ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, May 25, 2005 (PANA) -- Before the signature ink dries on the comprehensive peace pact between the Government of Sudan and the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army, residents of the war-ravaged southern part of the country are expressing disappointment.
A four-year-old Sudanese boy collapses from hunger at a feeding centre run by medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres in the village of Paliang, about 160 km northwest of the southern town of Rumbek, May 25, 2005. (Reuters).
According to an international development consultant working in the area, Njunga M. Mulikita, the general public complaint is that they are not experiencing the peace dividend in tangible terms.
"When UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan tours Southern Sudan this weekend, he is likely to be greeted by crowds of people crying out for water wells, schools for their children and health facilities," Mulikita told PANA.
There is practically no infrastructure in southern Sudan. Everything was destroyed during the two decades of war between the Khartoum government and the SPLM/A.
Aid workers in the region were of the opinion that Annan's visit to Rumbek, the provisional capital of the SPLM/A should galvanise the international community to support the peace deal through a massive recovery and reconstruction programme.
"In my travels throughout Southern Sudan, the people I spoke with said they were simply tired of assessments carried out by UN agencies and NGOs.
"In one settlement, Koch, in the Upper Nile region, which I visited last month, the scarcity of water was so acute that over half of the women were suffering from severe diarrhoea.
"In another settlement, Kapoeta, which is not very far from the northern Kenyan town of Lokichokkio, recovery is hampered by anti-personnel and anti-tank mines because some of the heaviest fighting took place there," Mulikita explained.
Against this background, the incoming Government of Southern Sudan, to be formed by the SPLM/A faces huge challenges in addressing humanitarian, recovery and developmental needs of a war-weary population.
Presently, there is a massive influx of displaced persons who are going back to Southern Sudan.
However, officials in run-down municipalities such as Kapoeta, Koch, and Mayom wonder how the returnees would be accommodated given the devastated infrastructure.
"In Koch we were asked when we would arrange for a new well to be sunk to alleviate the suffering of women who must wake up as early as 03:00 hours to collect water.
"Water shortage in Koch is so acute that fights periodically break out at the settlement's sole water point," said Mulikita.
On this account, it is the hope of many people in Southern Sudan that Annan's forthcoming visit will draw international attention to the extreme humanitarian and developmental situation in the area.
Southern Sudanese want to see the pledges made at the Oslo donor conference being translated into improved water availability and living standards for women and children in all war-shattered settlements.