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Why Is South Sudan Poor?

South Sudan Is PoorSouth Sudan is poor. In 2015, the extreme poverty rate increased to 66 percent. Only 27 percent of the population is literate, with an enormous gender gap: the literacy rate for males is 40 percent while the literacy rate for females is 16 percent. The infant mortality rate is 105 for every 1,000 births and 17 percent of children are not immunized. Roughly 38 percent of South Sudan’s people have to walk 30 minutes to access drinking water and 80 percent of the population does not have a toilet. The quality of life in this country is very low; however, with new policies the government can improve the country’s welfare.

Why is South Sudan poor? The landlocked country is isolated from humanitarian professionals and foreign investors. Poor roads make the country impassable during the rainy season. The World Food Program reported that they only have a three-month window to deliver 100,000 tons of food (roughly 6,500 truckloads) before the rains come and make many areas inaccessible.

Before South Sudan’s independence, the Sudanese government largely failed to build good roads in rural areas and left them neglected. Corruption was prevalent, causing those who controlled the companies’ capital to use those resources purely for their own gain.

The world’s newest country is still developing government infrastructure. Between 1955 and 2005, Sudan was engulfed in a brutal civil war, which left countless dead and homeless. After a failed peace agreement, South Sudan seceded from the north in 2011. However, fighting broke out in the country in 2013 and continues off and on to this day.

The new government is wracked by division and as a result does not have the ability to build roads, provide basic education or ensure the welfare of its constituents. Moreover, funds and resources are often channeled into certain areas while others are ignored. Violence also plays a key factor in hindering aid from reaching key areas.

However, conditions in the country could improve in the near future. A new government policy relying more on the country’s vast oil wealth could improve living conditions. The government has also made health and education a focus. The World Food Program is making progress in the country as well. The organization helped stave off a famine in 2014 when it dispatched 190,000 tons of food to the country and assisted 2.5 million people. South Sudan is poor, but there are many opportunities for improvement.

Bruce Edwin Ayres Truax
Photo: Flickr