression, anxiety and substance abuse are major health issues impacting the country. However, the conflict-riddled nation not only lacks the resources to bring healing and help to those suffering from trauma, but it also struggles to remove cultural stigma and shame from mental health problems.

Mental Health Care Lacking in South Sudan

In 2012, South Sudan’s Deputy Minister of Health, stated, “The situation is very rudimentary in terms of mental health,” and “There are so many people suffering because of post-war trauma.” Today, mental health in South Sudan is still severely under-resourced, with its 2017-18 budget allocating only two percent to the health sector, none of which was appropriated towards mental health care.

In 2019, only three psychiatrists reported practicing in the whole country. Atong Ayuel, one of South Sudan’s three psychiatrists, said that “mental illness is a huge problem in South Sudan,” blaming the problem on both the country’s underfunded health program and that mental health in South Sudan is a culturally taboo subject.

VISTAS Workshops

USAID’s program VISTAS is conducting trauma awareness workshops throughout South Sudan with two primary goals:

  1. Create a space where those suffering from trauma-induced mental health issues can open up about their experiences and begin to address them
  2. Provide communities with practical tools to collectively address mental health issues and promote reconciliation and healing

“We define trauma as a wound. It is when something shocking or abnormal happens in your life, and it overwhelms you and you don’t know how to respond,” said Thor Riek, a 32-year-old South Sudanese man who struggled to cope with trauma from his days as a child soldier. Now as a trainer for VISTAS trauma awareness workshops, Thor not only has gained the tools he needs to respond and recover from past trauma, he now shares these practical tools of healing with other South Sudanese who are also suffering from trauma-induced mental health issues. Thor hopes the workshops will give participants “a narrative that can move them forward from the cycle of violence and begin to walk on the healing journey.”

In 2018, VISTAS workshops engaged 6,452 community members in different types of trauma awareness sessions. As South Sudan works to put years of violence and war behind them, programs like VISTAS’ trauma awareness workshops bring restoration and healing to a once war-torn people, inspiring a hopeful future.

– Sarah Musick
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in South Sudan
South Sudan has experienced widespread political conflict and insecurity in recent years. Working towards a more peaceful and inclusive future, the South Sudanese government has set out to completely restructure its education sector. Despite some growth in this area, education remains inaccessible for women and girls due to the nation’s dedication to maintaining traditional gender roles. This has grossly affected girls’ livelihood, quality of life and educational opportunities. Below are the top 10 facts about girls’ education in South Sudan.

Closing the Gender and Socio-Economic Gap in Education

  1. South Sudanese women and girls are less likely to complete primary and secondary education than boys. According to the World Bank, it is estimated that seven girls per ten boys attend primary school. Meanwhile, only five girls per ten boys enroll in secondary education.
  2. Although some girls do manage to make it to secondary school, not many of them are able to
    finish. In 2013, only 500 girls in the entire country were in their graduating year of
    secondary school.
  3. Gender inequity in the South Sudanese education remains an issue. Females make up only 12 percent of the country’s teaching population.
  4. According to Fiona Mavhinga of Zimbabwe, “extreme poverty and gender inequity drive the injustice” preventing girls’ education in countries like South Sudan. Fiona was one of the first girls supported by Camfed, an international educational charity.
  5. Cultural notions that women are child-bearers and homemakers drive inequity. Meanwhile, men dominate the educational, business, and political sectors of society. In fact, South Sudanese women and girls are more likely to die during childbirth than complete primary education.
  6. South Sudan partnered with UNICEF in 2007 to help more children get to school. The initiative also created alternate forms of education for women and girls unable to travel to school every day.
  7. In the northern states, almost five percent of students travel more than one and a half miles to and from school each day. In southern states, educational sites average from one for every five communities to one for every 15 communities.
  8. The student to teacher ratio in South Sudanese schools is overwhelming. Urban classes often exceed 100 students under the direction of just one teacher.
  9. While education is technically free for South Sudanese students, there are many expenses that the system does not cover. Families are expected to pay additional fees if they want their children to have an education. This includes charges for textbooks, uniforms, school fees and more. Thus, socio-economic status plays a major factor in access to education.
  10. South Sudan is working with global partners such as UNICEF and Plan International to restructure the education system and expand girls’ access to education. Organizations based within South Sudan like Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS), work to remove those barriers that block women and girls from study.

