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Famine-hit South Sudan hikes tariffs for aid permits 100-fold

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War-ravaged South Sudan has hiked work permit fees 100-fold for foreign aid workers to $10 000, officials said, despite suffering from famine.

The world's youngest nation has been mired in civil war since 2013, when President Salva Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar, sparking a conflict that has increasingly split the country along ethnic lines.

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South Sudanese men carry food distributed by the World Food Programme. An estimated 100 000 people are experiencing famine in the country, and another 1 million people are on the brink of starvation. (Photo: AP)

Last month, the United Nations declared that parts of the country are experiencing famine, the first time the world has faced such a catastrophe in six years.

Nearly half the population, or about 5.5 million people, is expected to lack a reliable source of food by July.

Despite the catastrophe, Juba will now charge $10 000 for foreigners working in a "professional" capacity, $2 000 for "blue collar" employees and $1 000 for "casual workers" from March 1, the labour ministry said in a decree.

Edmund Yakani, executive director of the local charity Community Empowerment for Progress Organisations (CEPO), said the move aimed to reduce the number of humanitarian workers. "Actually, the work permit is too expensive for humanitarian workers, since more than 90 percent of the foreigners seeking to work in South Sudan are humanitarian workers", he said.

Aid groups say they often face restrictions in South Sudan. In December, Juba expelled the country director of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) after security agents held him without charge for more than 24 hours.

The fighting has uprooted more than 3 million people. Continuing displacement presents "heightened risks of prolonged (food) underproduction into 2018," the United Nations said in a report last month.

The UN defines famine as when at least a fifth of the households in a region face extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent, and two or more people in every 10 000 are dying per day.

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