South Sudan Grows Populations, And Face New Problems

Posted: October 31, 2011 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Socio-Cultural

by Frank Langfitt

Lujiazui, Shanghai’s financial district, includes the world’s third- and sixth-tallest buildings. The city’s population is 23 million.

Lujiazui, Shanghai's financial district, includes the world's third- and sixth-tallest buildings. The city's population is 23 million.
Frank Langfitt/NPR

Lujiazui, Shanghai’s financial district, includes the world’s third- and sixth-tallest buildings. The city’s population is 23 million.

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October 31, 2011

NPR’s Frank Langfitt has spent the past year reporting in two countries where the populations and the problems could not be more different: South Sudan and China.

The best way to travel in South Sudan is by plane. That’s because, in a nation nearly the size of Texas, there are hardly any paved roads.

Small planes are a common way to move around South Sudan, which has few paved roads. Many roads are impassable during rain.

Enlarge Frank Langfitt/NPR

Small planes are a common way to move around South Sudan, which has few paved roads. Many roads are impassable during rain.

Small planes are a common way to move around South Sudan, which has few paved roads. Many roads are impassable during rain.
Frank Langfitt/NPR

Small planes are a common way to move around South Sudan, which has few paved roads. Many roads are impassable during rain.

Earlier this year, I flew to Akobo County, near the Ethiopian border. On the hour-plus flight, I saw cattle herders and acacia trees, but mostly empty landscape. There was little sign of the 21st century — or the 20th.

I touched down on a dirt runway in a town of mud and thatched huts. Goi Jooyul Yol, the county commissioner, explained how the lack of infrastructure is holding his people back.

“Akobo is a county that is cut off from the rest of Southern Sudan,” he said. “The only way we reach other counties through the state is through the river. We have a seasonal road right now. As soon it starts raining, everything stops.”

South Sudan is the world’s newest nation and one of its poorest. Its success depends in part on whether it can build enough roads where few exist.

Without tarmac roads, the people of Akobo can’t sell their corn and sorghum to outside markets. So, most of its residents remain subsistence farmers or cattle herders, leaving the government with little way to raise revenue and pay for anything.

Children in South Sudan, one of the world's poorest nations, sit in front of traditional homes made of mud and thatch.

Enlarge Frank Langfitt/NPR

Children in South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest nations, sit in front of traditional homes made of mud and thatch.

Children in South Sudan, one of the world's poorest nations, sit in front of traditional homes made of mud and thatch.
Frank Langfitt/NPR

Children in South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest nations, sit in front of traditional homes made of mud and thatch.

“The operating cost in the county, we cannot make it,” Yol says, “but we do have a lot of potential.”

The population of sub-Saharan Africa is growing faster than any other region on Earth.

South Sudan has more than 8 million people, and it’s been growing in recent years for reasons beyond its fertility rate: Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Sudan’s civil war have returned home.

Akobo’s schools can’t handle the students they already have. The current class size is 200 to 300.

“Some of them don’t fit in the classroom,” Yol says. “They sit under the tree. When I heard it first, I didn’t believe it. But when I went and saw it, it is something mind-boggling.”

China

China is mind-boggling in a completely different way. While South Sudan has very little infrastructure, China has built more infrastructure in recent years than any other country. Some Chinese, though, fear the expansion has been too expensive and too fast.

China is the world’s most populous country with 1.3 billion people. Most of them are crammed along the country’s East Coast.

Despite its ultra-modern skyscrapers and paved streets, some Shanghai residents still transport items on carts.

Enlarge Frank Langfitt/NPR

Despite its ultra-modern skyscrapers and paved streets, some Shanghai residents still transport items on carts.

Despite its ultra-modern skyscrapers and paved streets, some Shanghai residents still transport items on carts.
Frank Langfitt/NPR

Despite its ultra-modern skyscrapers and paved streets, some Shanghai residents still transport items on carts.

You could walk for miles through the Sudanese bush and never see another soul. But in Shanghai, you sometimes have to walk on the street because there’s no room on the sidewalks.

China has slowed population growth by limiting urban families to one child.

Its challenge is moving the mass of people it already has quickly and efficiently.

China came up with one answer nearly a decade ago: a magnetic levitation train to one of Shanghai’s international airports.

