Southern Sudan referendum in Juba
Sudan referendum: Separation supporters in Juba, Southern Sudan
Sudan referendum: Separation supporters in Juba, Southern Sudan

A Cambridge aid worker has started an online diary to log progress in the Southern Sudan referendum.

Sara Lukey-Smith works for World Vision and is based in the city of Juba.

Voting in the week-long independence referendum began on 9 January 2011 and will determine whether the north and south should become separate countries.

Ms Lukey-Smith said: "The large numbers returning to their places of origin is straining host communities who already face shortages of food and shelter."

Below is an extract from Sara's blog.


Juba, Southern Sudan: Tuesday 11 January 2011

My name is Sara Lukey-Smith and I have been in Juba working for World Vision for four months now. I'm here at a historic phase - I may witness the creation of a new country right before my very eyes.

Juba's roads were quieter than they had been in days.


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Southern Sudan referendum in Juba
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Sara Lukey-Smith, World Vision
Aid worker Sara Lukey-Smith follows the referendum process in Sudan

Gone were the processing vehicles with their loud music and horns; instead it was time for people to get down to the serious business of voting.

Many got up early to cast their vote, dressed in their Sunday best.

We drove around the town to witness this historic event.

Queues of people snaked around compounds and down streets to take part in this well-ordered process: Checking off against the registration list; having their registration card cut; casting their vote with a thumb print to register either unity or separation; placing their vote in the ballot box and, finally, having their finger dyed with indelible ink.

'Free, fair and peaceful'

On the sidelines electoral observers from various national and international missions congregated, as well as the press.

You might have seen George Clooney, John Kerry or Kofi Annan in the media coverage - all three were in town to witness this event and advocate for a free, fair and peaceful referendum.

That's the city of Juba. Away from the cameras, voting for many will likely entail a lengthy journey to the polling centre on foot or by bike.

The overwhelming majority of the population of Southern Sudan is rural, with just over eight million people living in a huge region.

Distances are vast and infrastructure is sparse. The 50 or so kilometres of surfaced road in Southern Sudan are concentrated in Juba. People are used to travelling considerable distances - whether to fetch water, seek medical help or attend school.

This remoteness poses a considerable challenge to organisations working in Southern Sudan and means that operational costs are some of the highest in the world.

Nevertheless, World Vision has been here for over two decades and now works with communities in seven out of the 10 states.

Whatever the result of the referendum, long after the cameras have moved on, the region will need continued international support to ensure that these rural communities can access basic services such as healthcare and education, so that deaths from preventable illnesses are tackled, children receive quality education and Southern Sudan can develop peacefully.

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