The Impact of COVID-19 on poverty in South SudanAs the world’s youngest country, South Sudan faces many obstacles to economic and political stability. Continued conflict, natural disasters and COVID-19 further exacerbate the developing nation’s economic strife in the aftermath of years of civil war. Outside of foreign aid, South Sudan’s economy heavily relies on two main sources: oil production and agriculture. Both these sources experienced the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, negatively affecting economic growth and livelihoods in the country. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in South Sudan calls for the support of foreign aid in order for the country to successfully recover.

South Sudan’s Oil Industry

South Sudan is one of the most oil-reliant countries in the world. More than 90% of its revenue and more than 70% of its GDP stems from its abundant oil fields. Since gaining its independence, South Sudan produces nearly three-quarters of former Sudan’s entire oil output, equating to almost 500,000 barrels per day. However, the volatile oil industry is experiencing a lower demand and a decline in prices due to the pandemic. Regarding the global oil demand, “containment measures and economic disruptions related to the COVID-19 outbreak have led to a slowdown in production and mobility worldwide, producing a significant drop in global demand for oil.”

COVID-19’s Effects on Agriculture and Food Security

The agricultural sector accounts for 15% of GDP in South Sudan and employs roughly 80% of South Sudan’s population. With more than 80% of the population residing in rural areas, agriculture, livestock farming and fishing make up the livelihoods of many households.

A devastating combination of flooding, drought, locust swarms and the pandemic created high levels of food insecurity in South Sudan. More than 6 million people are facing crisis-level food insecurity and roughly 1.4 million children under 5 may suffer from acute malnourishment in 2021.

The IMF Assists

In response to the worsening humanitarian crisis, the world continues to reaffirm its commitment to eliminating poverty in South Sudan. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a disbursement of  $174.2 million in March 2021 for emergency assistance to South Sudan in the wake of COVID-19. The assistance aims to provide economic relief due to the collective impact of plummeting oil prices, floods and the pandemic in general. According to the IMF, the funding will “finance South Sudan’s urgent balance of payments needs and provide critical fiscal space to maintain poverty-reducing and growth-enhancing spending.”

World Bank Projects in South Sudan

On June 8, 2021, the World Bank announced two new projects equating to $116 million to curb poverty in South Sudan by committing to “strengthen the capacity of farmers, improve agricultural production and restore livelihoods and food security.” The first project, the South Sudan Resilient Agricultural Livelihoods Project (RALP), amounts to $62.5 million and commits to training farmers to better manage their businesses, utilize new agricultural technology and implement climate-smart practices to improve agricultural output. The project will also assist farmers with “tools, machinery and seeds required to improve productivity.”

The second grant of $53.7 million supports the Emergency Locust Response Project (ELRP). The grant will fund South Sudan’s response to desert locusts. The project will provide income opportunities to vulnerable people to assist them in producing more food and improve their economic situation. The project also encourages “the restoration of pasture and farming systems” in the region.

The Road Ahead

The World Bank expects levels of poverty in South Sudan to remain high for the time being due to food insecurity and the lack of access to essential goods and services. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in South Sudan is harsh. Data as of April 2021 indicates that 82% of the population lives below the poverty line. However, the recent aid to South Sudan gives the country’s oil industry and agricultural production an opportunity to recover to pre-pandemic levels. The government’s priorities lie in addressing the lingering conflict and stabilizing its economy amid an economic, humanitarian and public health crisis. With continued aid and support, South Sudan can successfully recover and achieve stability.

Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr

educational and cultural development
Africa is a continent rich in natural resources, accompanied by a vibrant culture that educates the youth in many ways. The oral storytelling, artwork and scientific advancements within Africa are why a new crop of rising African scholars see a brighter Africa for the educational and cultural development of the African future. Yet the previous generations of Africans, especially from the sub-Saharan countries, have faced a tough battle in attaining educational progress. Only two-thirds of children in sub-Saharan countries complete primary education, according to the Global Partnership for Education.

Studies from the World Bank showcased the correlation between educational attainment and overall lower unemployment and social outreach: a child who finishes primary school is more likely to finish secondary school and pursue university. Community centers and resources aimed at increasing education create a better array of job-ready individuals who will be able to create a new economy for countries in dire need of infrastructural change.