While organizations such as UNICEF, Plan International, and GESS are working to open access to education for girls, South Sudan is still struggling to close the gender gap in education. Regardless, the top 10 facts about girls’ education in South Sudan show that the movement to support girls’ education is more prosperous than ever.

– Morgan Everman
Photo: Flickr

Top Ten Facts about Living Conditions in Sudan
Since the start of the new year, Sudan has received a flurry of media attention. What started as students protesting rising wheat prices escalated into civil unrest quickly spread across the country as thousands of activists call for President Omar al-Bashir’s resignation. The government’s response has received widespread condemnation, with Amnesty International reporting the death of 40 protestors and thousands of arrests.

The unrest sweeping through Sudan is complex, rooted in social, political and economic instability. For decades, living conditions across this African nation have fostered an environment that leaves behind vulnerable citizens and perpetuates poverty. The following top 10 facts about living conditions in Sudan are intended to unpack these factors.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Sudan

  1. Much of Sudan’s geography is defined by the Nile river and its tributaries, winding through the country’s expansive plains. The Sahara desert sweeps across the north, rendering much of the land arid and unusable. However, in the Southern Savannah, especially the Southeast regions, summer storms deliver nearly 30 inches of rain each year. These fertile grasslands allow communities to fish, grow crops and raise livestock.
  2. Sudan has been plagued by one of the longest and deadliest civil wars in the world. For the past 27 years, President Omar al-Bashir has clung to power in a brutal fashion, including the 2003 genocide in Darfur that drew international condemnation. Fighting between the Sudanese government and southern rebels finally cooled in 2011 when an almost unanimous referendum granted what is now South Sudan independence. However, the violence within Sudan continues today. The constant war weighs heavy on the civilian population as more than 2 million people remain displaced in Darfur, with a PTSD prevalence of 55 percent in some areas.
  3. The 2011 secession of South Sudan sparked economic turmoil across the nation that continues to affect daily life. Prior to 2011, Sudan saw sustained economic growth from its vast oil reserves. The petroleum industry fueled nearly 95 percent of the country’s exports and was one of the largest areas of employment. Shrinking 2.3 percent in 2018, the economy has been in a downward spiral as 47 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and Sudan has the worlds second highest rate of inflation.
  4. The unemployment rate in Sudan have been slowly but consistently falling over the past two decades. In 1995, unemployment hovered around 14 percent. Today estimates place this rate at 12.5 percent. Conflict continues to afflict labor participation in some regions and the collapse of Sudan’s oil industry left thousands jobless. An unknown number of Sudanese are also engaged in non-wage work, primarily subsistence farming. Therefore, Sudan’s relatively low unemployment rate is not entirely indicative of the country’s economic standing.
  5. Agriculture is a driving economic force in Sudan, employing 80 percent of the labor force and comprising 40 percent of the country’s GDP. With two main branches of the Nile running through Sudan, the country boasts some of the most fertile lands in the region. In the White and Blue Nile plains, some farmers receive government subsidies to operate large scale, mechanized farms. These farms are integral to the economy, sometimes providing entire communities with steady work.
  6. Roughly 70 percent of the nation’s 39.5 million people live in rural areas where the government is unable to provide the most basic of services. Clean water, food and adequate sanitation are scarce in these regions and only 22 percent of rural residents have access to electricity. At 20 percent, rural unemployment in Sudan is almost twice as high as the national average, while the poverty rate jumps to 58 percent outside of urban areas.
  7. Some of the most notable improvements in Sudanese society have been in the education sector. In 2009, 67 percent of children attended primary school, increasing significantly from 45 percent in 2001. Although primary education is free, parent-teacher associations sometimes impose fees to cover the cost of school supplies. This can have a chilling effect on attendance. UNICEF estimates nearly 3 million children between the ages of 5 and 13 are kept out of school, one of the highest rates of out-of-school children in the entire continent.
  8. Hunger continues to impact communities across Sudan. In 2017, 3.8 million people suffered from food insecurity and in 2018, 5.5 million were affected. A staggering 80 percent of the entire population is unable to afford the food they need to sustain a healthy and nutritious diet and roughly 40 percent of Sudanese people are malnourished. Famine and conflict in neighboring South Sudan continue to bring refugees into the country, with only 1 percent of newcomers able to afford the food they need.
  9. Since 2000, the Sudanese government has doubled its annual health care budget, allocating 6.6 percent of its GDP towards health expenditures With only 5.6 doctors per 10,000 people, hospitals across the country are often overwhelmed. Despite much of the population residing in rural areas, most hospitals are located in Sudan’s urban centers and nearly two-thirds of the country’s doctors worked in the capital Khartoum. Malaria, yellow fever and diarrheal diseases are common throughout the country, especially in conflict-afflicted areas that lack public health initiatives and adequate medical supplies.
  10. Some reports suggest 87 percent of Sudanese women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), the highest rate in the world. However, with help from the World Health Organization, over 1,000 communities across the country have denounced FGM. The Sudanese government has also taken steps to address gender inequality, passing the 2008 Electoral Law that mandated 25 percent of parliamentary seats to be occupied by women. Today, women hold 30 percent of Sudanese Parliamentary seats.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Sudan do not paint a hopeful picture for this African nation. But despite the various adversities imposed upon the people of Sudan, many are optimistic when it comes to the future. The historic protests dominating daily life since January indicates people are not afraid to mobilize for change. As pressure continues to mount on President al-Bashir, and his 27-year rule that dictated life for millions of oppressed people, could be coming to an end.

