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After 21 years of war, the children of Southern Sudan need more than a lifeline

© UNICEF/HQ 04-0275/Nesbitt
Girls assemble in queues around a Sudanese flag, outside their thatched-roof school in the Kassab IDP camp near the town of Kutum, 116 km from El Fasher, capital of North Darfur.

NAIROBI/RUMBEK, 16 June 2004 - A girl born in southern Sudan has a better chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth than of completing primary school. To put it another way, one in nine women dies in pregnancy or childbirth but only one in a hundred girls completes primary school.

Some 95,000 under-fives are estimated to have died last year in southern Sudan (population 7.5 million), most of preventable disease. The total death toll of under fives in the world's 31 industrialised countries (with a combined population of 938 million) was 76,000, according to UNICEF.

These are just some of dozens of alarming new statistics about women and children in the troubled region highlighted in a new study supported by UNICEF. The 71-page publication, "Towards a Baseline: Best Estimates of Social Indicators for Southern Sudan", is published by the New Sudan Centre for Statistics and Evaluation (NSCSE) in association with UNICEF and is published today to mark the Day of the African Child.

The report reviews numerous surveys conducted in southern Sudan during recent years and compares them with models and figures from neighbouring countries and official statistics from the rest of Sudan. The indicators presented include: demographics; education; child and maternal mortality; water and sanitation; health and nutrition.

After 21 years of war, southern Sudan ranks the worst place in the world for many key indicators of women and children's wellbeing, including its rates of chronic malnutrition, primary school completion, immunisation and antenatal care. The state of southern Sudan's women and children is shocking.

As the Sudan peace process approaches its final stage, UNICEF urges donors, non-governmental agencies, southern Sudanese civil society and the de facto governing authorities of southern Sudan to make children's survival and healthy development their top priority. "We know we can make huge improvements in the lives of Sudan children if the peace process is a success. This generation might be the lucky ones", said Bernt Aasen, UNICEF chief of operations for southern Sudan.

Southern Sudan has suffered severely in the civil war between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) from widespread loss of life, population displacement, food insecurity, ill health and chronic underdevelopment. The net result is that children in SPLM-controlled southern Sudan, who form more than half the population (3.9 million of an estimated total 7.5 million in 2003) face multiple threats to their healthy development while their rights are neglected wholesale.

A census is planned for the interim period following a peace agreement which would provide a baseline for planning and monitoring social progress. Until that census is performed, "Towards a Baseline" provides a much-needed starting point for planning future national and international assistance, which is expected to grow massively after the conclusion of a comprehensive peace agreement.

The NSCSE is a technical wing of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). UNICEF has played the leading role in Operation Lifeline Sudan, a multi-agency humanitarian operation on both sides of the Sudan conflict since 1989.

For 2004, UNICEF appealed for $47.2 million for activities in southern Sudan and other SPLM-controlled areas of which less than one quarter has been funded so far. Nevertheless, in the first quarter, UNICEF, working with partners, built 131 single room schools for girls; delivered basic drugs for over two million people and installed or repaired clean water supplies for 225,000. Apart from supporting the provision of basic social services such as these, UNICEF activities include advocacy and promotion of children’s and womens’ rights; policy and institutional development; capacity building; coordination; and management of common services for the humanitarian community in southern Sudan.

The document is available online. [pdf]
If you would like a PDF copy emailed to you, please contact Florence Kimanzi (fkiimanzi@unicef.org)

For further information, contact:

Ben Parker, UNICEF Southern Sudan Communication Officer: +882 165 51021610 (Rumbek, southern Sudan)

Ed Madinger, UNICEF Southern Sudan Senior Programme Officer +254 20 622424 (Nairobi, Kenya)

Luka Biong Deng, Executive Director, New Sudan Centre for Statistics and Evaluation +882 1651117635 or +254 722 888135




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