Editorial and commentary

What happened to road rehabilitation?

By Opio Jackson

In November 2018, the Kingdom of Netherlands donated €8 million equivalent to US$ 9 million for road rehabilitation and maintenance in Equatoria region.

The money was received by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to improve smallholder farmers’ access to markets by rehabilitating and maintaining roads in Equatoria over the next four years.

The project, which was aligned to the WFP was supposed to improve 250 kilometers of roads, assuring year-round access to more than 20 markets for 10,000 smallholder farmers and residents at the same time. It was to connect people to clinics and other necessities and open up land to agriculture in Eastern and Western Equatoria states which have been cut off due to poor roads.

The road work was designed to provide casual employment opportunities for more than 450 local youth and women as well as enhancing community participation through Road Maintenance Groups.

However, it is now over four months since the grant signing ceremony was held in Juba not even a single road work has begun neither in Eastern nor Western Equatoria states respectively. According to the funding allocated for roads, Magwi County of Torit state and Yambio County of Gbudue state were among the list of the beneficiaries.

Up to date the roads leading to Mawgi County through Agoro and Amee likewise to those roads leading to Yambio are still in their old shapes while the raining season has already begun which I doubt whether the road rehabilitation will kick off this year.

Notwithstanding, it is the sole responsibility of the government to ensure that roads are accessed by the citizens but in a situation where donation has been given in the name of the citizens. The government has the right to ensure that the citizens get that service.

It is now the responsibility of the Ministry of Roads and Bridges to make a follow up in this particular project to ensure that other donations including the US $ 9 million from the Netherlands have served its purpose.

The roads in Equatoria region if well maintained could help to boost agricultural produce in the country as well as fight against food insecurity. The region is rich with fertile soils and endowed with abundance rainfall, but agricultural production remains low due to poor infrastructures.

The media have reported on several donations made by the foreign countries through the NGOs and UN agencies to support the people of South Sudan but in reality less has been done with that money. Because you don’t see a single contribution of those projects benefiting the lives of the ordinary people.

The donor countries should also ensure that their money made an impact on the lives of ordinary citizens.

Netherlands has been at the forefront of the development and emergency response in South Sudan. Since 2012, Netherlands provided US$18.5 million for road works. In 2016 and 2017, the country supported WFP’s emergency response, contributing more than US$7.6 million to help, saving lives of those who were hit by hunger among the most vulnerable. The latest contribution brings a total support from Netherlands through WFP, South Sudan to more than US$35 million.

In this case, I am not focusing at a particular institution, but all NGOs who are providing services to the people of South Sudan must hold the principle of transparency and accountability. They should ensure that they deliver what they promised and intend to do and implement their project.

It is true that the NGOs programs do not lead to sustainable development as they tend to focus only on emergency response. The emergency response has made most people vulnerable in this country and lazy to produce their own food.

You cannot fight hunger through delivery of a ready food items instead you have to develop physical infrastructures and distribute agricultural inputs/tools to the farming community.

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