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Presence Country
Food Security Outlook

Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains likely in the absence of assistance

February 2018 to September 2018

February - May 2018

June - September 2018

IPC 2.0 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 2.0 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 2.0 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 2.0 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

  • An estimated 5.3 million people, 48 percent of the population, are currently facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity, despite the harvest and continued, large-scale assistance. Compared to past IPC analyses, this is the highest proportion of the population to be in need of emergency humanitarian assistance during the post-harvest period, and the first time no area is classified in Minimal (IPC Phase 1).

  • In the most likely scenario, which assumes typical seasonal deterioration and the continuation of humanitarian assistance at planned levels, widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are still expected. Humanitarian assistance is likely to prevent more extreme outcomes in many areas. However, assistance is expected to meet less than 50 percent of the estimated need, and access to other food sources will be extremely low throughout the lean season. Based on this projection and the severity of acute food insecurity during the 2017 lean season, it is likely some households will be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) during the upcoming lean season even in the presence of assistance.

  • In a worst-case scenario of a persistent absence of food assistance over a large area, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely because this absence of assistance would remove a primary food source and would likely drive increased levels of conflict over remaining scarce resources. In turn, higher levels of conflict would increase movement restrictions, preventing households from accessing food from other sources. Given current food security outcomes and past conflict trends, areas of greatest concern include central and southern Unity, northwestern Jonglei, and Wau of Western Bahr el Ghazal. However, given the volatile nature of the current Emergency, and that food security can deteriorate rapidly among populations who face extreme movement restrictions, Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains possible in many areas of the country.

  • Given the continued risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) and projections of extreme levels of acute food insecurity throughout 2018, large-scale humanitarian assistance above levels currently planned is needed urgently to save lives. Further, assistance should be complemented with unhindered humanitarian access and action to end the conflict. 

Extreme acute food insecurity expected in 2018 and Famine (IPC Phase 5) likely in the absence of assistance

An estimated 5.3 million people are currently facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes, despite large-scale humanitarian assistance and availability of some harvests. This is a significantly higher percentage of the population than was estimated to be in need at the same time last year, during the 2017 post-harvest period (Figure 1). Counties that have experienced extreme food insecurity for several years, including those in Greater Upper Nile, continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. However, food insecurity is increasingly severe across wide areas of Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Equatoria.

Four years of wide-spread conflict across South Sudan is eroding the capacity of households to meet their basic food needs. Even in the most-likely scenario, which assumes the delivery of assistance to 2.5-3.3 million people a month, many households will still face extreme food consumption gaps. This is due to the fact that assistance at current levels meets less than half of the estimated population in need. Most households lack access to sufficient food through other sources, given that local production is well below pre-crisis levels and extremely high prices are preventing households from purchasing even minimal amounts of basic staple foods. Although Famine (IPC Phase 5) is not the most likely outcome due to the expected presence of humanitarian assistance, it is still likely households in many counties will be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). This is based on the expectation that the 2018 lean season will be similar to, if not worse than, the 2017 lean season, and data from the 2017 lean season that indicates even with large-scale assistance across the country, some households were in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) last year

In a worst-case scenario of a persistent absence of food assistance over a large area, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely because this absence of assistance would remove a primary food source and would likely drive increased levels of conflict over remaining scarce resources. In turn, higher levels of conflict would increase movement restrictions, preventing households from accessing food from other sources. Given current food security outcomes and past conflict trends, areas of greatest concern include central and southern Unity, northwestern Jonglei, and Wau of Western Bahr el Ghazal. However, given the volatile nature of the current Emergency, and that food security can deteriorate rapidly among populations who face extreme movement restrictions, Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains possible in many areas of South Sudan.

Assistance well above 2017 levels and unhindered humanitarian access is needed urgently to prevent the loss of lives. Further, given the drivers of extreme acute food insecurity are expected to persist, it is unlikely food security outcomes will improve significantly after the projection period. Households’ ability to engage in typical livelihood activities is unlikely to improve with the continuation of conflict. As a result, extreme levels of food insecurity, and the need for large-scale humanitarian assistance, are expected to continue beyond 2018. For long-term improvements to food security in South Sudan and an end to the persistent risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), urgent action to end the conflict is needed.

