In South Sudan, poverty and food insecurity are prevalent despite the country’s abundance of natural resources. Challenges include civil wars and prolonged violence. These challenges contribute to a significant number of people living below the poverty line within the nation. Several facts about South Sudan provide insight into the country’s economic and social landscape.
9 Facts About South Sudan
- A 50-Year Conflict. From 1955 through 2005, North and South Sudan faced civil wars and conflict. In January of 2005, the leaders of North and South Sudan signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). This agreement granted Southerners a revised Interim Constitution and partial autonomy. However, even with a signed peace agreement, social, political and economic conflict continues in South Sudan.
- Gaining Independence. In January 2011, 98% of Southerners in Sudan voted to secede from the north. Due to this vote, in July 2011, the Republic of South Sudan was formed — the world’s youngest country.
- High Poverty Rate. South Sudan has a population of about 12 million people. The overwhelming majority of the population, about 80%, resides in rural areas. According to the World Bank’s latest estimates, about 82% of South Sudanese people endure poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 per day.
- An Abundance of Natural Resources. Although South Sudan falls high on the poverty scale, the country has many natural resources. The Nile River, petroleum, marble/dolomite, aluminum, iron ore and gold stand as the nation’s major natural resources. Of these resources, oil fuels the country’s economy, with outside investors dominating the sector. The issue is that about 85% of the population works in non-wage pastoral jobs and does not benefit from the abundance of natural resources.
- Water and Sanitation are Limited. In 2019, just half of the South Sudanese population had access to safe drinking water. Also, just 10% of people had “access to basic sanitation.” On a positive note, due to the work of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), almost a million more South Sudanese people received “access to improved drinking water” between 2008 and 2019.
- Inadequate Health Care. Less than 50% of the South Sudanese population has access to health services. The government allocates only 2.6% of its budget to health care. For this reason, many citizens rely on non-governental organizations (NGOs) for their health care needs. Doctors Without Borders is a movement dedicated to providing medical aid globally. In 2019, Doctors Without Borders had 19 project sites across South Sudan. The organization’s medical assistance is vast and ranges from tackling malaria to vaccinating children and treating gunshot wounds.
- Food Insecurity is High. More than 60% of the population is currently enduring food insecurity. The International Relief Committee (IRC) believes that famine will increase even more in 2021. This stems from the cumulative effects of “conflict, an economic crisis, recurrent flooding and COVID-19” as well as displacement. The IRC is advocating for an infusion of support to stave off famine in South Sudan. Action Against Hunger is an NGO currently aiding South Sudan in hunger relief. As the world’s hunger specialist, its goal is to create new, better ways to deal with hunger. In 2020, it helped 558,079 people in South Sudan. Of this number, the organization’s health and nutrition programs helped more than 300,000 people. Further, 103,004 people received help through “food security and livelihood programs.”
- Life Expectancy is Increasing. South Sudanese life expectancy stood at 57.6 years of age in 2018. For males, the life expectancy was 56.1 years old. For the female counterpart, the life expectancy was higher at 59.1 years old. This is a steady increase over the years — 20 years ago, in 1998, the life expectancy at birth stood at 48.3 years old.
- Access to Education. More than 70% of South Sudanese children are not attending school. Some of these children live in pastoral settings and need to follow the herds so they cannot attend school. Girls are the largest group of students out of school. This is due to poverty, cultural and religious beliefs and child marriage.
These facts about South Sudan may seem discouraging, but there are NGOs working on solutions. World Concern is a faith-based organization that works in South Sudan and 11 other countries. The organization provides assistance in the areas of water access, health, child protection, education, food security and nutrition, disaster and crisis response as well as economic resilience. World Concern supports countries village by village and operates in eight villages in South Sudan.
Hope is on the horizon for the people of South Sudan as organizations like World Concern, the IRC, Doctors Without Borders and Action Against Hunger step up to help. Coupled with the country’s abundance of natural resources, these efforts ensure South Sudanese people are able to rise out of poverty.
– Ariel Dowdy