Giants of Africa

Giants of Africa is a nonprofit, pro-sport and pro-educational program that focuses on helping children around Africa with the opportunity of achieving high educational and athletic development. With annual inclusive camps, the founder and president of basketball operations for the Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujiri, has been working since 2003 to educate and cultivate physical, psychological and emotional development for underdeveloped communities. These camps have helped many exceptional African youth players find a pathway way into the NBA and the African National Leagues around the continent. However, more importantly, they have uplifted the educational and cultural development in Africa.

Ujiri has worked vigorously to do two things. First, he wants to find a new crop of African talent, both female and male, to a direct pipeline into the NBA and WNBA, or even collegiate programs. The basketball camps have been a safe place for many African youths to take shelter in. Second, he wants to establish a network of camps that help in the educational and cultural development of the youth in Africa. Ujiri’s specialization in sub-Saharan countries coincides with their growing population.

There has been an establishment of different basketball camps across Africa, mainly those around the most impoverished communities. One of the largest camps is in Somalia, where Giants of Africa works with girls who are in danger of sex trafficking. Partnering with the Elman Peace Centre, Giants of Africa created camps that invited more than 50 girls in 2019 to participate. Here are the areas where Giants of Africa created the camps.

Giants of Africa’s Camps

  1. South Sudan: The establishment of a community center in South Sudan’s capital has been instrumental in giving more than 53 young children rigorous educational lessons. This occurred through a partnership between Giants of Africa and the Luol Deng Foundation.
  2. Kenya: In Kenya, Giants of Africa have teamed up with The Mully’s Children Family organization that focuses on helping displaced women and children who have HIV/AIDS, children stuck in child labor and victims of sex trafficking. Giants of Africa has been instrumental in funding food, education, shelter, educational training, healthcare and counseling resources.
  3. Nigeria: In Nigeria, which is also where Ujiri is originally from, funds went toward making a permanent community center after the annual camps took place. There, Giants of Africa partnered with Little Saints Orphanage in Lagos to establish a community system for the orphaned youth. Ujiri has used Giants of Africa’s sponsorship with Nike to donate Nike apparel and equipment as well as organized funding for the orphanage.

The combined average unemployment rate of South Sudan, Kenya and Nigeria is more than 25% and faces an unprecedented future without the investment of the rest of the world. Africa is an entirely different world with so much potential to blossom.

Educational Performance with the Necessary Tools

Research from a recent World Bank study demonstrates just how important youth development can be towards educational performance, cultural development and social mobility. These camps helped more than thousands of susceptible young children who are the future of Africa.

These results are more relevant now than ever with Africa housing a population in which more than 63% are under the age of 25. Inhabitants within sub-Saharan Africa make up the largest growing youth in the world. The attainment of formal education along with formal events of communal work services could impact the world on a global scale. A recent study that Richard Reeves, a British economist from the Brookings Institution, conducted, found that sub-Saharan countries do revere educational attainment and the social mobility that goes along with it. This goes hand in hand with the results of community outreach and higher-income status.

The lack of research on how community centers and funding have helped Africa grow economically and educationally is a testament to the lack of resources available to them. With the largest growing population in the world, the key to global porosity lies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Conclusion

The continent of Africa is now facing a period of educational advancement for the youth. This has occurred not only through the extravagant work of Masai Ujiri but also through the action of many grassroots organizations that see the potential in Africa. Countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Somalia are at a crossroads with the future of global society. Not only has Giants for Africa established a pipeline for extraordinary young basketball players to forge their journey into a better professional and educational future, but it is also helping the children who are also at a higher risk of not continuing their education.

– Mario Perales
Photo: Unsplash

South Sudan ActWhile Sudan is home to beautiful landscapes and countless wildlife, women in the country face several issues. Activists in South Sudan say parties to the 2018 peace deal are violating a particular provision that calls for 35% of legislative positions to consist of women. In light of the ongoing struggles of women in South Sudan, the Equal Rights and Access for the Women of South Sudan Act was introduced to Congress.

H.R. 116

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee introduced H.R. 116, also known as the Equal Rights and Access for the Women of South Sudan Act, to the House of Representatives on January 4, 2021. It is currently under review by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The bill requires “that activities carried out by the United States in South Sudan relating to governance, reconstruction and development and refugee relief and assistance support the basic human rights of women and women’s participation and leadership in these areas.”

