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Three UNICEF subcontractors detained in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, said on Tuesday three of its subcontractors have been detained by military authorities in Pagak, the headquarters of the rebel group SPLA-IO led by South Sudan’s former first vice president Riek Machar.

Timothy James Irwin, UNICEF Spokesman in South Sudan said the three individuals working for Montrose, an organization contracted by UNICEF to carry out education surveys in Mathhing, near the border with Ethiopia fled the area on July 6 along with other humanitarian actors, and were detained in Pagak upon arrival.

“Negotiations for the release of the three UNICEF subcontractors who were detained by military authorities in Pagak on Thursday July 6 are ongoing. Together with partners, UNICEF is seeking to establish the exact location of the contractors, their state of health and to secure their freedom,” Irwin said.

Last week, fresh clashes erupted between government- backed troops and SPLA-IO fighters in the rebel stronghold despite declaration of a unilateral ceasefire by the country’s leader.

The latest violence forced humanitarian organizations operating in the area to evacuate 25 aid workers.

UNICEF appealed for the release of the individuals who it said were working to improve the lives of children in South Sudan.

Agel Machar, a spokesman for the SPLA-IO splinter group under the current first Vice president Taban Deng Gai blamed the pro-Riek forces for abducting the aid workers, denying allegations that its forces broke the ceasefire by attacking the rebels.

Lam Paul Gabriel, deputy spokesman of SPLA-IO denied detaining the three aid workers, arguing that the abduction is done by pro-government troops with intention of tarnishing their image.

“We have been protecting all aid workers who have been in Pagak for all these years. So how can we abduct people helping our own civilians? These accusations are not true,” Gabriel told Xinhua by phone.

South Sudan has been embroiled in more than three years of conflict that has taken a devastating toll on the people.

According to the UN, South Sudan has become a hostile environment for aid workers to operate with at least 79 aid workers killed since the civil war began in 2013.

In March, gunmen killed six aid workers on a road linking the capital, Juba to the Eastern state of Boma.

Under international Humanitarian Law, intentional attacks against humanitarian relief personnel may constitute war crimes.



South Sudan seeks help to tackle armyworm 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.


South Sudan urges unifying victory over Uganda in football qualifier

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- South Sudan is hoping to beat Uganda in Friday’s African Nations Championship (CHAN) football qualifiers in Juba in a bid to unify the war-torn country, the head of football association said Thursday.

Francis Amin Michael, the newly elected head of the South Sudan Football Association (SSFA), urged South Sudanese to rally behind the bright stars as they face Uganda cranes before the return leg in Kampala on July 22.

“The citizens should come closer to football and use it as a tool to reconcile especially the youth. We need peace and harmony to improve football in the country,” he said.

Amin disclosed that their players were already in good mood in the camp and have mustered the strategy from the technical staff.

“We are ready for the match, we visited the players today and they really showed a lot of morale. The Bright Stars will win the game tomorrow,” he added.

The CHAN was initiated by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) which allows only players in domestic leagues to participate.

The recent power wrangles within the SSFA had threatened to halt football development in South Sudan until fresh elections were ordered this year after FIFA and CAF intervention. 


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