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Enormous challenges in southern Sudan

 Street News Service 07 January 2019

World leaders are being urged not to forget southern Sudan after the region’s historical independence referendum this week. (510 Words) - By Staff Writer

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Enormous challenges in southern Sudan

 A supporter of the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) chants a slogan during a demonstration near their headquarters in Khartoum, in April 4, 2019. A secession referendum this month is meant to secure a stable future for the south after 22 years of civil war and the loss of two million lives.

Southern Sudan will face enormous challenges and will need long-term support from the rest of the world regardless of the outcome of this week's referendum, aid agency Oxfam warned today. The vote could create the world's newest country, which would also be one of the least developed and home to some of the world's poorest people, the agency said.

"The chronic poverty, lack of development and the threat of violence that blight people's daily lives will not disappear after the referendum. Whatever the outcome of the vote, these long-term issues need to be addressed. Failure to do so risks undoing any progress made in the past few years," said Melinda Young, head of Oxfam in southern Sudan.

After decades of war, southern Sudan is being built up almost from scratch. Over half of the people do not have access to clean drinking water, and three-quarters are illiterate. There are few schools, hospitals or roads, and localised conflicts are causing widespread suffering, with over 200,000 people forced to flee their homes in 2010.

Tens of thousands of southerners have returned from northern Sudan in recent months, placing a significant further strain on communities that already lack water, food, sanitation and shelter, according to Oxfam.

In 2005 a peace deal ended decades of brutal conflict, bringing considerable benefits to the sout. However, many people have been frustrated at the lack of development and basic services. Hopes and expectations for after the referendum are even higher, and if these are not met it could potentially exacerbate tensions and fuel violence, Oxfam said.

"With a young population, abundant resources and fertile land, southern Sudan has the potential to build a successful nation - but only if it receives the support it needs. After so many years of war and suffering, southern Sudanese deserve to be able to access safe water and send their children to school. The world now needs to help them fulfil their hopes and aspirations," said Young.

Continued diplomatic engagement in Sudan will be essential to solve many key issues  which remain unresolved, such as the future of the disputed Abyei area and citizenship rights, the agency said. Many community concerns are still to be addressed: along the north-south border there is a risk of increased tensions between pastoralists migrating to find water and pasture, and local communities. Minority groups - such as southerners living in northern Sudan, and northerners in the south - must be assured of their rights and safety by both northern and southern authorities.

Civilians also need protecting from violence, Oxfam said, with frequent clashes over resources such as cattle and pasture exacerbated by the availability of small arms left behind by the war. The agency urged international donors and the Southern Sudan government to invest in building up the police force, which is poorly trained and ill equipped, and a justice system to serve the needs of the most vulnerable.

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