Newly independent South Sudan is being born into crisis
JUBA 06 Jul 2011 - South Sudan faces a humanitarian and security crisis when it becomes independent from the north on July 9 – requiring robust and sustained international support to aid and protect civilians.
“South Sudan will be born into crisis,” says Susan Purdin, who oversees International Rescue Committee aid programs in South Sudan. “Widening violence is triggering more displacement, threatening the lives of vulnerable civilians and hampering access to communities in need while an existing humanitarian emergency grows worse.”
Violent conflicts continue to rage between the north and south in the contested border states of South Kordofan and Abyei. At the same time, internal threats in the south, including ethnic and tribal fighting, excessive force by the southern army to wipe out rebel elements and ongoing sexual violence against women and girls are having a dire impact on civilians.
The United Nations estimates that more than 300,000 people have been displaced by violence since the south voted to secede from Sudan in a referendum last January. And over the past year, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese have returned to the south and thousands more are planning to return – mostly to communities with little to no ability to absorb them.
“This is a region that endured a half a century of devastating conflict that set back social and economic development,” says Purdin. “People live in paralyzing poverty and barely scratch out an existence.”
Only 20% of the population has access to health care services and more than 80% of it is provided by aid groups. Vast numbers of villages have no schools, clean water or basic sanitation. Maternal mortality rates are among the highest in the world and malnutrition is rampant.
“In spite of the desperate humanitarian situation, there is indescribable euphoria and optimism among the South Sudanese as they try to move beyond decades of tragedy and prepare to celebrate independence,” says Purdin. “But they have a long hard journey ahead and things will not improve instantly.”
While the new government of South Sudan has the responsibility to provide essential services and protect its own civilians, it is unrealistic to expect that it can do so anytime soon given its current capacity.
The International Rescue Committee urges the international community not to waver in its support for South Sudan at this critical time and makes the following recommendations:
• A stronger and more robust UN Mission and mandate. The current United Nations Mission for Sudan (UNMIS), which expires on July 9, must be renewed with a clear and more vigorous mandate to support the new Republic of South Sudan and prevent, deter and respond to violence and threats against civilians when government security services are unable to. That is in addition to helping authorities develop a protection framework and critical institutions.
• Enhanced, balanced and long-term humanitarian and development funding. Now is not the time to cut back on aid for Sudan or shift entirely from humanitarian to development funding. A fledgling South Sudan needs more and varied funding to address emergency conditions, particularly in the areas of health, water and sanitation, and to support local efforts to create economic opportunities and improve and strengthen protection of civilians, rule of law, conflict management and the effectiveness of ministries and institutions. Donors should provide both pooled funding mechanisms and direct bilateral support.
• Increased sexual violence prevention and response services. Violence against women and girls is a pervasive, devastating and tolerated problem in Sudan – a legacy of Sudan’s brutal civil war, during which it was commonplace. As violence increases in the region, so will rape and sexual abuse, yet assistance for survivors and prevention services are critically scarce. There is an urgent need for donors to fund programs and technical training in this specific area.
The International Rescue Committee also urges the government of South Sudan not to divert resources for basic services, development and protection to arms and to commit to the following:
• Promoting and protecting human rights. The government of South Sudan must make building a protective environment a priority. This includes developing strong legal and justice institutions, a national security policy and a framework for rule of law, as well as carrying out police reform, further disarmament and demobilization.
• Ensure humanitarian access. The government of South Sudan must ensure respect for humanitarian principles and provide unhindered and safe access to populations in need.
• Provide essential services in communities: With independence, the population of South Sudan anticipates that its new government will provide essential services, including health care, water, sanitation, electricity and educational services. It is vital that this happen, as state stability in the long-term will depend on it. In addition, these services should be made available not just for existing communities, but for the displaced and returnee populations as well.
NOTE TO EDITORS: For more information and interviews in Juba, Nairobi, New York and London, please contact Sophia Mwangi, +254 737 800 028, Lucy Carrigan, +1 212-551-0969 and Stefano Gelmini, +44 20 7692 2739.
About the International Rescue Committee: A global leader in humanitarian assistance, the International Rescue Committee works in more than 40 countries offering help and hope to refugees and others uprooted by disaster, conflict and oppression. During crises, IRC teams provide health care, shelter, clean water, sanitation, learning programs for children and special aid for women. As emergencies subside, the IRC stays to revive livelihoods and help shattered communities recover and rebuild. The IRC also helps resettle refugees given sanctuary in the United States. A tireless advocate for the most vulnerable, the IRC is committed to restoring hope, dignity and opportunity.
The IRC has been one of the largest providers of aid in Southern Sudan for over 20 years. Today we provide more than 600,000 people in six states—Central, Eastern and Western Equatoria, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity and Lakes—with vital services including healthcare, child survival programs, education, and sexual violence aid and prevention projects. For more information, visit www.rescue.org.
Sophia Jones-Mwangi (Juba)
+254 737 800 028 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Stefano Gelmini (London)
+44 20 7692 2739 / email@example.com
Lucy Carrigan (New York)
+1 212 551 0969 / firstname.lastname@example.org