South Sudan: Reflections on one year after independence | Lise Grande

11 Jul 2012

Computer training programme for women in South Sudan. Photo: UNDP South Sudan. Computer training programme for women in South Sudan. Photo: UNDP South Sudan.

This has been an impressive year, but a difficult one. Let’s first recognize South Sudan’s achievements. South Sudanese are building their country from scratch. During the six-year Comprehensive Peace Agreement period, South Sudanese made huge progress.

Nowhere else have so few people working from such a low base done so much. 29 ministries, 21 commissions, ten state governments, a national parliament and ten state legislatures were established. More than two million people returned to South Sudan, the number of children attending primary school tripled, measles was reduced from epidemic levels and 6,000 kilometers of roads were opened, connecting major cities and towns.

Despite this progress, the state building exercise facing South Sudan is the largest of this generation. The human development indicators are amongst the worst in the world, with 80 percent of the population living on the equivalent of less than 1 USD a day. 4.7 million people are estimated to be food insecure this year. Less than half of the civil servants have the qualifications needed for their post. Much more needs to be done to ensure that proposed measures of accountability and transparency deter any mismanagement of public resources.

During this first year of statehood, the UN agencies have been working hard, standing with the world’s newest nation as it puts in place the building blocks of statehood.

More than 100 UN Volunteer specialists and 200 civil servants from neighbouring countries are being deployed to public sector offices, agencies and ministries to provide direct and on-the-job mentoring of South Sudanese civil servants.

To tackle maternity mortality, which is among the highest in the world in South Sudan, the first College of Nursing and Midwifery has opened and dozens of UN Volunteer midwives from neighbouring countries are embedded in health systems to provide mentoring support to community midwives.

In support of improved child health, over three million children have been vaccinated against polio and more than 600,000 children have been vaccinated against measles. In support of education, 30 new primary schools and four new secondary schools are under construction.

As the UN Secretary-General said at the country’s independence, the road to peace and prosperity has been well traveled but there is still a long way to go.  The UN agencies have been part of the journey and are going to stay the course—helping to reduce poverty, helping to promote good governance, helping to redistribute wealth and create equality, helping to protect liberty and freedom, and helping to promote fraternity and partnerships in the region.

Talk to us: What is your message for the people of South Sudan as they celebrate one year of independence?

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