South Sudan can cope without oil, says Vice-President Machar

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Media captionRiek Machar: "We hope within 30 months maximum, the oil revenue will flow again"

South Sudan will survive despite halting its vital oil production in a dispute with Sudan, the country's Vice-President Riek Machar has told the BBC.

Oil revenues account for 98% of income for the country, which gained independence from Sudan last year.

But the two never agreed on the transit fees that Juba should pay for using Sudan's oil export infrastructure.

Mr Machar said development would be put on hold for several years, but basic services would not suffer.

He said government salaries, including for those for members of the large military, would be paid.

"For a period of 30 months we will definitely freeze our activities on development, but we'll provide basic services: health, education, water and even some infrastructure projects will go on," he said.

South Sudan and Sudan fought a bitter civil war for decades in which some 1.5 million people died.

Before halting production last month, South Sudan accused Sudan of stealing oil worth $815m (£518m).

"Unfortunately Khartoum has not co-operated with us, so instead of Khartoum taking the oil, we'd better freeze it until we get alternatives to exporting oil, so that people of South Sudan can enjoy their own resources," Mr Machar said.

He dismissed the view of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir that war between the two nations was closer than peace.

But he admitted there was no immediate prospect of the two countries coming to an agreement on the many issues that divide them.

Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.

Satellite image showing geography of Sudan, source: Nasa

Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Map showing Ethnicity of Sudan, source:

Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.

Map showing infant Mortality in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.

Map showing percentage of households using improved water and sanitation in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.

Map showing percentage of who complete primary school education in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.

Map showing percentage of households with poor food consumption in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.

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