Women consist of 60% of the population in South Sudan but still face the most hardships. Furthermore, more than 80% of Sudanese women are illiterate and 50% of girls under the age of 18 are married, contributing to a higher rate of maternal mortality. Gender-based violence is prevalent for women in South Sudan and abortion is still illegal even in circumstances of rape. The law of the country does not protect women due to the prevalent use of customary law, which often discriminates against women and minorities.

Current Challenges in South Sudan

South Sudanese women still face a violation of their human rights but continued support from the U.S. can ensure that women’s progression, since July 2011 when the Republic of South Sudan gained independence, will continue. The U.S. has already made considerable contributions to emergency relief and humanitarian efforts in South Sudan. Still, to ensure the protection and advancement of women as well as overall stability in the country, there needs to be a long-term investment in the development and reconstruction of South Sudan. A significant concern is that inadequate healthcare in the country means a high maternal and infant mortality rate. The maternal mortality rate is 1,054 deaths per 100,000 live births, one of the highest rates globally.

South Sudan faces issues with its infrastructure, which hampers human development and marginalizes women. Due to high illiteracy rates in the country, it is essential to secure and inform women of their rights. International aid can support local women’s organizations and can include equality in efforts for the country’s development. Humanitarian and development programs that the U.S. sponsors can help girls and women exercise their human rights. The U.S. can also help South Sudan include more women in politics.

Proposals of the South Sudan Act

South Sudanese women should be integral to policy-making efforts relating to the governance of South Sudan. This equates to the involvement of more women in all legislative bodies and ensuring that women’s rights form part of the constitution and other legislative policies. Furthermore, regarding post-conflict reconstruction and development, the U.S. should guarantee that a significant portion of  U.S. developmental assistance and relief aid goes to women’s organizations in South Sudan.

The U.S. should also promote female-centered economic development programs, including programs that support widows, female heads of household, rural women and women with disabilities. Furthermore, it is important to “increase women’s access to ownership of assets such as land, water, agricultural inputs, credit and property. ”

These are just some of the directives of the Equal Rights and Access for the Women of South Sudan Act. Overall, the Act calls on the U.S. as a global leader to take action to prioritize women in South Sudan so that women can advance and progress. Women form an integral part of poverty reduction, which is why gender equality is so important. Uplifting women in South Sudan means reducing poverty in the country. For truly lasting global change, women’s empowerment is essential.

– Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in 2020
“Everyone is growing.” At the end of 2019, this was the World Bank’s outlook of the economic trajectory for the year 2020. The global economy was steadily growing and strengthening, and only a select few countries were facing GDP and economic contractions. Here is a look at the countries that experienced economic growth in 2020.

COVID-19’s Impact on the Economy

At the end of 2020, the World Bank sang a much different tune than what it did at the end of 2019. After the onset of a global pandemic, the majority of the world’s economies have taken a turn for the worst, the year turning out to be one of the worst in terms of economic growth and development. A far cry from the projected global GDP growth of 2.5%, as in June 2020, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that the world would close out the year with a GDP growth rate of -4.9%.

For some countries such as Spain, the U.K. and Tunisia, economic growth in 2020 had already fallen by around 20% by the year’s second quarter compared to the same period of 2019, a record quarterly fall for many countries. In other countries such as Taiwan, Finland, Lithuania and South Korea, the economic impact was much less than 5% contractions in GDP.

However, while the problem of economic recession was common for most nations, there were a select few that were not only able to ward off a negative growth pattern but steadily grew in the face of a global crisis. According to reports from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in October 2020, only 16 countries would sustain economic growth in 2020 of more than 1%, and 11 would grow at a rate between zero and 1%. That leaves a whopping 167 nations facing economic contraction.