– Kyle Dunphey

Photo: Flickr

South Sudan Refugees
The South Sudan refugee crisis is Africa’s largest and one of the world’s largest refugee crisis. In April 2018, there were 296,748 South Sudan refugees recorded and around 1.76 million were internally displaced within the country. Although there has been a recent promise of peace and end of the current ongoing civil war in the country that caused these migrations, it is still unsafe for the displaced people to return home.

Difficulties for Return

Although some conflict has subsided in parts of South Sudan since the promise of peace in September, some aid organizations are deeming it unsafe for refugees to return to their homeland. These organizations also believe it is highly unsafe for women and children to return to South Sudan. Around 65 percent of women and girls in the country have reported being sexually assaulted. This, in addition to the high rate of children who have experienced some sort of violence or trauma, creates a hostile environment for vulnerable refugees.

The other factor is that those internally displaced, who are the most likely to return home, have not been adequately informed about their return options or that a safe journey has not been completely planned for them. There is also not sufficient planning for the long term in potential returns areas to provide ongoing aid. There is significant aid manipulation within the country as some armed groups have been known to redirect aid meant for civilians and use it for their own purposes. The government has even restricted aid from certain communities by insisting on that area’s instability.

UNHCR Help

However, the UNCHR has offered an aid solution, rather than having these refugees return to an unstable environment. The organization has recently appealed for $2.7 billion to aid refugees in their host countries and the internally displaced people. Many of the refugees in host countries are living in crowded and unsustainable conditions. In some areas they are only able to access five liters of water per person a day, many schools are without teachers and health clinics are without either doctors or medication. This strain of resources has caused tensions between the refugee and host communities.

The money proposed by the UNCHR plans to help make the communities shared by host nations and refugees sustainable by providing adequate resources for the mass influx of people. The organization believes that social cohesion between the two groups is the key to allowing them to survive and eventually thrive.

Work of the Red Cross

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also been providing great aid to South Sudan refugees. The organization has been focusing on helping food insecure communities in South Sudan and its host countries by providing emergency relief and sanitation facilities. They have also provided these communities with the means to provide for themselves by equipping them with seeds, farming tools, and fishing nets.

