from RAJI BASHIR in Khartoum, Sudan
KHARTOUM, (CAJ News) – THE world’s youngest country, South Sudan, is marking ten years of independence amid extreme hunger levels, recurrent cycles of violence and slow political progress.
An outbreak of the coronavirus – a global scourge – is exacerbating the country’s woes.
The country is facing the worst food security and nutrition crises globally, with about 8,3 million people, or three-quarters of the population, need humanitarian assistance to survive.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic pressures drove the cost of food up by 42 percent over last year, driving 800 000 more South Sudanese into humanitarian need.
Janardhan Rao, Mercy Corps Country Director in South Sudan, warned escalating violence at the local level was threatening to reignite civil war.
The country spilled into civil conflict in 2013, two years after independence in the aftermath of a fallout between the landlocked country’s founding leaders.
“Now famine is stalking parts of the country that are still suffering from devastating floods and conflict,” Rao said.
“The world’s youngest nation has made progress in implementing its 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement, but despite the progress made, the overall implementation of the agreement is happening slowly.”
Rao noted hunger is now at the most extreme levels ever seen since independence in 2011, with the situation widely described as “dire” across the country as almost 7 million people – 60 percent of the population struggles to secure food each day.
The civil war, which ended with a 2019 peace deal between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and then-rival-now Deputy President Riek Machar, destroyed the agricultural sector and infrastructure.
South Sudan gained independence on July 9, 2011 after a liberation war that left between 1 million and 2,5 million people dead.
The Troika, comprising Norway, United Kingdom and the United States, highlighted the first ten years of South Sudan’s history had seen much suffering due to conflict related abuses, famine, flooding and disease.
“Yet through it all, the South Sudanese people have shown resilience,” the Troika stated.
It pledged commitment to standing with the South Sudanese people as they work toward their aspirations of peace and prosperity.
“We urge the political leadership of South Sudan to take the actions needed to build the country the jubilant crowds of 2011 dreamed was possible,” the Troika stated.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said the tenth anniversary of independence provided opportunity for fresh push for peace.
“On this special day, we congratulate the people of South Sudan for a decade of independence and share our fervent hope that, together, we can secure enduring peace and a prosperous future for all citizens of the world’s newest nation,” a UNMISS statement read.
– CAJ News