Symposium focuses on challenges facing South Sudan

7 August 2013

Mother and child heading to their flooded tukul in South Sudan (Photo: Arsenie Coseac)
Mother and child heading to their flooded tukul in South Sudan (Photo: Arsenie Coseac)

As South Sudan celebrates the second anniversary of independence, it is taking the first steps on the long road towards stability. After two civil wars spread over 40 years that killed more than two million people, the young country now faces the post-war challenges of extreme poverty and disease.

At a symposium to be held at the University tomorrow (Thursday 8 August), leaders from South Sudan and Australia will have the opportunity to discuss its development goals and how Australia can contribute.

Supported by AusAID, the half-day symposium will focus on maternal and child health, food security and education.

Along with speakers from the University, AusAID and Sydney's South Sudanese community, the symposium will be addressed by Professor Aggrey Abate, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Juba, and Dr Samson Baba, Director General of Community and Public Health in South Sudan.

With a population of eight million, South Sudan has a land size and population similar to New South Wales. But almost no one has access to electricity and its maternal mortality rate is 300 times higher than in Australia.

Professor Robert Cumming from the School of Public Health, who is organising the symposium, says that South Sudan is of particular importance to Australia, with South Sudanese refugees making up the largest group of black African residents.

"South Sudanese in Australia are asking what they can do to help their new country," he says. "Some are returning while others want to remain in Australia, but they all want to help build a secure and prosperous South Sudan and we need to develop mechanisms to facilitate this."

Keynote speakers Dr Baba and Professor Abate were both born in South Sudan but became refugees in Uganda during the first civil war. They now have key roles in the development of their new country. Dr Baba was a central figure in the formation of the Ministry of Health, and Professor Abate has been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Juba since 2009. With a background in animal science, Professor Abate has worked in the areas of food security and livestock production.

For more information, contact Professor Robert Cumming.

Contact: Richard North

Phone: 02 9351 3191

Email: 3a115629201a55763a06383106741e2034055c346b090a125a094c