5 Countries that Experienced the Highest Economic Growth in 2020

  1. Guyana: Guyana currently has the fastest growing economy globally, with an economic growth rate of approximately 26.21% in 2020. The mainland country serves as home to one of the most promising newly discovered oil basins globally and a vast supply of other natural resources. The recent oil discoveries and new production began in late 2019. Guyana’s economy is expanding fast and expects the GDP to more than double by 2025. Therefore, while it is likely that the Guyanese economy did face setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the explosion of its oil industry has been able to keep the country’s economy heading in the right direction.
    2. South Sudan: After facing stunted economic growth in the 2010s due to civil unrest, the relatively newly independent South Sudan faced harsh humanitarian and food insecurity crises. However, in 2018, the country signed a new peace agreement, followed by the reopening of many of its oil wells, boosting its main revenue source. Between 2018 and 2019, the country gradually maneuvered itself back into a steady growth pattern that maintained a 4.11% growth in GDP in 2020.
    3. Bangladesh: Over the years 2016 to 2020, the Bangladesh economy has recorded a 7.6% growth in GDP. Such rapid expansion has allowed the country to graduate from the U.N.’s list of Least Developed Countries (LDC). Because of its now stable macroeconomic environment, buoyant domestic demand and export-oriented industry-led growth, Bangladesh has been able to maintain an approximate 5.2% growth rate during 2020, with predictions that it will see an increasing growth rate of 6.8% in 2021 and the coming years.
    4. Egypt: Similar to Guyana, the Egyptian economy has recently benefitted greatly from lucrative natural gas discoveries. Though the pandemic and global economic crisis hit the country’s economic growth in 2020 due to a sudden fall in tourism, remittances and exports, its previous main sources of income, the revenue from its oil discoveries, was enough to stabilize growth in the economy. Already, the Egyptian economy is on the path to recovery with a projected 2.76% growth in 2021, before returning to its previous growth levels averaging at 5.28% in the coming years.
    5. Benin: Due to intentional and effective key economic and structural reforms in recent years, Benin reached a growth rate of 6.41% between the years 2017 and 2019. Therefore, while economic activity did slow for the country heavily dependent on re-export and transit trade, it was able to sustain economic growth in 2020 at a rate of approximately 2%. As the world adapts to and moves towards the end of the pandemic and global economic crisis, expectations have determined that Benin’s economy will return to faster growth rates of around 5% to 7% in the upcoming years.

Looking Forward

It was low- and middle-income emerging economies that were better able to sustain a growth trajectory throughout the 2020 global economic crisis. In fact, China, which the COVID-19 pandemic hit first, has been the only trillion-dollar economy that sustained positive economic growth in 2020. Economic growth is crucial for reducing and eradicating poverty and can lead to social improvements in affected countries. Therefore, the hope is that the countries that are not on the above list will return to pre-pandemic growth rates, and the five fastest-growing nations of 2020 keep developing at this level.

– Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation ProgramOf the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the first one sets an ambitious target. To end poverty in all its forms, everywhere and to leave no one behind. One such organization embracing this challenge is Bangladesh’s BRAC. BRAC is one of the world’s largest nongovernmental development organizations founded in Bangladesh that has done a tremendous amount of work fighting extreme poverty in Bangladesh. BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation program has seen success globally.

Poverty Progress in Bangladesh

Nestled between India and Myanmar in South Asia, Bangladesh has made enormous strides in combating extreme poverty in a relatively short amount of time. In a little over a decade, 25 million people were lifted out of poverty. Between 2010 and 2016, eight million people were lifted out of poverty in Bangladesh.

Although poverty rates were seeing a steady decrease, those living in extreme poverty in Bangladesh still lacked basic safety nets and support from NGO services.

BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) Program

In 2002, BRAC introduced the innovative Ultra-Poor Graduation (UPG) program in an attempt to apply innovative approaches to solve extreme poverty in Bangladesh and across the globe.

The UPG program aims to provide long-term holistic support for those in extreme poverty to lift themselves out of poverty and graduate to a more resilient and sustainable life. This is done by addressing the social, economic and health needs of poor families while empowering them to learn new skills and better financial management.

BRAC believes that while traditional government interventions such as food aid and cash transfers are impactful and have a role to play, these benefits, unfortunately, remain out of reach for many in extreme poverty and are certainly not a long-term solution.

BRAC’s UPG program sets to build skill sets and assets to ensure families are equipped to become food secure, independent and achieve economical sustainability.

The Success of UPG Programs Globally

The program has found success inside and outside Bangladesh and has received praise and acknowledgment in some of the world’s most impoverished regions.

Take for example the country of South Sudan. From 2013 to 2015 BRAC piloted a project involving 240 women. The program provided support for the women to receive food stipends, asset transfers and various skills training that included financial and basic savings skills.

