The United Nations relief chief today wrapped up a two-day visit to southern Sudan by calling on international donors to help the region develop basic education and health-care services and quickly build up its road system as it recovers after two decades of civil war.
John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, met President Salva Kiir and other senior officials in the Government of Southern Sudan, which was set up as a result of the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement that ended the north-south civil war.
Mr. Holmes and Mr. Kiir – who met in Juba – discussed the scale of the south’s continuing development needs, as well as mutual concerns about the full implementation of the peace deal, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Mr. Holmes – who is also the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator – also assured southern Sudanese officials of the UN’s ongoing humanitarian support and urged donors to get behind construction and development initiatives.
Southern Sudan is lacking in basic infrastructure as a result of the prolonged civil war, and Mr. Holmes stressed that the capacity of the Government in the region must be built up so it can take over health-care, education and other services.
“A lot of has been achieved since I was last in Juba less than two years ago, but a huge amount remains to be done,” he said. “The UN must be here for the long haul, to support Government leadership, while the international community as a whole has to keep up its spending. Too much rests on the development of the south and the continued health of the north-south relationship for there to be any other option.”
Health care is a particular concern, with southern Sudan experiencing some of the worst child and maternal health indicators in the world, due in part to exceptionally low immunization rates. One in seven women, for instance, dies as a result of causes related to childbirth.
“It is simply unacceptable in the 21st century that women continue to die in childbirth at such rates, and that children and adults die needlessly of preventable diseases like malaria.
“Distributing mosquito nets to all the population, training enough staff and qualified midwives, and getting them out to the rural communities who are in dire need of primary health care: these must be top priorities.”
Mr. Holmes visited Agok, home to some 30,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled Abyei, a town in an oil-rich area of central Sudan that remains in contention between the north and south despite the peace accord.
During their discussions the Under-Secretary-General and Mr. Kiir also emphasized the importance of a rapid solution to the separate conflict still engulfing the Darfur region of western Sudan.
Members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a notorious rebel group that has waged war against Ugandan Government forces since the mid-1980s and is accused of recruiting children to serve as soldiers or sexual slaves, have long operated out of southern Sudan, which borders Uganda.
Mr. Holmes and Mr. Kiir strongly urged the leadership of the LRA to follow through on promises to sign a peace agreement tomorrow.
The UN relief chief is now in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, for meetings with Government officials, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). He has already visited Darfur and neighbouring Chad on this visit.