NAIROBI (AlertNet) – On July 9, South Sudan celebrates its first anniversary of independence after decades of civil war.
Here's a round-up of what some aid agencies are saying about South Sudan on its first birthday:
The International Rescue Committee does not hold back in its harsh assessment of the first year of independence.
“From the standpoint of improving the quality of life for millions of South Sudanese people, these first 12 months of independence can be written off as a lost year,” says Susan Purdin, the heads of IRC aid programmes in South Sudan.
“Nothing that was anticipated is even on the horizon.”
IRC believes development is at a “virtual standstill” due to both natural and manmade disasters which have left poor communities struggling to host an extra half a million uprooted people.
“South Sudan’s decision to halt oil production amid unresolved disputes with Sudan has wiped out 98 percent of its own revenue —income that was to be used to jumpstart development, like building hospitals, roads and water systems,” it said in a statement.
“Put off by the government’s oil shutdown, chronic corruption and perceived disregard for the welfare of the population, international donors have indicated they are unwilling to make up for the shortfall and reticent to invest in development.”
Oxfam says South Sudan is facing its worst humanitarian crisis since 2005 due to “severe economic meltdown” and conflict.
“The longer this crisis drags on, the greater the risk South Sudan’s development will slip backwards, and its vast potential will be unrealised,” said Helen McElhinney, Oxfam’s policy advisor, in a statement.
Half of South Sudan’s 9.7 million people are facing food shortages – more than double the number last year.
Food and fuel prices are soaring due to poor rains and conflict with Sudan, which has led to closure of their shared border and the shutting down of oil flows. As 98 percent of South Sudan’s revenue comes from oil, the government has been forced to slash much-needed services and investment.
Inflation increased from 21 to 80 percent between February and May. The cost of a 200-litre barrel of fuel, used to pump water for refugees in Jammam camp in Upper Nile State for two days, has increased from $600 to $1,600 since January.
With peace, economic stability and investment, South Sudan could feed itself and become a bread basket for the region, Oxfam says.
Less than 5 percent of its fertile soils are cultivated. In 2008, the South was self-sufficient in cereals for the first time, thanks to good rains and government support.
Over the last year, there has been a 30 to 40 percent increase in admissions to Malakal Hospital, the only referral hospital serving 3 million people in Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile states, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The greatest deterioration has been since April, when border clashes brought former civil war foes Sudan and South Sudan closer to a full-blown war.
“There has been a dramatic rise in child malnutrition admissions over the past three months, since fighting escalated," said Melker Mabeck, head of the ICRC in South Sudan.
"Children are also arriving in a much worse condition."
South Sudan has about 120 medical doctors and just over 100 registered nurses for an estimated population of nearly 9 million people, according to the ministry of health. In Kenya, the ratio of doctors to patients is 10 times better.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls for South Sudan to mark its first anniversary by freeing all unlawfully detained prisoners, guaranteeing freedom of speech and ratifying human rights treaties.
Almost 900 people were killed and 120,000 displaced in inter-ethnic violence in Jonglei state between December 2011 and January 2012.
“The government has yet to demonstrate that it will respond to the violence appropriately by actually identifying and prosecuting those responsible,” HRW’s Africa director, Daniel Bekele, said in a statement.
“The absence of justice contributes to the cycles of attacks and counterattacks across the country.”
HRW also cited the government’s failure to bring to trial Marial Nuor Jok, the former Director of Public Security and the Criminal Investigations Department in South Sudan’s police service for allegedly “disappearing” a civilian, accepting bribes, allowing arbitrary detentions and extorting money.
It also criticised security forces for arresting, harassing and detaining journalists because of what they wrote or said.
The United Nations children’s fund (UNICEF) calls for greater investment in children in South Sudan, which is one of the riskiest places in the world for a child to be born.
Half of South Sudan’s population are under 18 years old.
One in nine dies before their fifth birthday and 20 percent are malnourished. Some 70 percent of children aged 6 to 17 have never set foot in a classroom.
"The children of this country deserve a better future,” said Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF’s representative in South Sudan.
“We need to improve children’s chances to survive beyond their fifth birthday, to have a chance to go to school and to be protected from violence and conflict."
The army’s agreement not to recruit children as soldiers and an increase in access to improved sources of drinking water are among the achievements worth celebrating in Sudan’s first year, UNICEF said.