A month after taking up my new role as Minister for Africa in the Department for International Development, I’m currently on my first trip to the continent – South Sudan, via an overnight stop in Kenya.
Though I’ve actually been to Africa in my role as International Champion for Tackling Violence against Women Overseas, a role I’ve held since soon after the Coalition was formed, I’m anxious to see first-hand the work that DFID does toward alleviating suffering, bettering people’s lives and working with partner governments to improve their ability to function more effectively.
South Sudan – where I’ll be spending the next few days – is the world’s newest country, gaining independence from Sudan in July 2011. It was a long road to independence, and unfortunately it’s another long road ahead to stability.
Years of civil war have left South Sudanese society deeply fragmented. Their government is currently facing multiple humanitarian crises – hundreds of thousands of internally displaced, hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing fighting in the north, and yet more thousands affected by seasonal floods. And, shockingly, a 15 year old girl is more likely to die in childbirth than complete secondary education.
It puts our economic and inequality troubles into perspective.
* Lynne Featherstone is a minister at the Department for International Development and blogs at www.lynnefeatherstone.org.