As the UNCHR, ICRC, and other organizations work to help South Sudan refugees and displaced communities become stable and fit for survival, they provide these people with the hope of a safe and meaningful return home. These refugees desperately need aid so that they can survive in their new communities and come back to their home country.

– Olivia Halliburton

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in South Sudan
South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. That same year, the country was admitted into the U.N. as the world’s youngest country.

Since then, the South Sudanese people have struggled in dire circumstances of famine and violence. The following top 10 facts about hunger in South Sudan described below delve into the issue of famine and violence in the country, but also reveal hope for its better and more promising future.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in South Sudan

  1. More than 5.7 million people in South Sudan lack sufficient food to satisfy their basic needs. That number is predicted to rise to 6 million by the end of 2018. This food crisis is in part due to what the U.N. calls a man-made catastrophe, brought on by conflict and economic collapse.
  2. Famine has not yet been officially declared except for in two out of 10 counties of Unity State. At that time, 100,000 people were on the verge of starvation. While the state of famine officially ended as of February 2018, it is predicted that it will have to be declared again later this year due to a lack of consistent humanitarian access and funding.
  3. More than 1.3 million children under the age of 5 are at risk for acute malnutrition. The rainy season that begins in April exacerbates this problem as communities become geographically isolated and people from these areas are unable to reach medical services. Particular areas of concern are Leer, Mayendit, Longochuck and Renk where acute child malnutrition is labeled as extreme.
  4. The harvest of 2018 was the smallest recorded since South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. According to the World Food Program, the country is only producing a fraction of what it needs. Even in the capital city, relatively immune on the food crisis, a rise in food costs make it impossible for families to afford food and their options are disappearing as the South Sudanese currency crashes.
  5. Food production is crippled mainly because of the civil war in South Sudan. According to the U.N., the civil war began the largest refugee crisis in Africa since the Rwandan Genocide. More than 2 million people have fled the country which has crippled food production.
  6. About 80 percent of the country’s population live in rural areas and rely on livestock and subsistence farming to survive. This lifestyle is caused by a severe lack of infrastructure. Few paved roads that do exist in the country are usually completely cut off during the rainy season.
  7. A meal that would cost a New Yorker $1.20 would cost someone in Juba, South Sudan equivalent of $321.70. This means that people need to spend 155 percent of their daily income for a plate of bean stew. This finding complements the 2017 World Food Program report that stated that the relative price of a meal in South Sudan was among the highest in the world.
  8. Aid agencies that have the goal of improving the situation on the ground face a relentlessly hostile operating environment. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reports that in April alone, there were 80 reports of aid workers being prevented from delivering their aid. The next month, the NRC was forced to suspend emergency food distribution in Unity State because of active fighting on the ground.
  9. This geographic region has been known for its rolling hills and greenery, once regarded as South Sudan’s breadbasket. However, even those who are capable of cultivating crops choose not to, as they fear they will get caught be government soldiers and be labeled as rebels. Despite first-hand witnesses, the army denies these allegations and claims that it would never steal the people’s food.
  10. The problems in the country have not been ignored by the international community. In 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), The World Food Programme (WFP), and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and their partners conducted their largest ever aid campaign to the country. FAO provided 5 million people with seeds and tool and also vaccinated more than 6.1 million livestock to keep the animals alive and healthy. UNICEF and its partners admitted 208,000 children with severe acute malnutrition in 2017. Finally, WFP is pre-positioning 140 metric tons of food in 50 areas across the country that are likely to be cut off during the rainy season.

The situation in South Sudan may have been officially labeled as a famine too late, however, the issue has not gone without international attention. Many aid agencies, although with a lot of struggles, remain committed to improving the situation for the South Sudanese people.

What these top 10 facts about hunger in South Sudan reveal is that despite the fighting and economic problems, the land remains fertile and ripe for when peace prevails and crops can once again be sewed.

– Georgie Giannopoulos
Photo: Flickr