South Sudan needs Marshall-style plan | Letters

Letters
A South Sudanese child at the Bidibidi refugee camp in Imvepi, Uganda. ‘Girls’ education is the single most powerful spur to reducing malnutrition’, writes John Benington. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The continued conflict and the impending famine in parts of South Sudan (Editorial, 13 March) is indeed in danger of increasing the “sense that the situation is beyond hope or resolution”. However, it is simply not true that “the international community has nothing to show for its attempts to engage with the government of South Sudan”. UKAid’s programme Girls Education for South Sudan has been immensely and measurably successful in increasing the numbers of girls attending school.

UN evidence shows that girls’ education is the single most powerful spur to reducing malnutrition, maternal and infant mortality, and promoting social and economic development – as argued powerfully by (unlikely bedfellows) Gordon Brown and Boris Johnson. It is crucial not to postpone investment in education until conflict and famine have been overcome. Our long-term partnership with Ibba Girls Boarding School (IGBS) shows that keeping good schooling going during periods of insecurity can act as a beacon of hope and “normality” for the community, and as a prototype for what peace might look like in practice. The school also grows much of its own food on campus, so is able to keep its students and staff from hunger.

The (former) Western Equatoria state which IGBS serves is a highly fertile, forested, agricultural region, which – with appropriate investment as part of a national plan to diversify the economy away from its current over-dependence upon oil – is quite capable of feeding the whole of South Sudan. Arguably the best way to overcome the conflict and famine in South Sudan and East Africa is for the international community to develop, with the South Sudanese government and partners, a modern Keynesian Marshall plan for investment in education, health, water, sanitation, electricity, roads, internet, skill-training, agriculture and forestry.
Emeritus professor John Benington
Chair of trustees, Friends of Ibba Girls School, South Sudan

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