Monday, October 04, 2010

Akobo, Sudan; formerly the hungriest town in the world

Southern Sudan is about to become the world's newest country. Voting on the referendum is expected to be passed in January 9th. In the meantime, international aid is trying to bring services and jobs to the people until the new government gets up and running. One project that USAid is conducting in the dangerous town of Akobo is seeing some success.

From this Associated Press article that we found at Google News, writer Maggie Fick traveled to Sudan to take a look at the project.

The Akobo projects present just a small sliver of good news in a region beset by poverty. More than 4 million people in Southern Sudan need food aid, and the U.N. estimates that more than 90 percent of the region's 8 million to 13 million people live on less than a $1 day. The literacy rate is 15 percent. Life expectancy is 42 years.

Over the last several months, youth have been making the cement blocks to build a new county headquarters complete with wireless Internet and solar panels paid for by USAID, the U.S. government aid arm. Workers also constructed a courtroom used for weekly sessions convened by traditional chiefs.

The approach pioneered by the U.N. and USAID in Akobo addresses what are viewed as the two key triggers for conflict in the area: disempowered youth who lack educational opportunities but have ready access to weapons, and a fledgling government ill-equipped to deliver services and security across its sprawling terrain.

USAID has spent more than $2 million in Akobo County in the past year, making it the focal point of its efforts to improve community security in the run-up to the January referendum.

Goi, the commissioner, said many community members pitched in last month to help build the fence around the unpaved airstrip. The project, also funded by USAID, was completed within a week.

The top U.S. diplomat in Southern Sudan, Barrie Walkley, said Akobo should be proud of the results.

All of these projects, the officials say, provide incentive for townspeople to improve their lives through paid labor and small business instead of cattle raiding and the armed resolution of disputes.

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