Editor's note: South Sudan, a region left devastated by decades of civil war, held a referendum last January in which voters decided to split from the northern part of the country and become an independent state.
Preparations are in full swing for festivities to mark the upcoming independence of South Sudan. The mood is upbeat. On July 9, some 30 heads of state will travel to Juba, the acting capital city, to witness the birth of this new country.
The history behind this event
The region's path to independence was preceded by 21 years of conflict between rebels in the South and the government based out of Khartoum, Sudan's capital city in the North. This created a massive humanitarian crisis, with large populations displaced and left without access to essentials.
The people of South Sudan celebrate preliminary results of the referendum in Juba on January 30, 2011. ©2011 Abraham Nhial/World Vision
In 2005, a peace deal was signed that ended hostilities and stipulated a referendum by which the South would vote on its independence. This past January, South Sudanese voters overwhelmingly chose to separate from the North. This will officially take place in July.
The people of South Sudan respond to change
Already, cleaning efforts are being led by the Ministry of Health, particularly in Juba. A committee has been appointed here to improve hygiene standards, clearing dumpsites in the city and its environs.
The streets are visibly cleaner -- mountains of garbage have been flattened, and food stalls and makeshift markets along the roads have been demolished to make more room. Roads are being constructed, and bridges mended.
Children, too, welcome the upcoming independence. It is exciting to see them clustered in school and church compounds, rehearsing patriotic tunes with the help of a marching band. They shout chants of “freedom!”
At Juba One Primary School, just next to World Vision's South Sudan office, children’s voices reverberate as they recite poems about their aspirations for the new nation.
Their words are profound: “Our beloved mother land, we pray that children will be safe. We want schools so that we can learn and become successful people in society; hospitals, so that children will not die from disease.”
People wait as the Southern Sudan preliminary results are announced on January 30, 2011. ©2011 Abraham Nhial/World Vision
The condition of South Sudan's infrastructure, and what World Vision is doing
It's obvious that basic infrastructure in South Sudan is dilapidated, having been destroyed by the many years of fighting. The two-decade-long civil war left many children in the region displaced, orphaned, and neglected, with limited access to security, food, healthcare, and education. Despite these challenges, children believe the new nation comes with fresh opportunities for them to thrive.
These are the humanitarian challenges World Vision will continue to address as it serves the communities of South Sudan. With the anticipation of a new nation, our national office is aligning its strategy with the government’s development plan. The plan serves as a blue print toward fighting poverty and achieving economic growth in the country’s 10 states.
With the help of World Vision's efforts, an independent South Sudan presents an opportunity to fill in gaps in the areas of health, water, and sanitation. Currently, about 80 percent of the population lacks access to any toilet facility, according to the World Bank.
As South Sudan celebrates its new identity, statistics like this illustrate the need for partners like World Vision to walk with the people to ensure sustainable development on all fronts.
How to help
Make a one-time gift to World Vision's Sudan Relief Fund. Your donation will help deliver life-saving assistance, such as food, clean water, healthcare, shelter, and more to children and families suffering from extreme poverty in this region.