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Christians in the Muslim World

Solidarity with Southern Sudan

Claudio Lurati

"Solidarity with Southern Sudan and Nuba Mountains" is an initiative born as a response to the invitation of the Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference (SCBC) who, in 2006 called on the Superiors General of religious institutes, to see if they could respond in some way to the rebuilding of society and the church after so many years of devastation and war.


Over fifty religious institutes have decided to join this initiative and provide personnel and resources to meet the challenge: after a visit to Sudan, it was decided that the two areas where the "Solidarity with Southern Sudan and Nuba Mountains" could direct its efforts where Education and Health.


Given the high illiteracy rate (85 %) and the lack of trained teachers (only 6% of teachers currently working have undergone some formal training) "Solidarity with Southern Sudan and Nuba Mountains" together with the SCBC, will establish a Teacher Training College, using a long distance learning model, with a central station in Malakal and secondary stations in each diocese of Southern Sudan.


On the side of health care, surveys show that only 30-40 % of the population of Southern Sudan live within a one-day walk distance from a basic health facility. Which means that two persons out of three need to walk for at least two days to reach a primary health care facility. One of the many consequences of this situation is that the mortality rate for children under the age of 5 years is almost 25%.


"Solidarity with Southern Sudan and Nuba Mountains" and the SCBC have decided to rehabilitate the Health Training Institute (HTI), established in the town of Wau in the 70s. The Wau HTI has not been operating for the last fifteen years. A major partner in the project is Misereor, a German based organization.


The HTI should ensure the training of nurses, mid wives, technicians and community health workers to run the many local facilities that will be re-activated or established in the various parts of the country in the future.


Sr. Esperance Bamiriyo, of the Comboni Sisters, is the liaison officer for the "Solidarity with Southern Sudan and Nuba Mountains" and the SCBC. Congolese by nationality, Sr. Esperance is a trained nurse and served for six years as the project coordinator in the TB/Leprosy Centre of Nzara in Southern Sudan. She is currently based in Wau, where soon she will be "joined by six other sisters - Sr. Esperance explains - from various religious congregations. They are all qualified and in the area of health care and training. This will be the group of trainers responsible for revitalizing the HTI. It is an international group, very rich in experience".


The basic objective of the HTI is "to reach out to the most remote areas of the country." There are many needs in the health care sector of Southern Sudan. Perhaps the greatest need is professionally trained health care personnel. The existing health care facilities and training institutions are neither adequate nor equitably distributed in the ten States of the country. Currently, most of the delivery of health care services is provided by NGOs, with support from international development agencies and foreign governments."


Cooperation and discussion with the government of Southern Sudan is intense, because "there are many issues to be clarified, starting from the question of land ownership, up to the definition of the curricula and the different kinds of qualifications offered by HTI. In August this year the first works of renovations have started and, by the end of the year, the community of sisters should reside in the HTI. In March 2009 we hope to start the courses for the preparatory year."


"I am amazed at the level of cooperation - comments Sr. Esperance - and enthusiasm shown by the all different partners. The needs of Southern Sudan are so big that nobody alone can face them. And training is the best tools to empower the local population and ensure lasting benefits for a nation that has already suffered so much in twenty years of war."