South Sudan services must reach women and girls, UNDP chief says
Washington — The world’s newest country has made progress in delivering social services since it declared independence in July, but South Sudan has much work ahead and needs international support, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark said.
“Vibrant economies need healthy, educated people,” she told the International Engagement Conference for South Sudan here, noting the importance of education, sanitation, basic health care, and a cash transfer system.
“Social services must reach women and girls,” she said. “South Sudan has some of the lowest levels of human development in the world.”
“It is important to acknowledge that progress is already being made. During the period of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the number of children attending school doubled. More people now have access to safe water and sanitation than at any point in South Sudan’s history,” Helen Clark said. “Institutions are being established, roads are being opened, and communities and citizens everywhere are contributing, helping to construct social infrastructure and expand markets.”
“But a great deal remains to be done. According to the South Sudan Development Plan, only 13 percent of the population has access to basic healthcare, and the ratio of primary school pupils to qualified teachers is a staggering 111 to 1. The maternal mortality rate is three times higher than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa,” she said. “It is imperative that South Sudan is supported now.”
President says South Sudanese are defining their country
Two million Sudanese nationals who have returned home since the end of a long-running civil war is further stretching government capacity.
The new government in Juba, with international support, “now needs to pursue new and innovative ways of delivering services, make tough choices, and take quick action,” Helen Clark said.
Helen Clark was moderating a panel on Integrated Social Service Delivery at the International Engagement Conference for South Sudan, convened by the US Agency for International Development.
UNDP is one of a number of international and national agencies operating in the landlocked country, focusing on democratic governance, alleviating poverty, preventing crises, and enabling recovery.
Earlier in the day, South Sudan President Salva Kir called for a “prosperous, productive, peaceful country.”
“After 50 years of struggle, the people of South Sudan have defined the type of nation they want to be,” Kir said, based on principles of good governance, transparency, accountability, rule of law, and respect for human rights.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cautioned that South Sudan retains “a combustible mix” of ethnic tensions, extreme poverty, and natural wealth, requiring policies that favor “broad, inclusive, and sustainable” growth.
UNDP’s work is focused on professionalizing the public service, strengthening management of public resources, improving security and rule of law. Last year it placed more than 120 experts at all levels of government to support essential functions.
UNDP also provided major support to the January 2011 referendum on the country’s independence through a US$61 million fund for ballots, voter education, and registration of 3.9 million voters.
South Sudan’s population voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum held under the terms of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the decades-long civil war between the North and the South.