I am SO grateful to those of you who have donated to my project thus far. As I prepare to travel and after my trip, those of you who have donated will hear much more from me as I write blogs and share my experience. I encourage you to pass on my fundraising page to others! I've been amazed that people who I don't even know have seen my page and donated; I'm feeling very empowered by your trust and energy, and excited for the trip. For reference, here is a map of Africa highlighting South Sudan's location:
And here is a more detailed map of South Sudan, with a red arrow at the top pointing to the Old Fangak region where ASMP works and where I will be visiting:
I couldn't help but think about those less fortunate this week when the the annual Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) checks were disbursed to eligible Alaskans. Many of you who read my blog are friends and family from back home in Alaska who receive this yearly check ($900 this year), which is a distribution of the oil wealth our state enjoys. This check was undoubtedly a needed boost for many families dealing with the high cost of living in Alaska and rising heating and travel costs. As Alaskans debate whether or not to raise or lower oil taxes, and how to best develop our resources and plan for the future, I am reminded of the similar struggle happening in South Sudan.
Last month, two oil fields in South Sudan came back 'on line', 21 months after they were shut down. South Sudan’s Petroleum Minister said the reopening of the fields will not only lead to an increase in oil production but also signaled a warming of relations with Sudan. According to the Oil & Gas Journal, Sudan and South Sudan have 5 billion barrels of proved crude oil reserves as of January 1, 2013. According to BP's 2013 Statistical Review, approximately 3.5 billion barrels are in South Sudan and 1.5 billion barrels are in Sudan.
I hope that the development of these resources can be a force for development in South Sudan, rather than a catalyst for division and fighting over borders and wealth-sharing between the north and the south. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, South Sudan is just over two years old - having declared independence from the north in July 2011. Last month in New York City at the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting, South Sudan's Vice President James Wani Igga spoke to delegations on his country's relations with Sudan. Igga said that it has been “a mixture of cooperation and squabbles” but acknowledged that there is “no alternative to lasting peace other than harmony and cooperation.”