UN urges South Sudan to remove new taxes hampering food deliveries

The United Nations has urged South Sudan to remove newly imposed taxes and charges that led to the suspension of United Nations food airdrops for thousands of people who depend on outside aid. The UN Humanitarian Affairs Agency said on Monday in a statement that the pausing of airdrops in March had deprived 60,000 people who live in areas that are inaccessible by road of food, and their number is expected to rise to 135,000 by the end of May. The UN said the new charges would have increased operational costs to $339,000 monthly, which it says is enough to feed over 16,300 people. The new charges introduced in February are related to electronic cargo tracking, security escort fees and new taxes on fuel. “Our limited funds are spent on saving lives and not bureaucratic impediments,” said Anita Kiki Gbeho, the UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan. UN spokesman St├ęphane Dujarric said in that the taxes and charges are also impacting the nearly 20,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, “which is reviewing all of its activities, including patrols, the construction of police stations, schools and health care centers, as well as educational support.” The UN says the South Sudan government had said it would remove the new charges and taxes but had not committed to it in writing since February. An estimated 9 million people out of 12.5 million people in South Sudan need protection and humanitarian assistance, according to the UN. The country has also seen an increase in the number of people fleeing the war in neighboring Sudan, further complicating humanitarian assistance to those affected by the .