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Presence Country
Food Security Outlook Update

Conflict lower than in past years, but high humanitarian assistance needs and risk of Famine persist

April 2019

April - May 2019

South Sudan ML1 map

June - September 2019

South Sudan ML2 map

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Conflict in first quarter of 2019 was relatively low compared to the same time period of each year between 2014 and 2018. This has supported slight improvements in food access; however, extreme levels of acute food insecurity persist given large-scale losses of household assets and disruption to typical livelihoods in past years. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes exist across most of the country. Counties of greatest concern include Panyikang of Upper Nile, Cueibet of Lakes, and Canal/Pigi and Pibor of Jonglei where Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are likely.  

  • Food security is expected to deteriorate further through the peak of the lean season in July/August. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) area-level outcomes will be widespread, and households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) are likely in areas of the greatest concern including Panyikang of Upper Nile, Canal/Pigi of Jonglei, and Cueibet, Rumbek North, and Yirol East of Lakes. A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will persist; Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely in the event that conflict shifts and severely limits household movement and humanitarian access.

  • An estimated 7.7 million people will be in need of food assistance during the peak of the lean season. Humanitarian food assistance is planned and likely to be delivered throughout the projection period, scaling up during the peak of the lean season. However, the total number of beneficiaries reached with assistance will likely remain well below the need.

  • The March to May rainy season is ongoing in bimodal areas of Greater Equatoria and although total seasonal rainfall is forecast to be average, the start of season was characterized by delayed and below-average rainfall. As a result, planting of first season crops has been delayed and the availability of pasture and water are below what is typical for this time of year.

Current Situation

The number of conflict incidents recorded in the first quarter of 2019 was relatively low compared to the same time period of each year between 2014 and 2018. Conflict has also shown a decline compared to much of 2018 (Figure 1). Initial information indicates conflict in April has also been relatively low. It is expected the decline in conflict is in part due to continued implementation of the September 2018 peace deal and the recent involvement of the Vatican in peace implementation efforts.

Conflict still persists in several areas, though. Inter-communal violence and cattle-raiding in Tonj North of Warrap has led to the loss of lives and livestock; clashes between pastoralists and farmers in mid-March in Jur River of Western Bahr el Ghazal displaced an estimated 9,000 people; and in Duk, Pibor, and Nyirol of Jonglei, cattle-raiding and inter-communal attacks in early April led to the loss of lives and livestock. Repeated cattle-raiding between communities of Rumbek East and Yirol East in mid-April has also led to the loss of livestock. In Central and Western Equatoria, ongoing insecurity continues to limit free household movement and access to fields for farming.

Despite these events, no large-scale displacements have been reported in April. Some returnees have been reported in counties bordering Uganda, Sudan, and Ethiopia. In March, IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix Round 4 estimated 30,000-50,000 individuals have returned to Manyo of Upper Nile, Akobo and Duk of Jonglei, Wau and Jur River of Western Bahr el Ghazal, Juba of Central Equatoria, and Magwi of Eastern Equatoria. Additionally, key informant information estimates that 50,000-110,000 people have returned to Bor South of Jonglei, 10,000 people have returned to Kajo-Keji of Central Equatoria, and 7,500 people have returned to Maiwut of Upper Nile in April. Ground information indicates some people are returning from Bentiu PoC to central Unity, though the estimated number of people is not available.

Relative calm in Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr el Ghazal has somewhat permitted the recovery of trade and market functioning through increased trade flows and the return of some traders. Market supply has reportedly increased in Adok market of Leer, Rubkuai of Mayendit, and Jonglei broadly due to slightly increased trade flows from Bentiu Town and Bor South and the resumption of river transportation between Bor South and Fangak. However, market supplies and the number of traders operating are still below pre-crisis levels across markets outside of Juba. Food prices remain high: in April, the retail price of white sorghum in Aweil was 134 percent higher than same time last year and 511 percent higher than five-year average. However, in Juba, the retail price of sorghum is 87 percent lower than last year due to improved security along the Juba-Nimule road that permitted increased trade flows in the last quarter of 2018 and first quarter of 2019; however, the price is still 180 percent above the five-year average and extremely high compared to pre-crisis levels.

The March to May rainy season is ongoing in bimodal Greater Equatoria, though the start of season is characterized by below-average rainfall (Figure 2). Accordingly to the Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station Data (CHIRPS) final and preliminary data, rainfall increased in April, bringing rainfall totals to around 130 millimeters (mm) in Western Equatoria, only somewhat below the 2000-2018 mean of 150 mm. In Eastern and Central Equatoria, although rainfall also increased through April, totals were around 85-100 mm compared to average rainfall of around 120-140 by mid-April, resulting in slightly greater deficits.

