On 9 July 2011, HART staff witnessed South Sudan become the newest nation on earth. The referendum had taken place in January 2011, and produced an overwhelming result in favour of independence, with 98.83% voting for separation from the north.
However, decades of civil war had decimated South Sudan’s infrastructure, prevented development and deprived generations of children of an education.
In December 2013, conflict erupted once more in South Sudan, triggered by a political dispute within the ruling party. Despite remarkable efforts by local organisations, civil society, churches and many others to promote peace and reconciliation, the conflict has continued to date.
The impact on civilians has been devastating. An estimated 50-100,000 people have been killed. 1.5 million have been internally displaced and a further 546,000 have fled to neighbouring countries. Horrific human rights abuses have been committed by both sides, including killings based on perceived ethnic or political affiliation, sexual violence, abductions and the forced recruitment of children. Nearly three million people are experiencing severe food insecurity, and an estimated one in three children is malnourished.
Access to education in South Sudan is severely limited. The conflict has set this back even further, with around 400,000 children forced to drop out of school because of the fighting. Only one in 100 children finishes secondary school. For girls, the picture is even worse. South Sudan has the world’s highest maternal mortality rate and lowest female literacy rate, and a girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than complete primary education.
A team from HART visited South Sudan in January 2015. We met with a number of those who have been displaced by conflict, and witnessed the devastating humanitarian situation that they are now facing.
A report will be available shortly.