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The United Nations has urged South Sudan to remove newly imposed taxes and charges that led to the suspension of U.N. food airdrops for thousands of people who depend on outside aid.

The U.N Humanitarian Affairs Agency said Monday in a statement that the pausing of airdrops in March had deprived of food 60,000 people who live in areas that are inaccessible by road, and their number is expected to rise to 135,000 by the end of May.

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The U.N 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.

South Sudanese flag

A South Sudanese flag is waved in Juba, South Sudan, February 3, 2023. (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)

“Our limited funds are spent on saving lives and not bureaucratic impediments,” Anita Kiki Gbeho, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, said.

U.N. spokesman St├ęphane Dujarric said in New York that the taxes and charges are also impacting the nearly 20,000-strong U.N. 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 U.N 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.

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An estimated 9 million people out of 12.5 million people in South Sudan need protection and humanitarian assistance, according to the U.N. 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 internal conflict.

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