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Civil conflict slows South Sudan demining progress: official

JUBA, April 4 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan will not be able to be free of landmines as projected in 2020 due to the civil conflict that started since 2013, an official has said.

"We thought we were going to declare South Sudan a landmine-free country in 2020, but the political situation that happened two or three years ago proved us wrong... It will take us longer since the new war took us back some steps," said Chairperson of South Sudan Mine Action Authority Jurkuch Barach.

"With assistance of United Nations and international community, we have seen the clearance of 26,000 km of roads and thousands of the local population has received mine risk education," Jurkuch told journalists in Juba on Monday.

However, despite the progress made in mine clearance, he said clashes in the country have slowed the progress, adding the landmines and explosive remnants of war still constitute a threat to the local people.

"There are 4,895 land mine victims, 3,542 landmine survivors in the country. These are the people injured not during the war but at the time when we had already achieved independence," Jurkuch said.

Joyce Luma, Representative of the World Food Program (WFP) in South Sudan, said the presence of landmines had slowed down the delivery of aid in the country.

"Mine action is indeed humanitarian action without which WFP would not be able to fight hunger and poverty," she said.

Landmines were used during decades of civil war before South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011.

However the world's youngest nation was plunged into clashes in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir fell out with his former deputy Riek Machar, who later formed a rebel force.

The conflict has killed thousands of people and displaced over two million, some 200,000 of them are living in UN camps.

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