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South Sudan lifts aid blockade: UN


Salva KiirSouth Sudan’s army has lifted a more than a month-long aid blockade into rebel areas, the UN said Friday, warning of a “dire situation” as fighting continues despite ongoing peace talks.

The blockade since late June of aid barges on the Nile river into the northeastern battleground state of Upper Nile, as well as a ban on food flights into the state capital Malakal, had badly hit areas already on the brink of famine.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in 20 months of war, which has been marked by widespread atrocities on both sides.

“Restrictions on the movement of barges on the River Nile, as well as clearances to use the Malakal airstrip, which had affected the delivery of life-saving assistance to vulnerable people in Malakal in Upper Nile state, have been lifted,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report Friday.

“The lifting of the restrictions has allowed humanitarian partners to start resupplying critical medicines, fuel, food and water treatment chemicals.”

The government repeatedly denied the blockade, but rebels said it was aimed to starve them into submission.

The UN said no river barges and flights had arrived in Upper Nile since the end of June, apart from “minimal supplies” via helicopter directly into the UN base in Malakal.

The Nile is the main route for aid into the largely roadless northern areas, including areas under rebel control.

“As fighting continues, humanitarian needs are higher than ever,” the UN report added. “Partners are working to ensure supplies continue to be delivered to Upper Nile to avert a further deterioration of the already dire situation.”

Peace talks restarted last week in neighbouring Ethiopia, but have made little if any progress, delegates say.

South Sudan’s civil war began in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that has split the poverty-stricken, landlocked country along ethnic lines.

Mediators say Kiir and Machar are now due to meet in a bid to stave off sanction threats before the deadline expires on Monday.

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