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World Bank Downplays Report of South Sudan Loan

FILE - People wait to receive food at a World Vision food distribution site in Malualkuel in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal region of South Sudan, April 5, 2017.

The World Bank is distancing itself from reports that it has given a grant to the government of South Sudan worth tens of millions of dollars.

A World Bank spokesperson in Ethiopia told VOA's South Sudan in Focus on Wednesday that the bank had proposed to donate $50 million to U.N. aid agencies combating famine and food insecurity, but that those funds were still pending approval from the board.

Finance Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau told Reuters on Monday that the government had signed a deal with the World Bank for a $50 million grant "to meet the food gaps in South Sudan."

Dau said a further $8 million agreed to by the World Bank had been earmarked for construction of a road connecting the capital, Juba, to Kenya.

The World Bank spokesperson told VOA that the World Bank had earmarked no additional money for road construction and that most development projects in the war-torn country had been delayed or suspended.

Confirmation of assistance

Meanwhile, the African Development Bank confirmed to VOA that its board of directors had recently approved $48 million for operations in South Sudan, including $1 million for emergency humanitarian assistance to famine-affected areas.

A report by the International Monetary Fund last month put South Sudan's inflation at about 370 percent in January. It said South Sudan's central bank had "almost exhausted" its foreign currency reserves, which limited its ability to play a role in stabilizing the economy.

The report recommended a tighter monetary policy in South Sudan to recover foreign exchange reserves and enhance confidence in the South Sudanese pound.

Famine was declared in parts of South Sudan in February, and tens of thousands of civilians are at risk of dying from hunger in a humanitarian crisis that has been called "man-made" by analysts and diplomats, most recently by Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

South Sudan has been mired in conflict between the government of President Salva Kiir and rebels led by former Vice President Riek Machar since December 2013.