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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

UN agency rolls out health services in
displacement sites in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The UN migration agency said on Tuesday that it has completed rollout of comprehensive HIV/AIDs services in three protections of civilian (PoC) sites in South Sudan, enabling thousands to access counseling, testing, and treatment.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the rollout of health services at the Bentiu, Malakal and Wau PoC sites will benefit an estimated population of 171,000 people, as well as the host community.

“The expansion of services is a crucial development in South Sudan, where internally displaced persons, such as those living in the PoC sites, are among key populations that are considered to be at higher-risk of contracting HIV/AIDS,” Salma Taher, IOM Global Fund Project Officer said in a statement issued in Juba.

According to the UN, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis were in 2016 the leading causes of mortality in the PoC sites, where people are often unable to access health facilities outside the sites due to protection concerns or destruction of public infrastructure.

Since 2014, IOM has been providing HIV/AIDS services to pregnant mothers at the PoC sites through Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS.

“Since the roll out began in July, IOM has tested 213 people, with 16 testing positive and enrolling in antiretroviral treatment,” the UN migration agency said.

Through the advocacy of IOM and the UN Development Fund, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria expanded funding to enable the start-up and roll out of services for the general population visiting the clinics in the PoC sites, not only pregnant mothers.

According to the IOM, with timely diagnosis and initiation of antiretroviral medication, the life expectancy of HIV-positive patients has been proven to improve substantially - 10 years for men and 9 years for women, as evidenced in a recent analysis of cohort studies

The IOM said a core component to comprehensive services is awareness raising and sensitization to both encourage testing and destigmatize the disease among the displaced population.

Through the Global Fund support, IOM has trained over 450 peer counselors across the country, including 51 at the Bentiu and Malakal PoC sites.

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EARLIER REPORTS:

UN aid agency concerned over S. Sudan’s new work permit policy

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The UN humanitarian agency in South Sudan on Tuesday expressed concerns about the hiking of work permit fees for foreigners and a recent government order giving expatriates a month to obtain work permits.

Ian Ridley, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in South Sudan, said the new work permit fees and other fees enacted in September will make it even more costly for aid organizations, both national and international, to deliver much-needed aid to people in need.

“OCHA affirms that humanitarian organizations working in South Sudan must uphold the laws of the country; however the uneven and sometimes unpredictable implementation of the law sometimes presents challenges to NGOs and other partners,” Ridley told Xinhua.

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

A letter, addressed to UNOCHA dated Nov. 2 by the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC), made public the names of the individuals and the organizations they work for, and ordered them to obtain work permits by Dec. 4.

In March, South Sudan increased work permit fees for foreign workers from 100 U.S. dollars to 10,000 dollars for professional/business class, 2,000 dollars for blue collar jobs and 1,000 dollars for casual laborers.

The South Sudanese finance ministry said at the time that the hiked fee would raise vital revenue for the cash-strapped government to fund its activities.

But the fee hike prompted an outcry from humanitarian agencies who described it as a way of restricting work of foreign aid workers in the war-torn nation, forcing the government to suspend the policy the following month.

The Ministry of Labor and Public Service late October announced the revised annual work permit rates for foreigners ranging from 500 to 4,000 dollars.

Under the new fee structure, consultants and managers will pay 4,000 dollars, professionals charged 3,000 dollars and technicians 2,000 dollars. The directive does not affect members of the diplomatic corps.

Skilled workers will pay 1,000 dollars and casual laborers will be charged 500 dollars, and defaulters will be charged an extra 200 dollars in fines.

OCHA condemned making public names of aid workers who are alleged to be without work permits, adding that preliminary data suggest that names on the list include former staff, visitors, and staff who have in fact applied for or possess a permit.

Ridley said the humanitarian community in South Sudan would cooperate with the government to ensure all staff are in possession of the required work permit.

“Information about NGO staff members is confidential and should not be published without their consent. We therefore urge the RRC to remove any such information from public domain,” Ridley added.

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Over 1,000 foreigners risk losing jobs in S. 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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