Monday, July 11, 2011

New flag, but little health care

World's newest country having trouble planting crops near the border

Women with crosses rehearse for independence day.

South Sudan may be a wonderful new country, but work for a better future has to be carried out immediately and non-stop.

Father Peter Othow, coordinator of development and aid for South Sudan's Malakal Diocese, said Sudan and South Sudan need to finalize their borders so that people in the border regions can get to work growing crops in the lush fertile region.

As it is, Father Othow said, because Malakal is seen as one of the potential flashpoints along the 2,100-km border with Sudan, people "can't settle, because they feel that anything could happen."

Church programs help communities to be food secure. The U.S. bishops' Catholic Relief Services provides seeds and tools and lessons in agriculture.

South Sudan is one of the least-developed regions in the world. 85 per cent of South Sudan's population of around 8 million is illiterate. Until 2005, Arabic was the language used in schools, but now it is English.

Health services are an urgent priority. There is one government hospital in Malakal, and a Comboni sister runs a clinic outside the town.

According to Doctors Without Borders, 75 per cent of people in South Sudan do not have access to basic health services.

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