Shortly after the women received training and support, the South Sudanese Civil War escalated, ravaging the country and causing inflation and food shortages.

Despite these shocks, 97% of the 240 women were still able to increase their consumption thanks to the resources, assets and skills they obtained during the program. Also, their children were 53% less likely to be underweight and malnourished, compared to those who had not been in the program.

More Success in Afghanistan and Other Countries

Another example comes from Afghanistan, where a widowed woman in the Bamiyan province received a flock of sheep and training from BRAC. Since then, she has been able to generate enough income to feed her family, send her grandchildren to school,  sell additional products and save for the future.

From 2007 to 2014, a large-scale UPG program across Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, India, Pakistan and Peru saw a 4.9% increase in household consumption, 13.6% increase in asset values and a 95.7% increase in savings pooled across all countries.

The success of BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation program can be clearly seen from the results. It is an innovative program that aims to end all poverty and leave no one behind and is successfully on its way to doing so.

– Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr

Youngest CountryWith its formal recognition as a country in 2011, South Sudan stands as the youngest country on Earth. With a population of more than 10 million people, all eyes are focused on how the country will develop. Born out of civil war and gruesome conflict, the first nine years of South Sudan’s existence have presented numerous humanitarian issues. Widespread hunger, unsanitized water, crumbling infrastructure and underfunded education plague the youngest country in the world. If the new nation wants to grow into a fruitful nation, it must address the widespread poverty and the issues that come along with it.

History of South Sudan

South Sudan is the world’s newest country. Neighboring Sudan had previously controlled the land and lives of those dwelling there but a public referendum ended that reign in 2011. Quickly, South Sudan looked to become legitimate and joined both the United Nations and the African Union within days. Violence from militia-led uprisings broke out all across the region as many saw the emergence of a new nation as an opportunity to gain power. Additionally, South Sudan harbors much of Sudan’s oil rigs, thus controlling a majority of the economic opportunities in the area.

With few resources present, controlling the oil fields presented a strategic advantage. In 2013, tensions boiled over into a full civil war that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Sudanese and internally displaced 4 million people. The violence related to this issue did not end until 2018, more than five years after the conflict broke out.

The Situation in South Sudan

The South Sudan civil war damaged an already weakened system and has created one of the worst poverty situations. Currently, 82% of those residing in the youngest country in the world live under the poverty line. Due to recent poor harvests, Oxfam estimates that more than 7 million South Sudanese people are in danger of starvation. With an economy almost entirely dependent on crude oil exports, financial stability is nonexistent. The World Bank reports that while South Sudan experienced a GDP growth of 3.2% in 2019, due to the global pandemic, its GDP will shrink 4.3% after 2020, losing more than gained in the previous year. With one-third of the nation displaced due to the civil war, more than half of the country struggling to eat and a nationally shrinking economy, South Sudan is in danger of becoming a region defined by immense poverty.

Aid to South Sudan

With how dire the situation is in South Sudan, leading humanitarian relief agencies have made the youngest country in the world their top priority. Action Against Hunger helped feed over 500,000 South Sudanese in 2019 alone. With more than 300 team members present in the country, Action Against Hunger is extending its reach every year until the Sudanese can once again retain sustainable harvests.

To help keep the children of South Sudan in school, USAID has created special funding just for education. Since the civil war broke out, USAID has actively helped more than half a million students receive schooling desperately needed to break the poverty cycle. To help bring power and electricity to South Sudan, the African Development Bank stepped up to make it happen. Nearly 99% of people in South Sudan live without electricity. The African Development Bank’s power grid project recently received a $14.6 million loan to help get it started.

The Road Ahead for South Sudan

As the new country of South Sudan looks to gain international recognition and support, it must first prioritize the dire humanitarian crises at home. With the work of Action Against Hunger, USAID and the African Development Bank, hope is on the horizon for the youngest country in the world.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

SDG 3 in South SudanProsperous health and well being are the backbone of a progressive society. Unfortunately, countless people in the developing world struggle to access affordable and effective healthcare. South Sudan is an Eastern African country riddled in an ongoing ethnic conflict. In addition, it is one of the hardest-hit nations on the issue of healthcare.

So far, South Sudan has dealt with over 3,500 cases of COVID-19. While that number may seem small, it’s astronomical for a country with such sparse medical supplies and trained personnel.

