Sudan: referendum and recovery

The initial results of the referendum have been announced and it looks like Southern Sudan will gain secession (separation).

However, poverty across Sudan will not disappear and it is important that our work here continues says Mohamed Majzoub Fidiel, Country Director, Practical Action Sudan.

Historically, Practical Action was the first NGO that came to Sudan in 1976 and started work in Juba-South Sudan. Practical Action now works in eastern Sudan in Kassala State, western Sudan in North Darfur State, and in the Blue Nile State.

Unlike other countries, Sudan has much less colonial influence. Private sector development by colonial settlers did not take place to any significant extent which resulted in little agricultural or industrial development. Also, the volume of region trade has not been high and the flow of international development assistance has been reduced recently for political reasons.

The prolonged civil war in the south was a drain human and financial resources. As a result, small scale producers have flourished making use of the restrictions brought by modern development and trade. The small scale producers have and continue to provide the majority of the basic needs (food, shelter and production tools) of the people of Sudan.

Traditional skills have passed down and developed to meet the changing conditions through innovation and adaptation.

There are also very few NGOs working in the field of development in Sudan. Their development assistance remained very low so, there is a role for Practical Action to foster greater communication between those organisations to enhance their impacts.

After the referendum, the needs of the south will be immense. The demand for Practical Action work will increase in terms of infrastructure services, especially shelter, energy and transport. Other means of livelihoods also rank as priority as people in the south live at subsistence level and lots of them live as ‘hunters and gatherers’.

We will observe improvements in the security situation in the south and get involved where we can.

Practical Action may be impacted negatively by the referendum. If the south is separated, donors will increase funds to rebuild the south. Lots of this money will come from the amounts initially allocated for the ‘one country’. Donor countries may go for sanctions against North Sudan as there are some signs of that already. If this happens, donors will fund only emergency relief and maybe some basic services in war affected zones. Opportunities for development will be eliminated and we will have to depend on non-institutional donors again.

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