Raising the South Sudan Flag, from Reuters

In just under an hour, South Sudan will officially become the world’s newest independent state.  For many, independence will fulfill a decades-long dream and the culmination a struggle that began shortly after Sudan’s independence from the United Kingdom.  However, there are still many challenges ahead for both the country and its older adults.

At independence, South Sudan will likely emerge as one of the youngest countries in the world.  While statistics are hard to come by, the region is among the poorest in the world, has very little access to healthcare and housing, has been plagued by years of civil war, and is  currently in the mists of both on-going border clashes and a drought that is having devastating effects across Eastern Africa.  None of these conditions encourage living to old age.   In fact, a BBC picture report states that, “anyone over the age of 50 is considered old” and that many older South Sudanese struggle to feed themselves and their grandchildren. 

The Southern Sudan Older People’s Organization (SSOPO), a local NGO that cares for the aged, identifies prevailing “negative attitudes,” together with “poverty, poor housing, lack of adequate food and nutrition and physical disabilities” as leading to widespread suffering among the country’s older adults.  It adds that the facts that “the government has no policy to cater the needs of [older] people” and the “lack of active older activists” as further complicating the situation.

IAHSA hopes that South Sudan’s independence serves as an opportunity to bring peace to the region, and to improve the daily lives of South Sudan’s older adults and society at large. While likely taking several years or decades, improvements in public health, housing, sanitation and prosperity will likely result in the gradual ageing of South Sudan’s population.  Ageing can thus serve as a signal that independence has benefited the people of South Sudan.

For more information:

AlertNet

The Economist

The Associated Press

BBC News

Advertisements