On 9 July 2011, HART staff witnessed South Sudan become the newest nation on earth. Ever since the overwhelming result in favour of independence, 98.83% of those that voted did so for separation from the north, South Sudan has not been so united and since 2013 has instead been stuck in a bitter civil war.
Following decades of civil war that decimated South Sudan’s infrastructure, prevented development and deprived generations of children of an education, independence gave the nation and the world hope for stability in the region. This was not to be so.
In December 2013, conflict erupted once more in South Sudan, triggered by a political dispute within the ruling party. Despite remarkable efforts by local organisations, civil society, churches and many others to promote peace and reconciliation, the conflict has continued to date.
The impact on civilians has been devastating. An estimated 300,000 people have been killed, 1.9 million have been internally displaced and a further 2.1 million have fled to neighbouring countries. Horrific human rights abuses have been committed by both sides, including killings based on perceived ethnic or political affiliation, sexual violence, abductions and the forced recruitment of children. It is estimated 7 million are in need of humanitarian assistance with 5.1 million people severely food insecure with risks of a return to famine in multiple locations across the country.
Access to education in South Sudan is severely limited. The conflict has set this back even further, 2 million children are out of school – the highest number ever. 30% of primary schools have suffered at least one or more attacks since December 2013, with 48% no longer operating. For girls, the picture is even worse. South Sudan has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rate and lowest female literacy rate, and a girl in South Sudan is more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than complete primary education.