National Launch of the first Africa Human Development Report

May 23, 2012

Juba: UNDP South Sudan launched the first Africa Human Development Report 2012: Towards a Food Secure Future on 22 May 2012.  Globally launched last week in Nairobi with His Excellency President Kibaki of the Republic of Kenya and Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, the Report focused on food security, as a primary and fundamental challenge to human development for the Africa region as a whole.

Currently, in South Sudan 4.7 million people are at risk of food insecurity.  Throughout the continent, between 2006 and 2008, 218 million people or 1 in 4 Africans were undernourished, and facing a precarious food security situation, including 55 million children.  Food insecurity is a serious problem that not only devastates families and communities but leaves a legacy with future generations, which impairs livelihoods and undermines human development.  “Of all the development challenges, the one that threatens development and progress the most is food insecurity” stated Ms. Lise Grande, Deputy Special Representative to the Secretary General, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, and UNDP Resident Representative, in her opening remarks to the forum.  She added “Hungry children with weakened immune systems die prematurely from treatable diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.  They start school late, learn less and drop out early.  Mothers run a greater risk of dying in childbirth.   In South Sudan, one out of every seven children will die before their fifth birthday.”

The Africa Human Development Report was launched nationally by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Cooperatives and Rural Development, Honourable Betty Achan Ogwaro and Lise Grande DSRSG/RC/HC/UNDP RR in the presence of senior government officials from Ministries and Commissions, Donors, UN agencies, civil society representatives and the media.

Presented in the Report are a number of key findings, including the two disturbing paradoxes: first, recent economic progress in Africa has not had a commensurate impact on malnutrition, and second, food insecurity exists despite abundant natural resources.  Ms. Lise Grande DSRSG/RC/HC/UNDP RR underscored the context of this first paradox in South Sudan “Here in South Sudan, we see that despite independence and greater investment from abroad, food insecurity – presently at 4.7 million people – is at its highest level since the CPA was signed in 2006.”  Moreover, the Report contends that food insecurity is due to misguided policies, weak institutions and failing markets, not because there is not enough food.  The report also highlights how food insecurity is biased towards women and the rural poor.

The Report argues that interventions focused solely on agriculture will not end food insecurity.  Rather, new approaches are necessary that cross multiple sectors, including rural infrastructure development, strengthening of the health sector, new forms of social protection and empowerment of local communities and women.  The Report presents four broad policy areas, which are relevant for South Sudan, and which can propel South Sudan from the current low state of human development and high food insecurity towards a future that is food secure with higher human development:

1.Improve agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner that increases food production and generates employment both on and off the farm;

2.Promote nutrition among mothers and children to stop the long-lasting effects of malnutrition;

3.Enhance the resilience of families and communities by implementing social protection programmes, such as cash transfer programmes;

4.Empower the rural poor and women by providing access to information, markets and knowledge in order to unleash their transformative power.

Dr. Billy Berto Madison, Professor of Social and Economic Studies at the University of Juba, who participated as a panellist at the launch, emphasized the importance of a cross-cutting policy approach.  “We are all aware that economic growth is not enough to address the multi-faceted nature of poverty and human development.  However, a direct attack on rural poverty through accelerated agricultural development is an imperative if we are to close the food security gap in South Sudan and thus raise the living standards of the people.  This cannot be accomplished by one ministry, but must be recognised as a broader development issue requiring a multi-sector approach.”

Representatives of the key UN agencies addressing food security, WFP and FAO, together with USAID outlined some of the key issues and support that they are providing in South Sudan.  Their comments highlighted that food security is not a narrow issue for one line ministry or specific UN agency, but should be at the centre of the national development debate.  If crops cannot reach markets, then raising agricultural productivity will not be effective.  Increasing agricultural productivity must be part of coordinated policy interventions that encompass a range of development actions – enhancing nutrition, building better infrastructure, managing land resources fostering resilience and encouraging systems of governance that foster empowerment of women and vulnerable communities. 

UNDP has been supporting the Government to build these capacities and ultimately its resistance to food insecurity.  “We at UNDP are committed to helping the Republic of South Sudan realize a food secure future” said George Conway, Country Director, a.i.  “Working in partnership with our sister agencies in the UN Country Team, including FAO, WFP, UNICEF and others, UNDP will support Government in integrating the issues of agricultural productivity and food security into the national development debate.”

The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Cooperatives and Rural Development, the Honourable Betty Achan Ogwaro, was the keynote speaker at the event and highlighted that fact that the food security gap in South Sudan is really a cereal shortage of maize and sorghum.  She stressed the importance of food security to promote development as well as peace and stability in South Sudan.  Citing her vision of agricultural training centres and agriculture extension workers, she discussed policies to foster the livelihoods of small holder farmers.  In particular, Minster Ogwaro underscored the importance of women in the food security debate.  “Women’s empowerment is not just for the farm, but for them to recognize that they need food.”  Often women forgo food for the sake of their children and other family members.  The Minister closed the launch saying “We need to think together, not separately” and urged Government, development partners and donors to coordinate their initiatives and make food security a national priority.

Contact information

For further information, please contact: Marguerite Nowak, Communications Officer, United Nations Development Programme, South Sudan Cell: 00211 95619 1254