The train glides along a rail and covers about 19 miles in around eight minutes.

But few people actually use the train. One passenger, a businessman surnamed Pan from East China’s Shandong Province, explained why.

“The train ticket is expensive, $6,” he said. “You have the subway, it’s cheaper. For less than a dollar, you can get to your destination.”

The Chinese government spent more than $1 billion building Mag-Lev, as it’s known, in 2002. Last year, the train ran at just 20 percent of capacity.

Unlike South Sudan, China has huge financial resources, but the lesson of Mag-Lev is this: You don’t just need money to handle a large population. You need to be careful where you spend it.

China is now focused on building a huge network of high-speed trains.

Chinese rail travel has often been a slow, crowded ordeal, but the bullet trains are changing that. Zheng Zhongyu, an acting student in Shanghai, says trips to Beijing are so much better these days.

“Before the train took 13 hours, now it’s five hours,” says Zheng, waiting outside the Shanghai Railway Station. “When I would take the train home, I couldn’t buy tickets. I’d have to stand the whole night. Now, buying tickets is very convenient.”

But last summer, two bullet trains collided, killing 40 people. The government blamed a lightning strike, but delayed releasing a report.

The crash left many Chinese uneasy. Some feel their government is building too much infrastructure too fast, because it can.

Back in South Sudan’s Akobo County, a problem like that is unimaginable and the needs of the population more basic. What Akobo requires — and is in the process of getting — is just a road people can drive on in the rain.

http://www.npr.org/2011/10/31/141808114/countries-grow-populations-and-face-new-problems

Seven billionth person on earth born today

FamilyGPFamilyGP – Fri, Oct 28, 2011 15:00 BST
Seven billionth person on earth born today
Today, the world’s seven billionth person has been born. It is impossible to say exactly where the seven billionth person on the planet has been born or who they are.
So the United Nations have chosen several newborn babies across the world to symbolically represent the global population milestone, including two baby girls Nargis and Danica who were born in India and the Philippines, respectively.
However, the stark reality is that if a baby girl is born in the developing world, her future is set to be far from rosy.
According to a recent report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) there is a widening gap between boys and girls in these regions of the world.
While they receive the same care and opportunities during early childhood, as they reach adolescence the anomalies in terms of health or education become marked.
“While there is little difference between boys and girls in early childhood with respect to nutrition, health, education and other basic indicators, differences by gender appear increasingly more pronounced during adolescence and young adulthood,” said UNICEF deputy executive director Geeta Rao Gupta.
If the seven billionth child born was a girl in the developed world, for instance in Europe, Japan or the United States, once she becomes a teenager she is likely to receive many of the same opportunities as her male peers.
Her education, health and career prospects may even exceed those of her male counterparts.
But if she is born in a region defined as ‘developing’ she is significantly more likely to be married as a child, less likely to be literate than young men in her country and, shockingly, should she be born in sub-Saharan Africa, is as many as four times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than boys her age.
A World Bank working paper examined the real economic impact of excluding girls from learning or work opportunities.
For instance, just one teenage mother in India can lose $100,000 (£62,052) in potential income over her lifetime, while a single girl in Ethiopia who has dropped out of school can expect to lose the equivalent of two months’ average pay per year.
The financial impacts on the national economies is bigger still: the cost to India of the 3.8 million girls having children at the ages of 15 to 19 is $7.6 billion a year (£4.7 billion) – enough to fill every single car in the US with a full tank of petrol 100 times.
The denial of education to 4.5 million girls in Ethiopia costs the country $582 million (£361 million) a year.
So beyond the headlines about the seven billionth birth – which will come 12 years after the six billionth, a baby boy in Sarajevo – UNICEF chiefs are urging developing countries to improve the education prospects of their female citizens.
Increasing the availability of good and long-term schooling for girls will have a ‘ripple effect’ and help to break the cycle of poverty in those regions.
“Closing gender gaps in all stages of childhood and eliminating gender discrimination – whether against girls or boys – are fundamental to inclusive and sustained progress for countries around the world,” said Rao Gupta.
“In addition to the harmful and often tragic effects of gender inequalities on children themselves, the kinds of persistent inequalities that we continue to see… are major barriers to the efforts of many nations to move out of long-term poverty and achieve their development aspirations.”

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