Women hold crosses as they march during a rehearsal of the Independence Day ceremony in Juba last summer. South Sudan split away from the north July 9, 2011, to create Africa's newest nation after southerners voted for secession under terms of a peace deal reached in 2005 to end a north-south civil war.
REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic, courtesy the Thomson Reuters Foundation – AlertNet
By David Tereshchuk*
July 2, 2012—Independence Day is coming – and not only in the US.
July 9 marks the first anniversary of South Sudan’s existence as an independent country, finally separate from Khartoum-ruled Sudan after a long, bloody war.
The fledgling nation is beset by many challenges, not least of course, those resulting from the years of conflict (which disturbingly flare up again at times even today).
And inevitably, UMCOR is closely involved, having become busy there in response to turbulent crisis conditions during the separatist war. In fact, South Sudan operations began for UMCOR back in 2006, and have expanded substantially.
There are now three South Sudan offices: in the capital, Juba (UMCOR’s central office, established shortly after independence); in Aweil, close to the still-troublesome Sudanese border; and in Yei in the southwest, bordering both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
Currently, UMCOR oversees aid programs amounting to $3.2 million and originating from a range of sources. These sources include USAID (through its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance), the European Commission, the US State Department (through its Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration), various United Nations agencies, some private grants, Ginhamsburg United Methodist Church, Holston Annual Conference, and of course, the generosity of individual United Methodists and others.
While UMCOR once concentrated on meeting immediate needs for the many thousands of displaced people in South Sudan, internally and from across borders, nowadays its programs embrace a broad range of services. The work includes developing better food security and livelihoods; children’s and adults’ education; water, sanitation and hygiene projects; and health promotion in general.
In the Yei area, for instance, a program with the support of European Commission funding aimed at improving food security is achieving great impact—and taking traditional agriculture in some innovative directions. UMCOR’s program officer for the country, Kathryn Paik, reports: “It seems to be highly successful in the local communities.”
The area has long cultivated coffee, a cash crop, and cassava. UMCOR’s program is now working with local people to promote improved varieties of cassava and—in a wholly different realm of food production—fish farming as well.
Success brings its challenges, too, as the program in Yei is getting over-subscribed by farmers who want to enroll. In order to scale up and meet the growing demand, UMCOR is moving to reinforce its funding base –and so improve its much-needed management and logistical support for programs like Yei’s.
Your gift to Sudan Emergency, UMCOR Advance #184385 will help the process continue in South Sudan and help bolster the young nation. Please select South Sudan from the drop-down menu.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst and a regular contributor to umcor.org.