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

How the Media Misrepresents South Sudan
According to most of the international media coverage, the situation in South Sudan is hopeless. When it became the 54th country to join The African Union on July 11, 2011, there was hope that the decades of violence and poverty that had plagued the southern end of Sudan would become a memory. But, two years into South Sudan’s formation, a civil war broke out between the country’s two most powerful politicians–President Salva Kiir and his former Vice-President turned-rebel-leader Riek Machar. The war has been ongoing.

How the Media Misrepresents South Sudan

Despite the problems that plague South Sudan, there has also been a lot of good news coming out of the country; however, the public rarely hears about it. This is because of how the media misrepresents South Sudan. The international media is more likely to focus on the tragic than on the uplifting.

Most outlets have not covered the all-woman police unit from Rwanda that was just sent to South Sudan as part of The U.N. peacekeeping mission or American actress Ashley Judd’s recent visit to a maternity hospital in a U.N. camp in the country to empower women who have been victims of sexual assault. Instead, the media misrepresents South Sudan by pumping out stories that resort to a familiar narrative: tribal groups fighting and killing one another.

Often, articles are filled with stereotypes and simplistic generalizations. For much of the world, the only representation or knowledge of the Sudanese is of suffering. For example, one recent article in The Guardian is titled: “Born out of Brutality, South Sudan, the World’s Youngest State, Drowns in Murder, Rape and Arson.” The problem with this type of language is that it can make the reader feel helpless, unable to enact change.

Sensational headlines also dehumanize the people behind the images. While the horrors that the South Sudanese are facing must be recognized, it is equally important to acknowledge the moments of hope, the small victories and the people who are trying to rebuild their lives amid the chaos and violence. Here are two recent events in South Sudan that many people haven’t heard about due to how the media misrepresents South Sudan.

Two Important Positive Events That Took Place in South Sudan

On June 28, President Salva Kiir sat down at the capital with his former vice-president and the country’s largest rebel group leader, Riek Machar. It was their first meeting in two years. After five years of civil war, they announced a permanent cease-fire. While the ceasefire agreement has not been altogether effective, (fighting resumed soon after it was implemented), this agreement has other benefits that can help the South Sudanese people.

Most importantly, the agreement allows humanitarian aid to resume, which has slowed in recent years in part due to the fact that South Sudan is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be an aid worker. The U.N. Humanitarian Response is calling for 1.72 billion in aid for South Sudan in 2018. As of July, donor countries have already contributed $706 million.

In May, over 200 children were released by armed groups in Pibor County, Jonglei, bringing the total number of children released up to 806 since the beginning of 2018. Many of these children were child soldiers who are now receiving medical and psychological care. It is expected the in the upcoming months that more than 1,000 children will be released.

Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s Representative in South Sudan, said that “Every time a child is released and able to return to their family, it’s a source of great hope – hope for their future and for the future of the country.” The challenge now is how to reintegrate these children into civilian life and create opportunities for them to succeed in an unstable country with limited employment and educational opportunities.

Ignoring or glossing over the good news is a good example of how the media misrepresents South Sudan. And in doing so, the media fails to acknowledge hopeful events like the two listed above that may lead to peace. In the coming months, it will become apparent whether or not Kiir and Machar’s agreement holds any weight. Regardless of the result, fair media coverage of these events along with coverage on the way people are making a difference in the country is crucial to the public’s understanding of what is going on in the country.

– Evann Orleck-Jetter
Photo: Flickr

UN Peacekeeping Mission Celebrates its 70th Anniversary
Raising awareness of human rights is one of the key missions of the United Nations (U.N.), founded in 1945. Part of the mission’s responsibilities is to promote peace in conflict-stricken areas such as the African continent. The U.N. peacekeeping mission plays a crucial role with 14 active operations worldwide, and its 70th anniversary in May 2018 was a just cause for celebration due to its impressively impactful efforts.

U.N. Mission’s Main Functions

One relevant fact about the U.N. peacekeeping mission is that it does not interfere with a country’s authority during a conflict; rather, it works as a peace-promoting partner.

U.N. peacekeepers are members of the local military force who can be distinguished by the use of a blue U.N. helmet or beret, and a badge. These workers also have the role of aiding post-conflict areas with extra support so as to rebuild a safe community.

Reestablishing Peace in Côte d’Ivoire

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire, located in West Africa, is one such example of success. When a second civil war broke out right after the election of President Alassane Ouattara, 2011 became an increasingly intense year for the already-weakened country.

The former president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to let the newly-elected President Ouattara take office. As a result, numerous conflicts between their supporters caused the exodus of about 200,000 people to Libya. The death of 400 people marked the three-month period after the 2010 election.

