Friday, July 08, 2011

The Abject Poverty of Our Newest Nation, South Sudan

Poverty in South Sudan
This morning I pulled up the nytimes and read, again, about Sudan. I took notice of Sudan when I was in Kenya last fall. Kenyans were concerned about what was going to happen if and when South Sudan became a nation. Tomorrow, Saturday, is Sudan's Independence Day. It will become the world's newest country and Africa's 54th state, and "take its place at the bottom of the developing world."

"A majority of its people live on less than a dollar a day. A 15-year-old girl has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than she does of finishing primary school. More than 10 percent of children do not make it to their fifth birthday. About three-quarters of adults cannot read. Only 1 percent of households have a bank account."

When in Kenya Steve, who hosted and toured me some around Nairobi, told me that, should I get on a public bus, I will smell body odor. Why? Because if you only make a few dollars a day you will not spend it on deodorant.

Beyond the abject poverty, South Sudan "faces several serious insurrections within its own sprawling territory and hostilities with northern Sudan, its former nemesis. It is clearly an underdog story...  More than 2,300 people have been killed in ethnic and rebel violence this year, with at least a half-dozen rebel groups, some with thousands of fighters, prowling the bush, attacking government soldiers, terrorizing civilians, and stealing cattle and even children."

"In most villages, there is no electricity, no running water, no metal even. Barefoot boys dusted with the red dirt stirred up by passing trucks sell bottles of honey along the road. [I saw this many times while traveling through Kenya.] The South Sudan government says 83 percent of its people live in thatched-roof huts, a legacy of decades of marginalization."

In Religion and Poverty: Pan-African Perspectives, Barbara Bailey cites the UNDP's 1997 Human Development Report's distinction between "income-based or consumption-based poverty" and "human poverty or poverty of lives and opportunity." "Poverty" is more than lacking money. It also includes "the lack of opportunity to lead valuable and valued lives due to social constraints as well as personal circumstances. Income and human poverty are therefore inextricably linked and mutually reinforcing." (43)

Dimensions of human poverty include:
  • lack of political freedom
  • inability to participate in decision-making
  • lack of personal security
  • inability to participate in the life of a community
  • threats to sustainability and inter-generational equity
The UNDP includes deprivation in three essential areas of life:
  1. length of life
  2. knowledge
  3. standard of living
Tomorrow South Sudan will be free, an independent nation. But the people, the elderly, the children, South Sudanese fathers and mothers, remain in economic and human bondage.