Thankfully, South Sudan has been working with the international community for the past couple of years. They are working to bolster its progress toward better healthcare, otherwise known as Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3). As outlined by the United Nations Development Programme, the SDGs are a set of benchmarks to help developing nations overcome structural poverty. The third goal, good health and well-being, focuses on resolving “account widening economic and social inequalities, rapid urbanization, threats to the climate and the environment, the continuing burden of HIV and other infectious diseases and emerging challenges such as non-communicable diseases.” The fundamental goal of SDG 3 is universal healthcare.

Out of the 1.6 billion people worldwide who lack sound healthcare systems, a portion lives in South Sudan. Thus, it is important to understand and explore the implications of SDG 3 in South Sudan.

Progress Overview

As part of Sustainable Development Goal 3, South Sudan has been working with international partners to implement a new universal healthcare system. In 2018, the South Sudanese Ministry of Health (MoH) announced it would be working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners on the Boma Health Initiative (BHI). The BHI will deliver healthcare packages to communities for no charge. It will also place an extra focus on those living in hard-to-reach rural areas.

The program came out to address SDG 3 and the country’s lack of access to healthcare services. As of 2018, “only 44% of the population [is] living within a 5-kilometer radius of a health facility.”

So far, the WHO and South Sudanese MoH are still debating the costs and budget gaps to finance the program. These debates especially focus on maternal care. Fortunately, policymakers have the 40-year-old primary healthcare system to build off of. With the said system in place, the WHO and South Sudanese officials focus on critical areas of healthcare disparities. They want to ensure the universal system will be efficient and effective once it rolls out.

COVID-19 Response

However, with the recent pandemic, South Sudan’s MoH and other officials have focused on the response to COVID-19. So far, they have made substantial progress. In May 2020, South Sudan successfully trained over 100 health workers on “COVID-19 case management and infection prevention and control.” Participants were said to have “knowledge and skills on patient screening, isolation, contact tracing, use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and waste management.” The rapid increase in health management training is especially helpful to expand contract tracing and to limit the severity of COVID-19 in at-risk communities.

Additionally, The South Sudanese MoH recently partnered with the World Food Programme and the International Medical Corps to expand infectious disease units. The initiative has equipped South Sudanese hospitals with a “new 82-bed capacity treatment unit [with] a temperature-controlled dispensing pharmacy and a fully equipped laundry to boost infection prevention and control.”

Aid From Other Countries

Moreover, to ensure long-term success for SDG 3, South Sudan is partnering with other countries to improve its health infrastructure. For instance, CARE, an international non-profit, received part of a $2 million grant to “strengthen healthcare infrastructure through preparedness, surveillance and response; empower, train and educate local women leaders, including community health workers; and increase water, sanitation, and hygiene support.” Furthermore, CARE is also coordinating with the Sudanese Education and Health Ministries. Their goal is to expand medical education in local communities and fight off misinformation.

In addition, the U.S. recently announced a $108 million aid package for South Sudan to develop more advanced health infrastructural systems.

From targeted efforts from international organizations like the WHO to non-profits and world superpowers like the U.S. donating aid, the world is gradually taking action. South Sudan is facing its darkest hour and limited healthcare options. Therefore, the international community must continue its efforts to help South Sudan realize its goal.

– Juliette Reyes
Photo: Flickr

Trachoma in South SudanCurrently, 3.6 million individuals in South Sudan suffer from trachoma. Trachoma starts with a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis, which enters the nose or eyes of a person and causes permanent blindness if not treated properly. Trachoma mostly affects rural and nomadic individuals in South Sudan because of limited access to safe water and sanitation, infrequent trips to medical clinics and dealing with cattle.

The Government of South Sudan, The Carter Center and Sightsavers attempt to eradicate trachoma in South Sudan with universal health coverage, distributing antibiotics, providing corrective surgeries, promoting sanitation classes and building proper human waste disposals in the communities.

The Government of South Sudan

To help out the most vulnerable individuals, the Government of South Sudan provides free healthcare to all citizens. Since native and nomadic communities live in isolated areas and do not stay put in one place for too long, healthcare workers go into their communities to administer medical care. State employees learned to track the constant movement of the pastoralists to wait for their arrival. Consequently, 6,650 citizens who never visited a clinic in the village received treatment for trachoma in the safety of their communities.