The early days of the U.N. peacekeeping mission consisted of ensuring the implementation of a cease-fire agreement after the 2002-2003 conflicts between the religiously-divided northern and southern regions.

The conflicts kept increasing after the first civil war in 2002, but so did the U.N. peacekeepers — their ranks eventually totaled 11,792 in 2011 in Côte d’Ivoire.

The rape of women and torture were some of the human rights violations the mission worked to combat, and in 2011, 1,726 human rights violations were reported. Thankfully, the presence of the U.N. troops reduced them to the impressive number of 88 in 2016.

Due to such consistent efforts, the refugees that fled the region during the long civil war period could finally return and have the chance to live a stable life again. The mission was successfully closed on June 30, 2017, and Côte d’Ivoire now has a promising future as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

U.N. Mission Challenges in South Sudan

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011, but its citizens have struggled with the effects of never-ending conflicts among President Salva Kiir, and his former Vice President Riek Machar.

Tension escalated between the two parties, leading to the formation of a rebel group lead by ex-Vice President Marchar. Ethnic disputes from the Dinka and Nuer groups marked a series of manifestations of violence such as village pillages and the murder of 50,000 people since 2013.   

The U.N. peacekeeping mission has 16,987 members serving in the area while South Sudan has 2 million refugees. The troops have the responsibility to provide a safe environment for the 210,000 displaced citizens who temporarily live in the Protection of Civilian (POC) sites located in the country.   

Peacekeeping Challenges

Peacekeepers face numerous challenges, one of which being that they were implemented for aid on a short-term level, but as the conflicts continue to grow the sites have become a long-term refuge to the citizens. In fact, $50 million has been allocated to the implementation of POC units as of 2014.    

Another problem for the peacekeepers is the violence that sometimes erupts inside their own camps. In 2016, tension between the ethnic groups Dinka and Shilluk caused the damage of a POC unit located in Malakal. Unfortunately, 1,521 shelters were burned, along with clinics and medical schools.

Women’s Role in Peacekeeping Missions

Women serving in U.N. peacekeeping missions have the important role of bridging relations with groups that can not be easily reached due to national cultural norms.

Female victims of violence have a higher probability of reporting cases to women holding peacekeeping positions. A teenage rape victim in Monrovia, Liberia, opens up: “I can be scared to talk to a man; a woman is better. She is like an auntie or mother.”

The recently closed U.N. peacekeeping mission in Liberia is an example of how women can empower each other through service — 125 female officers from India positively influenced and helped foster success for Liberian women between 2007 and 2016.

Their work was so remarkable, in fact, that the country had an increase in the number of women interested in serving as police officers. This new group of officers will continue to ensure that other females can have a voice if future conflicts emerge.

Maintaining Stability

Women also hold a crucial function in maintaining stability in war-torn areas. Armed robberies went down to 65 percent in Monrovia because of the presence of Indian female officers patrolling the city on foot.

Gerard J. DeGroot, a professor from the University of Saint Andrews who studied cases of women in the armed forces, stated: “Any conflict where you have an all-male army, it’s like a holiday from reality. If you inject women into that situation, they do have a civilizing effect.” 

Global Influence of the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission

World leaders can strongly benefit from seeking partnerships with the United Nations peacekeeping missions. Despite the challenges some of these missions faced, the efforts have provided well-structured plans overall to post-war countries.

The restoration of peace in many communities could have taken much longer without the U.N. peacekeepers’ help. The years of service the peacekeepers have dedicated to the world is an example that selfless acts produce the best results when it comes to crisis response.

– Nijessia Cerqueira
Photo: Flickr

South Sudan Refugee Crisis

Founded in 2011, the young nation of South Sudan has been fraught with civil war for the past few years, resulting from the conflict between President Kiir and his former Vice President Machar. More than just a political struggle, the rift between Kiir and Machar is connected to ethnic tensions between the Dinka people and the Nuer people; Kiir belongs to the Dinka, and Machar to the Nuer. Ethnic tensions have long existed in the region, but the conflict between the two political officials has ignited these tensions, creating civil war.

The South Sudan Refugee Crisis

The violence created by these warring political leaders has forced civilians to flee the country to escape the bloodshed, resulting in the South Sudan refugee crisis. The number of refugees continues to skyrocket, with over two million refugees reported in 2017. The majority of these refugees are children, many of whom are malnourished and suffering physical and emotional trauma.

Many of these refugees have come to bordering Uganda, itself the site of recent conflict as Joseph Kony used guerilla warfare and child soldiers against the Ugandan government throughout the 1990’s. Former refugees of Uganda often found themselves in the region that is currently South Sudan.

