Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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UN Official Urges South Sudan To Lift Taxes Halting Aid


The UN’s top humanitarian official in South Sudan has
urged the government to lift newly imposed taxes and charges
that are causing aid deliveries to be suspended, affecting
tens of thousands of people.

Since February,
authorities have imposed a series of new taxes and charges
at border crossings and within the country.

These
measures have impacted over 60,000 people, particularly in
remote areas where humanitarian operations are already
limited. This number is expected to rise to 145,000 by the
end of May if the measures remain in place.

Anita Kiki
Gbeho, the Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, underscored
the urgent situation, stating that UN agencies have been
forced to halt lifesaving airdrops of food assistance due to
dwindling fuel supplies.

“We call on the Government
of South Sudan to uphold all agreements with humanitarians,
including our NGO [non-governmental organizations] partners,
and immediately remove new taxes and fees so that we can
continue to support people in need,” she said on
Sunday.

Her office further noted
that the new taxes contravene the Status of Forces Agreement
signed by individual agencies with the South Sudanese
Government as well as Section 7 of the Convention on the
Privileges and Immunities of the UN, which exempts the UN
from all direct taxes and duties on imports of supplies for
its official use.

Funds for saving
lives

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According to the Humanitarian Coordinator’s
office, the new measures would increase the cost of food
assistance and the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS)
operations by $339,000 per month.

This amount could
otherwise be used to feed over 16,300 people for a
month.

“It is vital that our limited funds are spent
on saving lives and not bureaucratic impediments,” she
stressed.

Government assurances

Ms. Gbeho
acknowledged assurances by many members of the Government of
South Sudan that humanitarians are exempt.

However,
there have been no written commitments to date, her office
added.

Humanitarian situation

The humanitarian
situation in South Sudan remains dire, with approximately
nine million people, including 1.6 million children,
requiring assistance and protection due to ongoing
insecurity and conflict.

Since the war in Sudan began
in April 2023, coupled with violence and the cessation of
food distribution in parts of Ethiopia, thousands of people
have returned to South Sudan, often arriving in
underdeveloped areas as highly vulnerable
populations.

Despite increasing needs, funding for
humanitarian efforts remains inadequate. The $1.8 billion
Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan for 2024, aimed at
supporting six million of the most vulnerable, is currently
only 18.5 per cent
funded.

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