Sightsavers

Sightsavers came to South Sudan in 2009 and strives to prevent vulnerable individuals from going blind.  More specifically, the organization provides medication and corrective surgeries to citizens in South Sudan who suffer from trachoma.

First, Sightsavers partnered with the government to provide eye treatment to vulnerable individuals. Next, 5,100 citizens of these regions carried out the task of handing out medication to the locals. These volunteers went to rural and isolated places that do not have access to Western medication. In just 2018 alone, Sightsavers provided around 546,000 medications to cure trachoma and other eye conditions.

Next, the organization assists health professionals in visiting isolated areas. Once the workers arrive at their destination, they spend over a week providing around 200 corrective eye surgeries for individuals suffering from trachoma and cataracts. These surgeries changed the lives of citizens who dropped out of school or do not work due to their eye condition.

The Carter Center

The Carter Center began assisting South Sudan in 1986 before its independence. The Center strives to maintain peace in the nation, provide quality healthcare and teach the citizens how to produce more food. More specifically, the organization strives to eradicate trachoma in South Sudan with the implementation of the SAFE strategy.

The SAFE strategy signifies “surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness, and environmental improvement.” Beginning in 2000, the Center helped fund 10,000 corrective eye surgeries in South Sudan. Secondly, the organization provided close to four million doses of the antibiotic Zithromax. Next, the Center helped support sanitation classes in almost 4,000 communities and the erection of more than 6,000 bathrooms.

Final Thoughts

Many individuals living in remote areas in South Sudan suffer from the deteriorating effects of trachoma. With the help of the government and nonprofit organizations, citizens can access long-term relief from their symptoms and prevent future infection. The optimism and determination of the citizens to find a cure and get better forecasts a positive outlook for the eradication of trachoma in South Sudan.

– Samantha Rodriguez-Silva
Photo: Flickr 

Transforming Education in South SudanAround 1.8 million children in South Sudan are not in school; the majority of children are utilized for manual work to provide for their families. This prevents millions of children, especially young girls, from receiving an adequate education. As the world’s youngest country, South Sudan struggles with many pressing issues, such as an unstable political environment and scarce food access. However, the need for educational reform grows increasingly urgent every day. These inadequate educational circumstances can be attributed to many years of war that left behind devastating conditions for the country and its civilians. However, organizations have committed to transforming education in South Sudan.

The Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART)

Founded in 2004, HART exists to help countries suffering from national conflicts that are not typically served by major aid organizations. A significant amount of its aid is directed toward South Sudan and the country’s unfavorable education status. In its 2020 report, the organization emphasized how many leaders in South Sudan are unable to access funds from large-scale donors. In response to this, the organization stresses that donating funds for essential services in South Sudan should take top priority, especially education funds, considering the substantial number of children displaced from normal learning environments. The organization works directly with partners in South Sudan to get problems solved through direct communication. 

According to HART, a girl raised in South Sudan is more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than complete her primary education. More than two million children are not in school, which is the worst number the country has seen yet. If these rates continue, the future generation of South Sudan will not be equipped with the skills that come from an educational background, which also statistically places them as more likely to fall into generational poverty. Organizations such as HART use advocacy as the strongest tool. By bringing light to these startling statistics, it hopes to educate the public on the dire need to allocate funds to South Sudan and reform the educational system through donations.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF has been a global leader in transforming education in South Sudan, as it provides funds for classroom materials and teacher training. A primary focus is to intervene in South Sudanese communities to emphasize the importance of educating their children. The organization understands that when children are educated, it benefits not only them but the entirety of the country.

However, learning in South Sudan has been extremely different since the start of COVID-19 as roughly 1.5 million children have been learning through radio lessons instead of the traditional classrooms. In 2020 alone, UNICEF provided over 40,000 radio sets to be distributed to underprivileged children who do not have access to radios in their homes. Amid these unconventional education times, UNICEF continues to deliver essential services to benefit learning in remote locations under the Government of South Sudan’s “Back to School Initiative”. At the end of 2020, UNICEF plans to have provided 729,000 out of school children in crisis access to education.