Uganda’s Capacity for Refugees

Having driven Kony out of the country, Uganda not only welcomes the return of its people but is known for its welcoming refugee policy. The country has become a haven for victims of the South Sudan refugee crisis, hosting around a million refugees.

However, Uganda’s friendly refugee policy—which allows refugees the chance to own land and travel freely about the country—is taking a toll. As Uganda hosts more and more refugees, it faces overcrowding and an inability to quickly meet the demands of all the new people. The country’s refugee camp Bidi Bidi, home to over 270,000 people, is the largest refugee camp in the world. To avoid too much congestion at Bidi Bidi, other refugee camps are opening around the country, but the process of being welcomed in Uganda may take several days. This raises the question of Uganda’s limit as the civil war continues in its northern neighbor, South Sudan.

Hope for South Sudan’s Refugees

There is hope, however, for the victims of the South Sudan refugee crisis. As numbers increase in the refugee camps in Uganda and its eastern neighbor, Kenya, the EU has announced a €34 million aid package to help alleviate the burden of hosting the refugees. The majority of the money, following the majority of the refugees, will be headed to Uganda. The aid is meant to help the influx of new refugees from South Sudan, as well as incoming refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The EU’s assistance will also provide clean water, food and education for the large child population among the refugees.

Whether or not the large influx of refugees in Uganda will continue remains to be seen. On June 27, Kiir and Machar, the leaders of the civil war in South Sudan, agreed to a “permanent” cease-fire under the threat of U.N. sanctions and an arms embargo. If the cease-fire is not violated, the priority of the international community, as well as the South Sudanese government and the warring factions, will be to address the humanitarian crisis and provide aid for the displaced and starving civilians.

With an air of tepid optimism, the EU has also announced €45 million in aid for South Sudan to help the displaced people. This aid is designed to provide food, water and shelter for refugees, and to protect young women from gender-based violence. Should the cease-fire last, refugees will be allowed to return home after five years of conflict and violence, ending the strain on Uganda’s resources. Even if the cease-fire is broken, this moment of peace provides humanitarian aid workers a brief period to focus on civilians and alleviate some of the issues that have been plaguing South Sudan during the war.

– William Wilcox

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AIDS Epidemic in South SudanOver the last decade, the AIDS epidemic has been softened across the continent of Africa. The majority of countries have seen a vast reduction in the disease as effective and affordable treatments have become more widespread. However, several countries, including South Sudan, have seen an increase in cases threatening the health and survival of current and future generations. So, what is being done to confront the AIDS epidemic in South Sudan?

The Basics

  1. HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a virus that damages the human immune system over time.
  2. If left untreated, the HIV virus will develop into a condition referred to as AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
  3. The development of AIDS leaves a person susceptible to many diseases as the body’s immune system can no longer defend itself against harmful germs or even cancer cells.
  4. There are currently more than 36.5 million people globally living with HIV/AIDS and more than 350 thousand in South Sudan alone.

A History of the AIDS Epidemic in South Sudan

South Sudan, a country roughly the size of the U.S. state of Texas, has a population just shy of 13 million. In the country, approximately 350,000 people are currently infected with the HIV virus. From 2012 to 2015, progress was made in the reduction of the AIDS epidemic in South Sudan. In 2012, 3 percent of the population of South Sudan was infected by the HIV virus. This number dropped to 2.47 percent in 2015.

Due to poor access to healthcare, lack of proper sanitation and lack of health education, the number of HIV cases in South Sudan have increased. The percent of people infected by the virus in 2016 rose to 2.7 percent and has remained steady through this year. 

Impacts

While various forms of treatment and prevention have been suggested, such as regular condom use and medication, there has been surprisingly little progress made in alleviating the AIDS epidemic in South Sudan. Despite a high rate of condom use, many people do not use them regularly, which does little in terms of disease prevention.

Some researchers suggest the most effective tool in preventing new cases is a societal change in sexual patterns. For example, polygamous relationships are common in South Sudan, including casual sexual encounters for all genders in a marriage. This has been the largest catalyst for spreading HIV to date. Researchers suggest reducing sexual encounters to committed relationships to effectively reduce the number of new infections.

Fortunately, the AIDS epidemic in South Sudan is no longer an accurate representation of the global AIDS health crisis. The government of South Sudan is pushing for increased treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS among its citizens. Currently, only 25,000 people in the country are being treated for the HIV virus.

However, until sexual patterns change and treatment is readily available, the people of South Sudan will continue to fight the disease. The U.N. is working on the testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS for every person in South Sudan. This is a lofty but achievable goal, projected to be reached over the next five years.

– Alexandra Ferrigno 

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