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An uneasy birthday party for South Sudan

Locals gather for South Sudan's first birthday
Locals gather for South Sudan's first birthday
July 9, 2012

It is exactly one year since South Sudan jubilantly celebrated its new status as an independent country.

But the infant state faces multiple challenges that go far beyond simple teething problems. Against the background of a looming economic crisis, conflict with its new northern neighbor Sudan is brewing and an unfolding food security situation threatens an imminent humanitarian crisis.

South Sudan won independence from Sudan in July 2011 after years of inter-ethnic conflict. But, the relationship between the two countries is still strained. In April, Sudan declared all south Sudanese in the north illegal and gave them until the end of May to leave.

Now, a steady stream of unaccompanied children is reported to be trickling down across the border along with huge numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs).

In 2006, Plan set up a special program in the South to focus on the development needs of the planned new country.

Plan has also scaled up its humanitarian response in Jonglei State to respond to the needs of over 70,000 vulnerable people who were displaced by conflict between December 2011 and January 2012. Plan provided access to food and non-food items, shelter materials, child protection, psychosocial support, WASH, temporary learning spaces and teaching kits. It also rebuilt schools that had been burned down by fighters.

As the numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) continue to swell with the mass influx of returnees arriving from North Sudan, Plan has also been stepping up efforts to provide life-saving food and other assistance to avert severe cases of hunger in South Sudan.

Gerald Magashi, Plan South Sudan Acting Country Director, says more funds and efforts are needed to resolve the situation.

He says: “Peace and stability in Jonglei State remains a first priority. The only way that long term peace and stability will come to this region is through development targeting, particularly towards the youth of the country. Unless opportunities for positive economic engagement are made available, young people are likely to continue harmful activities like cattle raiding, which in turn, fuels interethnic fighting.

“Plan has been increasing its capacity to have a responsive and proactive emergency response team in place. However, the need for more funds and concerted efforts still remain huge as the need on the ground continues to grow.”

Learn more about Plan's work in South Sudan

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