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South Sudan army denies renewed rebel capture of border town   

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) said on Monday that it is still in full control of Kajo Keji town, dismissing claims that the border town fell to rebels allied to former First Vice President Riek Machar after renewed fighting last week.

SPLA spokesperson Lul Ruai Koang said government troops were attacked at Bamure, located southwest of the capital in the fighting that left three soldiers wounded and five rebels killed.

Koang also revealed that there is ongoing fighting in Ombachi area of Yei state located southeast of Juba.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between Salva President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting that pitted mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital forcing Machar to flee into exile.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighboring countries.



South Sudan hunger crisis to persist despite improved harvest: UN

JUBASouth Sudan (Xinhua) -- Improved harvest between October and December in South Sudan would reduce the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity in the East African country from 6 million in June to 4.8 million, but will not end the hunger crisis, UN agencies said in a joint report released on Monday.

According to the updated Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) by the South Sudan Bureau of Statistics, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, (FAO) UN children’s fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP), the post harvest gains will not end the hunger crisis as conflict and hyperinflation persists in the East African country.

The report warns that the food security situation is projected to deteriorate at the start of 2018 when households typically run out of food before the next harvest season.

Isaiah Chol Aruai, chairperson of the South Sudan Bureau of Statistics, said during the launch in Juba that humanitarian assistance and peace are critical in averting the deteriorating and catastrophic level food insecurity.

The national dialogue and peace revitalization process as well as scaled up humanitarian assistance, if successfully implemented, will gradually improve food security situation between January and March 2018, he said.

Serge Tissot, FAO Representative in South Sudan, said that though a massive humanitarian response helped stop famine in parts of the country this year, the current harvest season has not brought much relief to the millions of people in South Sudan who don’t have enough food.

Tissot said most of the country’s greenbelt has been ravaged by fighting, adding that the situation is predicted to worsen.

“Finding a peaceful solution to this man-made tragedy should be the top priority or the situation will get even worse next year,” Tissot said.

Some 25,000 people are facing catastrophic conditions in two regions according to the IPC scale, adding that aid agencies are concerned about fate of civilians in the greater Baggari, in northwestern town of Wau, where 10 percent of the population is facing famine-like conditions because insecurity.

The IPC analysis further says malnutrition has also worsened compared to the same period last year, with surveys showing malnutrition rates in most communities, above the World Health Organization’s emergency threshold of 15 percent.

Mahimbo Mdoe, UNIECF representative in South Sudan, said more than 1.1 million children under the age of five are forecast to be malnourished in 2018, including nearly 300,000 severely malnourished and at a heightened risk of death.

“Too many children are going hungry in South Sudan. More than one in five of those struggling to feed themselves is a child under five years of age Sudan. This has created a malnutrition crisis that is putting many lives at risk,” Mdoe said.

Humanitarian teams are facing enormous logistical and security challenges to reach communities in need.

South Sudan has been devastated by civil war that broke out in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup. Machar denied the accusation but then mobilized a rebel force.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 led to the formation of a transitional unity government in April, but was again shattered by fresh violence in July, 2016.

Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, with over 3.9 million displaced both internally and externally.

FAO said it has provided fishing, crop and vegetable-growing kits to more than 4.2 million people in South Sudan to help them grow or catch their own food.

UNICEF said together with its partners, it has treated more than 160,000 children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) so far this year, with 207,000 malnourished children targeted across the country.

WFP and its partners have assisted 4.6 million people in South Sudan so far in 2017 with cash or food, including nutrition support for children under the age of five years.


Over 1,000 foreigners risk losing jobs in South Sudan over work permit

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan’s relief agency said on Monday that it has identified more than 1,000 illegal expatriates working with humanitarian organizations in the East African nation and have given them one-month ultimatum to acquire work permits or face the law.

In a letter addressed to the United Nations Office for the Coordination Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) directed all expatriates employed by aid agencies to obtain work permits by Dec. 4.

RRC Deputy Chairperson Paul Dhel Gum said those who fail to comply with the directive would face termination of their employment contract, adding that those with valid visas will be allowed to stay in the country without being employed.

He said the government was prompted to take action after several humanitarian organizations refused to obey the requirements of the South Sudan NGO Act 2016.

Article 18 of the NGO Act states that expatriates be equipped with a valid work permit through the duration of their employment in South Sudan.

“If they fail to get work permits within the 30 days, definitely we will ask the NGOs to terminate their contracts in South Sudan or subsequently, they will be asked to leave the country,” Gum told Xinhua by phone on Monday.

“We are expecting the international organizations to comply with the law and there is no compromise when it comes to issues to do with the law,” he added.

Last month, the country’s ministry of labor and public service announced new annual work permit rates for foreigners ranging between 500 to 4,000 U.S. dollars effective Nov. 1, instead of the previous fee of 100 dollars in order to raise revenue for the cash strapped government to fund its activities.

But the increment prompted an outcry from humanitarian agencies who described it as way of restricting work of foreign aid workers in the war-torn nation.



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