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Franco-German development aid

A first in South Sudan

by Peter Hauff

In brief

Plenty of oil, little water in Juba: Men transporting Nile water

Plenty of oil, little water in Juba: Men transporting Nile water

In the newly created South Sudan, French development agency AFD and Germany’s BMZ are bundling their resources to support a partner country’s water sector for the first time. After a 20-year civil war, experts fear an avalanche of donors. Germany and France want to set an example of donor harmonisation.

Since South Sudan declared its independence as the most recent African state on 9 July, its independent government has been looking for its own way. While tensions between the Christian and Muslim communities marked Sudan’s decades of civil war, the core challenge now is water scarcity. Only 29 % of the citizens of South Sudan have access to safe drinking water, and only five percent use sanitary facilities. The misery is the worst in cities, where only one out of seven citizens have a water tap where they live.

For the first time, France and Germany are bundling their funding and efforts to improve access to drinking water in a partner country. Diplomats from Paris and Berlin signed the agreement on the eve of the Declaration of Independence in Juba, the new capital of South Sudan. In addition to clean drinking water, German aid will also tackle waste disposal. “It matters a lot that the international community reach a good division of labour in South Sudan,” says Germany’s Development Minister Dirk Niebel. In July, he warned that a wave of donors could overburden the young state and called on the EU to coordinate measures.

South Sudan suffered war for more than 20 years. The country needs to be renewed from the ground up – and that includes mindsets. The international community is offering support. Thanks to the support of UNICEF more than 300,000 people are to get access to clean drinking water and be instructed in hygiene this year. In South Sudan, UNICEF is also investing in education to keep the peace over the long-term. Schools are being built and repaired, notebooks and satchels are being handed out to children, and teachers are being retrained.

A number of questions remain to be solved by the two Sudans. The sharing of profits from oil exports is especially controversial. Oil is mainly found in the South, while it is exported via the North. Sharing of Nile water and exact borders need to be agreed on. Welthungerhilfe, a German non-governmental aid agency, says the situation is dramatic for some 300,000 people who returned from the North last October. Many refugees live in complete destitution on the outskirts of villages. They have no homes, no land and no jobs. The status of southern Sudanese refugees in the North, some of whom have been there for decades and do not wish to return, also remains to be addressed. (ph)