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AWEIL - 26 Feb 2021

Aweil: striking health staff resume work

More than 400 health workers who have been on strike in Aweil town of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State since Tuesday have resumed work after reaching an agreement with state authorities.

The health workers, including doctors, nurses, midwives and lab technicians, went on strike to protest against the taxation of their payments through the National Social Insurance Fund (NSIF). They are staff members of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) which runs the main hospital in Aweil.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj on Friday, several striking health workers said they have resumed work after a compromise made by State Governor Tong Akeen Ngor. They revealed that the governor had ordered the taxation of only 8% of their payments through the NSIF, contrary to the previous 20% imposed by the National Revenue Authority (NRA).

Deng Chan Chan, a representative of the striking health workers, said:” On 25 February, the governor came to address the staff members of MSF and promised that he will follow up on the matter with the Ministry of Finance, the National Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Labor.”

“For time being, the solution that was provided by the governor was that only 8% will be taxed. We just sundered a little bit as a sign of compromise because we are for humanity. And our intention was not to forsake the patients but to ensure that no patient dies meanwhile we get our rights,’’ Deng added.

Wol Wol Akeen, the medical director of Aweil Hospital, confirmed that the striking health workers have resumed work. “These people resumed work the day before yesterday,” he said.

For his part, the secretary-general of Northern Bahr el Ghazal government, Albino Akol Akol said the state government had directed the organization to deduct only 8% from the National Social Insurance Fund.

 “On behalf of the state government, we told MSF to tax only the eight percent which is in a letter. The two parties have agreed on the matter for the health workers to resume work,” Akol said.

In a statement extended to Radio Tamazuj, MSF confirmed that its staff demonstrated on Tuesday and Wednesday to raise concerns about the taxation of their payments through the National Social Insurance Fund (NSIF).

“Because of disruptions to Aweil hospital activities, MSF discharged patients who were in stable condition from the pediatric and maternity wards, while continuing to provide care to patients whose conditions do not allow them to be discharged. Taxation of the NSIF is a government decision and is not for MSF to decide. MSF is in conversation with staff and South Sudanese authorities to urge a swift resolution to outstanding disagreements over the NSIF and to avoid any further disruption to medical service,” the statement reads in part.