The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, created in 2011, has been at war for 3 years. The resulting situation for the civilian population is a lack in supply of food, water, and education.
The two main South Sudanese ethnic groups fighting in the conflict are the Dinka and the Nuer. Ethnic cleansing and mass atrocities have been reported on both sides by the UN, however South Sudanese civilians have been the main targets. The length and intensity of the conflict has led the country to a significant food crisis, and even famine in some regions. According the Global Food Programme, about 2.5 million people have started this year unsure of where their next meal is coming from.
Water and education are also scarce and hard to access. No more than 2% of households have water on the premises while only 55% of the people have access to safe drinking water in their area. Increasing costs of production pushed water providers to produce less and charge more, reducing people’s access to safe water even further. As for education, more than one million primary school aged children, mostly from rural areas, are not in school. A UNICEF report shows that the completion rate in primary schools is less than 10%. The adult literacy rate reaches only 27%, and 70% of children aged 6–17 years have never set foot in a classroom.
These situations are inevitably worsened by the critical refugee crisis. More than two million people have been displaced by either of the two armed ethnic groups by taking away the cattle; jeopardising their farming, access to water and education; and reducing their safety. Children are being abducted and rape is reportedly being used as an arm of war against each ethnic group. The South Sudanese elderly is yet another unsafe group who are incredibly vulnerable to water and food shortage and often facing isolated displacement.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was authorised to consolidate peace and security and to help establish conditions for development. So far, the UK role in UNMISS has been promising, including a new contribution of 370 troops combined to the missions in Somalia and South Sudan. Now, the UK has 342 peacekeeping troops stationed in South Sudan. However, more can still be done in terms of education and peacekeeping to find a long term solution to the ethnic differences dividing the country, and global resources are becoming essential in the country and the surrounding nations, hosting thousands of refugees.
In a country which has been at war for so long, ethnic and economic divides are deep. Actions by the international community must be taken and can have a positive impact on the conflict. We can say with confidence that peacekeeping troops reduce the number of civilian casualties in civil conflicts, and also tend to prolong periods of peace. Today, there is a need for more international resources to be put into education and food and water supplies in South Sudan in order to appease the ethnic tensions. Neutral UN peacekeeping should be used to implement a unifying education system and to enable the creation of a political system better fitted for the country’s challenge.
Regional Officer for the North