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Southern Sudan’s children – preparing for an uncertain future

These are important times in southern Sudan.  The world is looking on as this Sunday’s referendum on self-determination approaches.  Tens of thousands of people are on the move and emergency response plans are being put into action to assist the huge inflow of vulnerable people.

We’ve written a short briefing on the situation and how it affects children – check it out here.

I was in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, before Christmas and spoke to many Sudanese about their hopes and fears.  People talked a lot about the referendum, but they also told me that their main wish – more than anything else – is for peace and a real chance to develop and prosper.

Southern Sudan is one of the poorest and least developed places in the world.  Conditions for children are shocking.  Despite improvements over the last six years, one out of every seven children still dies before their fifth birthday.  Malnutrition rates in some areas are well above levels normally only seen in disasters, leading to stunted growth and life-long underdevelopment.

Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, southern Sudan will continue to need serious international engagement for many years to come – and its future will depend in large part on the opportunities made available to children today.

Education is vital.  This means building schools, training teachers and providing good quality alternative basic education for the thousands of children who have missed out on formal schooling.

Support is also needed to implement Southern Sudan’s 2008 Child Act, which contains comprehensive provisions to ensure the rights and protection of children.

And governments, donors and international organisations must prioritise building a permanent health workforce, particularly recruiting, training and retaining local frontline healthcare providers in rural areas.

For more detailed analysis and recommendations on how to ensure a brighter future for southern Sudan’s children, please take a look at our briefing here.

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