As a result of the below-average start of the rainy season, planting of first season crops, which typically starts in late March, started in early to mid-April. Additionally, pasture, water, and wild food availability are somewhat lower than is typical for this time of year. Most livestock remain in dry season grazing areas, though this is typical in April. Livestock body conditions are seasonally poor among livestock who remain at homesteads, or in some cases worse than seasonally poor. This was corroborated by rapid assessments conducted by FEWS NET in March and April in Pibor and Greater Kapoeta. In Verteth  Lekwangole and Gumuruk Payams of Pibor; Mogos, Jie, and Narus of Kapoeta East; and Machi of Kapoeta South, access to livestock products including meat and milk are seasonally at their lowest levels. Markets in these locations were functioning but with very low levels of cereals. The sale of livestock has increased relative to February though given the seasonally poor condition of livestock and extremely high cereal prices, purchasing power remains low.  

Throughout South Sudan, relative stability has somewhat improved humanitarian access and the delivery of humanitarian food assistance continues to mitigate more extreme acute food insecurity. In March 1.04 million people were reached with general food distributions (GFD) and in April ICRC distributed farm tools and seeds to 1,000 households in Duk of Jongeli. GFD was distributed in some counties of high concern including Panyikang, though other areas of high concern including Cueibet, Canal/Pigi, and Pibor did not receive GFD in March. Overall the number of beneficiaries of GFD in March was lower than in February, while GFD increased between these two months in 2018. The number of people reached by humanitarian food assistance remains far below the estimated need (Figure 3).

Given continued low access to food and income, it is expected Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes persist across most of South Sudan, and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are likely in areas of greatest concern including Panyikang of Upper Nile, Cueibet of Lakes, and Canal/Pigi and Pibor of Jonglei. Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3!) are likely in parts of Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr el Ghazal, where humanitarian food assistance is preventing more extreme outcomes.

Updated Assumptions

The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the South Sudan Food Security Outlook for February to September 2019 remain unchanged except the following:

  • Based on forecasts from NOAA and USGS, rainfall from May to July is forecast to be above average (Figure 4). Despite early season rainfall deficits in Greater Equatoria, increased late season rainfall is expected to result in overall average total seasonal rainfall. The June to September main rainy season in Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile is still forecast to be above-average.
  • Late planting is expected to continue in early May and some households are likely to re-plant in areas where seeds did not germinate given poor and erratic rainfall. Planting will be supported in several areas through seed and tool distributions from FAO.
  • In view of the updated first-season rains in Greater Equatoria, the availability of fish and wild foods will still increase seasonally through September, but total availability is now expected to only be average. Insecurity is still expected to periodically limit access to these food sources.
  • In a few counties, including Ezo, Nzara, and Maridi of Western Equatoria; Tonj South of Warrap; Maiwuit of Upper Nile; and Terekeka of Central Equatoria, ground information indicates access to fish, wild foods, and livestock products are somewhat higher than previously anticipated and given relative calm in these counties, slightly higher access is expected in the outlook period.
  • Based on WFP’s updated operational plan, humanitarian food assistance is planned to reach 3.6 to 4 million people monthly between April and July through GFD and food for assets (FFA). The updated most likely scenario assumes assistance according to these revised plans; however, it is expected the monthly reach of assistance will be somewhat lower than plans based on past trends and periodic access and budgetary constraints.  

Projected outlook through September 2019

Although conflict is expected to stay at relative lower levels, severe acute food insecurity will likely persist across the country and food security will deteriorate through August with the progression of the 2019 lean season. Many households are expected to face food consumption gaps as they have already depleted food stocks from the harvest, and they are expected to rely on markets, livestock, fish, and wild foods, but will face difficulty accessing these sources at typical levels. Insecurity is still expected to periodically disrupt access to fish and wild foods. Markets are expected to continue recovering in many counties where relative stability exits, but high food prices will limit households’ capacity to purchase sufficient food. In several areas of Greater Equatoria, access to livestock products will be lower than normal in the near term until livestock body conditions return to normal with improved pasture and water. Additionally, throughout the country, many poor households have little to no access to livestock products due to livestock losses throughout the conflict. 

Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected through May in most counties, with some households likely to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in areas of greatest concern including Panyikang of UNS, Cueibet of Lakes, and Canal/Pigi of Jonglei. Food security is expected to deteriorate further through the peak of the lean season in July/August where food availability and access are expected to be at their lowest levels, and many households will face large food consumption gaps. At the peak of the lean season, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are still expected in Panyikang of Upper Nile, Canal/Pigi of Jonglei, and Cueibet, Rumbek North, and Yirol East of Lakes. However, slightly better outcomes than previously expected in Ezo, Nzara, Maridi, and Terekeka, which are anticipated to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between June and September, and in Tonj South and Maiwuit, which are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). As previously projected, the prevalence of acute malnutrition is anticipated to deteriorate to ‘Serious’ or ‘Critical’ levels in most counties. From May to July/August, an estimated 7.7 million people will be in need of food assistance. Large-scale assistance is planned and likely to be delivered in Central Unity, Western Bahr el Ghazal, northern Jonglei, southwestern Upper Nile, and parts of Central and Western Equatoria, though assistance delivered will be too low to meet the majority of people in need. Additionally, it is still likely that conflict and insecurity will periodically limit food assistance deliveries. Food security will begin to improve somewhat towards the end of the projection period with the 2019/20 harvest, though severe outcomes and a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will persist. Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely in the event that conflict shifts and severely limits household movement and humanitarian access.

About this Update

This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 28 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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