South Sudan in the grip of an HIV/AIDS epidemic

According to a United Nations report, Southern Sudan is in the midst of an HIV/AIDS epidemic and most of its people are without clean water, sanitation or education services.

The report which is published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said health and education in north Sudan improved slightly in the past 15 years but the situation in the south had deteriorated while the two regions were at war.

In the report contains statistics which are among the first to be published on poverty, health and education in the south of Sudan.

In this area, former rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) fought the north in a 21-year-long civil war.

The UNDP says that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in south Sudan has now moved beyond high-risk groups and into the general population.

The report has charted the progress of the areas controlled by the northern government and the SPLM from 1990, in meeting a set of globally agreed aims known as the Millennium Development Goals.

It seems that as many as 90 percent of people in the south live on less than $1 a day, and 75 percent of children have no access to education.

The UNDP says the situation worsened during the war.

At present malaria counts for 40 percent of all health facility visits in the south, where despite vast water resources, 70 percent of people do not have access to safe water and 85 percent do not have sanitation facilities.

Although Malaria is a major problem, deaths from the disease are not increasing.

Infant mortality rates had fallen slightly, but government spending on health was very low, at around $2.5 per capita in 2000, the U.N. body said.

UNDP officials have reportedly said that much of the data had been collected in difficult circumstances and the organisation was trying to collect more extensive information for another upcoming report.

Although the situation in the northern areas of the country was better, people in rural areas often lived in worse conditions that those in towns and cities.

One glimmer of good news was that the number of undernourished people in the parts of the country led by the northern government fell to 26 percent from 31 percent in 1990, says the report.

But despite primary education being expanded in many areas in the north, overall achievement in basic education is apparently still low.

The UNDP said monitoring of HIV/AIDS in the northern areas was weak.

In January a peace deal officially ended the civil war, which killed around 2 million people, mainly though disease and hunger.

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