Global Partnership for Education (GPE)

The Global Partnership for Education has been partnered with South Sudan since 2012. It emphasizes the high demands placed on the education system in South Sudan’s national plans. The General Education Strategic Plan (GESP), developed by the Ministry of General Education and Instruction of South Sudan, lays out situation analyses, policy frameworks, implementation structures and financing plans. However, there is insufficient public expenditure to cover these projects. In fact, South Sudan possesses one of the lowest education funds in the world. 

The GPE recognizes this need for funding and believes in the vision of The General Education Strategic Plan. In March of 2020, the GPE gifted $7 million in support of the Ministry of Education’s learning plan in response to COVID-19. In particular, the grant goes to support guidelines and policies in place to reopen schools in South Sudan. Other focal points revolve around awareness campaigns on COVID-19 prevention, remote learning materials for students, radio programs for at-home learning, hygiene facilities and back to school campaigns. As the GPE continues backing The General Education Strategic Plan, there is an expected expansion of secondary and technical education and institutionalizing teacher training within the next three years. 

The Need for Improved Education

Right now, over 80% of the South Sudanese population live on less than a dollar per day. In the middle of a humanitarian crisis, many basic necessities fail to be met for this vulnerable population. An increasing urgency around transforming education in South Sudan has caused an abundance of organizations to take a special interest in reforming the education system in the world’s youngest country. While the road to a prospering education system is still long, South Sudan is taking substantial steps toward a better future for its children with the help of humanitarian organizations.

– Hope Shourd
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in South SudanSouth Sudan, a country in East Africa, gained independence in 2011. This gave more power and opportunities to women. However, women continue to face struggles due to gender inequality. Therefore, women’s rights in South Sudan is a prevalent issue as the country works toward incorporating gender equality in the country’s development.

Gender Inequality in Education

Schools are a prominent place where gender inequality occurs in South Sudan. This is proven by the difference between the literacy rates of girls, which is 40%, and boys, which is 60%. According to the World Bank, about seven girls for every 10 boys are in primary education and around five girls for every 10 boys attend secondary school. Additionally, as of 2013, a total of 500 girls in South Sudan attended the final grade of secondary school. Moreover, around 12% of teachers in the country are female, which only strengthens gender inequality in education.

To address gender disparities in education, in 2012, South Sudan received grants from the Global Partnership for Education and The United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Through these grants, UNICEF Sudan ran the Global Partnership for Education Program. The Program aims to improve the overall education system by encouraging gender sensitivity and taking measures to prevent gender-based violence in a classroom setting. Additionally, South Sudan plans to build 25 girl-friendly schools in the most disadvantaged regions with the purpose of benefiting 3,000 girls. The Program will give teachers training on gender sensitivity and gender-based violence. Furthermore, South Sudan will implement a new curriculum to further remove barriers to education for girls with the focus of developing solidarity. The updated curriculum will also provide newly written textbooks.

Gender Disparities for Health in South Sudan

Gender disparity is a significant issue in healthcare affecting women’s rights in South Sudan. The WHO categorized South Sudan’s health crisis as the “highest level of humanitarian emergency” in 2014. As of 2015, the maternal mortality ratio was 730 deaths per 100,000 live births. Violence in South Sudan widely limits access to healthcare since international NGOs supply over 80% of the country’s healthcare. Outbreaks of fighting often lead to the destruction of health centers and the cessation of medical centers, especially since medical professionals may be forced to seek refuge in another location. Furthermore, women are often disproportionately impacted by the vulnerability of South Sudan’s healthcare system. Because women tend to be the primary source of care for their families during a time of crisis, while men are on the frontline, they often delay seeking medical attention to avoid leaving their children alone. Therefore, providing greater access to healthcare for women would improve the health of families as a whole.

Gender-Based Violence in South Sudan

Gender-based violence is another challenge women in South Sudan face. An estimated 475,000 women and girls in the country are at risk of violence. Additionally, over half of women aged 15 to 24 have endured gender-based violence. South Sudanese women who have experienced violence also tend to be impacted by stigma, which is a barrier to receiving proper care. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) aims to work with the South Sudan government, along with the Global Fund and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to support women by targeting gender based-violence through support programs.

Awareness of women’s rights issues in South Sudan is a step toward improving the overall quality of life of women in the country. Gender disparity affects many aspects of women’s lives in South Sudan, including education, health and risks of violence.  Therefore, addressing issues disproportionately affecting women in South Sudan is imperative.

– Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr