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The future of Sudan and South Sudan

Future of Sudan and South Sudan is a test of leadership for the international community.

Almost six months since becoming the world’s newest state, South Sudan faces enormous challenges in terms of its security, humanitarian provision and economic growth. Having been recently admitted to Unesco, Save the Children reported that the country has the world’s worst maternal mortality rate, a fifth of all children are acutely malnourished and only a tenth of children complete primary school. One hundred midwives and fewer than five hundred doctors cover a population of 8.3 million people. This represents the biggest development challenge in the world, and our response to the challenge of facilitating an end to the internal conflict which has scarred the region for too long, is a test of leadership for the international community.

The thirty eight aid agencies who work in South Sudan have made several recommendations- to strengthen the capacity to deal with humanitarian crises, prioritise food security, strengthen the role of civic society, work with the government of South Sudan to enhance levels of social protection, and to encourage the development of smallholder agriculture as a means to improve women’s economic participation. In addition to this  the land issue for returnees, internally displaced persons and vulnerable groups must be addressed, and technical support for the Sudan/South Sudan border cooperation policy provided.

Chronic levels of food insecurity in both Sudan and South Sudan have been exacerbated by delayed rains in southern Kordofan, the conflicts in that state and in Abyei and Blue Nile, and rising commodity prices linked to global factors, as well as border restrictions and closures. Internal conflict has meant that hundreds of thousands of people have missed the planting season and remain unable to access livelihoods from the soil. In Sudan, almost a third of economic output stems from agriculture. As of September, some 4 million people in Sudan and as many as 3 million in South Sudan were at risk of food insecurity according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

More than 220,000 people were displaced last year due to conflict and more than 100,000 were affected by floods. Already this year, fighting in the disputed border areas, clashes between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and militia groups, disputes over land and cattle, and attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army, have forced nearly 300,000 people from their homes.

In terms of the security issues, the EU, African Union, Arab League and China should be engaged to ensure the welfare of civilians by getting the belligerents to refrain from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, getting them to agree an immediate ceasefire, to engage in diplomatic efforts and by encouraging other actors with leverage over both parties to seek a political solution to the crisis including completing post-CPA negotiations with support from international or regional arbiters. It is essential that the efforts of the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator to secure full, unimpeded humanitarian access are supported. The EU should seek an end to any support to non-governmental armed groups operating on either side of the border, and support the establishment of a de-militarized zone along the border monitored by the UN.

The people of Sudan also suffer with the plight of HIV/AIDS. It is estimated that there are approximately 40,000 people living with HIV in South Sudan, it is estimated that around 14,000 are eligible for treatment and of those only about 3,500 are actually receiving the medication they need to return to health and to prevent further infections. Between now and 2014, at least 11,000 people living with HIV/AIDs in need of antiretroviral treatment in South Sudan will not have access to it and might die unless additional funding is found.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is the largest international financier of action against the three diseases, accounting for 80 per cent of the funding for TB, three-quarters of malaria programmes worldwide, and half of the global AIDS response. Although it has an HIV/AIDS alleviation plan, South Sudan was depending on the Global Fund Round 11 funding to be able to fill a significant funding gap of 80 per cent. The United Kingdom should use its influence as current chair of the fund to encourage other contributor states, such as Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United States to follow through the commitments to tackle HIV/AIDS made by leading figures such as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her speech on World Aids Day last week, by offering more financial support to end HIV/AIDS in this generation.

Willie Bain is MP for Glasgow North East

Photo: United Nations

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William Bain

is former member of parliament for Glasgow North-east. He tweets @William_Bain

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