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South Sudan rights official warns of worsening refugee crisis

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Half of South Sudan’s estimated 12 million people could become displaced internally or externally by the end of 2017 if a solution isn’t found to South Sudan’s civil war.

The information was revealed on Monday by Beny Geion Mabior, Commissioner of the South Sudan Human rights Commission during a half day seminar by South Sudanese Young Leaders Forum (SSYLF) held at the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

SSYLF was formed by a group of 70 prominent South Sudanese youth in January 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya, to have a common voice to urge warring factions to end the brutal civil war.

Mabior, who’s also a member of SSYLF, says with South Sudan currently facing 830 percent inflation and severe food scarcity, it is urgent for political leaders to end the war or risk South Sudan facing total collapse.

Africa’s newest nation South Sudan has around 2 million internally displaced people in need of food aid with drought and civil war creating a deadly mix.

Another 2 million have fled to neighboring countries, primarily fleeing the brutal conflict that’s been ongoing since December 2013 when clashes between forces broadly loyal to president Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar quickly turned into an allout civil war.

Mario Nakuwa, a founding member of SSYLF, says the euphoria of South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in July 2011 obscured tribal divisions that should have been tackled long ago.

Nakuwa called for urgent dialogue among South Sudanese living at home and in the diaspora to resolve the ongoing civil war.



South Sudanese army denies planned offensive on rebel stronghold

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- South Sudan’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) on Monday denied planning an offensive on the rebel stronghold of Pagak near the Ethiopian border.

SPLA spokesman Brigadier Lul Ruai Koang told Xinhua following revelations by the head of UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) David Shearer last week that government troops were moving on to attack the SPLA-in opposition (SPLA-IO) headquarters located in the northeastern part of the war-torn country.

“That’s not true, we are not moving on Pagak. We have been defending our positions,” Koang said in Juba. “We are not anywhere near Pagak,” he added.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) disclosed that 5,000 people have fled from the area north of Pagak fearing clash between the warring groups and have since been registered in the town before they passed into Ethiopia as refugees.

“There has been an active military engagement over the past week with heavy fighting around Mathiang north of Pagak on July 2,” Shearer said last week.

The rebel (SPLA-IO) spokesman Col. William Gatjiath Deng also dismissed fears that the SPLA troops had moved on their stronghold.

“Please denounce the propaganda that merciless forces of Salva Kiir (SPLA) claimed to have approached and surrounded Pagak GHQs, by which forces should they be able to surround Pagak GHQs,” he said.

He said that the SPLA-IO forces are now assembled in Thocdeng and are determined to fight with government troops at Wichluakjak area.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between 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


Malaria claims over 1,900 lives in South Sudan in six months

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- Malaria has caused 1,956 deaths in South Sudan, making it one of the main causes of illness in the world’s newest nation, the UN humanitarian agency said.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest report released on Saturday evening said more than 928,141 malaria cases have been reported since January and warns that the mosquito-borne disease is expected to increase as rainy season sets in.

“Deaths caused by malaria representing 76.9 percent of all disease-related deaths recorded so far in 2017. The counties most-affected to date are Aweil North, Gogrial West, Juba, Maban, Torit and Wau,” the UN said.

Malaria spikes during the mid-year rainy season as mosquitoes, which transmit the disease, breed in stagnant water.

Health organizations are scaling up their malaria prevention and response, with distribution of mosquito nets, and replenishment of antimalarial drugs in health facilities ongoing.

There were at least 20 robberies or ambushes of vehicles involved in humanitarian activities in June.

Malaria is endemic in South Sudan, especially during the country’s rainy season, and there is an annual upswing in cases around July.

In recent years, conflict, displacement and poor access to health services have contributed to the severity of malaria outbreaks, with 2016 having the highest number of recorded cases since South Sudan became independent.


South Sudan seeks help to tackle army worm invasion

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Thursday appealed to UN agencies and development partners to offer technical and financial support to assist in combating an outbreak of fall armyworms which is spreading rapidly across the country.

Onyoti Adingo, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security told journalists in Juba that the crop-eating pest has already affected 166,000 hectares of farm land, 500 of which were destroyed completely.

Adingo said the government initially provided 588,000 U.S. dollars to purchase pesticides, warning that the fund will not be enough to roll out a nationwide armyworms control program to contain the outbreak.

He said additional financial and technical support is required from UN agencies and development partners to enable the government to strengthen control and surveillance of the pest.

“If this outbreak continues to spread into the northern parts of the country where large scale agriculture is taking place now, we are afraid there will be a very big destruction to us because this will increase the threat of food insecurity,” Adingo said.

The war-torn country last month declared an outbreak of armyworms in the southeastern parts of the country, but the worms have now spread into the bread basket region of Equatoria and parts of Barh El Gazel.

“The ministry of agriculture and food security is appealing to development partners such as FAO, UNDP, WFP and others to commit both technical and financial support for us to carry out this noble task,” he added.

The fall armyworm has devastated many countries in Southern and Eastern Africa.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the fall armyworm can cause extensive crop losses of up to 73 percent depending on existing conditions and is difficult to control with a single type of pesticide, especially when it has reached an advanced larval stage.

The outbreak poses another threat of food insecurity after a UN-backed report released last month said famine has eased in the war-torn East African country after massive humanitarian response , but warned that the number of food insecure people remains worrying.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification update by the government, the FAO, UN Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme, said the food situation remains dire as the number of people struggling to get food increased from 4.9 million in February to 6 million, the highest level of food insecurity ever experienced in South Sudan.

“We import food from outside because few people this year are able to cultivate. So this outbreak of armyworms will cause more problems unless something is done to stop it,” said Gorge Tadu, team leader of South Sudan’s emergency fall armyworm control program. 



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