National Overview

Current Situation

According to the recently-released South Sudan IPC analysis, nearly half of the country’s population is facing food consumption gaps or only meeting their basic food needs through unsustainable coping, despite the availability of some harvests and large-scale humanitarian assistance. Widespread conflict, which has persisted for over four years, continues to cause the loss of life, repeated displacement, disruption of key livelihood activities, and the deterioration of macroeconomic conditions. As a result, less than half of the population is able to produce, collect, or purchase sufficient food to meet their basic needs.

Despite the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) in December 2017, armed conflict between Government forces and opposition groups persists across the country, most notably in parts of Unity, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Central Equatoria, and Eastern Equatoria. Inter-communal conflict is also recurring in parts of Warrap, Lakes, and Jonglei. An estimated 1.82 million people remain internally displaced, many of whom have been displaced more than once since December 2013. Conflict has also forced roughly 1.96 million people to flee the country. According to population estimates conducted by FEWS NET, in collaboration with partner organizations, the displacement of people out of South Sudan is outpacing the natural growth rate, resulting in a net loss of population since 2014 (Figure 2).

In addition to widespread displacement, conflict continues to limit household engagement in typical livelihood activities. The 2017/18 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) reports production was below last year and the five-year average due to conflict-related disruptions, crops losses from Fall Armyworm, and the continued outflow of people from South Sudan. CFSAM estimates 2017/18 cereal production at 764,100 tons, 7.5 percent lower than last year and 14 percent below the five-year average. When accounting for a lower population in 2017 than 2016, as the CFSAM report does, per capita production is still lower than last year. Per capita production declined (> -10%) in 24 counties, indicating harvests at the household level are lower than last year in many areas. Data from the Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System (FSNMS), collected between December and January, indicate households harvested between one and five months of cereal. It is expected most households either depleted stocks from these harvests in January or will deplete stocks between February and March.

The ongoing conflict also continues to drive very poor macroeconomic conditions. The production of crude oil, South Sudan’s key export and source of foreign currency earnings, remains at 130,000 barrels/day, 60 percent lower than pre-crisis production levels. Reduced production and low international oil prices have limited foreign currency earnings for several years, driving persistent depreciation of the local currency. The exchange rate of the South Sudanese Pound (SSP), which was roughly 5 SSP/USD prior to the outbreak of conflict, has depreciated to 260 SSP/USD as of mid-February.

These results of available food security, nutrition, and mortality data all indicate persistent Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes during the post-harvest period, typically the most food secure time in South Sudan. 2017/18 is the first post-harvest period in which no counties are likely in Minimal (IPC Phase 1), indicating year after year deterioration of food security across South Sudan. In addition to the fact that post-harvest outcomes are severe, FSNMS data suggests that the proportion of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse is higher in some areas than at the same time last year, prior to the very extreme 2017 lean season. The most extreme outcomes exist in Greater Upper Nile, where humanitarian assistance is preventing worse outcomes in many counties and Crisis (IPC Phase 3!) persists, though several other counties are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

These results of available food security, nutrition, and mortality data all indicate persistent Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes during the post-harvest period, typically the most food secure time in South Sudan. 2017/18 is the first post-harvest period in which no counties are likely in Minimal (IPC Phase 1), indicating year after year deterioration of food security across South Sudan. In addition to the fact that post-harvest outcomes are severe, FSNMS data suggests that the proportion of households in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse is higher in some areas than at the same time last year, prior to the very extreme 2017 lean season. The most extreme outcomes exist in Greater Upper Nile, where humanitarian assistance is preventing worse outcomes in many counties and Crisis (IPC Phase 3!) persists, though several other counties are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

Assumptions

The February to September 2018 most likely scenario is based on the following national-level assumptions:

  • Despite the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CHOA) and ongoing peace talks, intermittent clashes between Government forces and armed opposition groups are expected to continue throughout the outlook period in parts of Unity, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Central Equatoria, and Western Equatoria. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, Lakes, and parts of Jonglei, inter-communal conflict is also expected to persist.
  • Further displacement is likely due to continued conflict, and some households are likely to be displaced repeatedly. Some households who fled to neighboring countries are expected to return to their places of origin in South Sudan during the outlook period, though the number of households returning will be low. Therefore, further net out-migration is expected.  
  • Macroeconomic conditions are expected to remain very poor and further deteriorate throughout the outlook period due to ongoing conflict-related disruptions to oil production, trade, and other economic activities. Oil exports are expected to remain at current levels of 130,000 barrels per day, and the current account balance is expected to widen to 12.7 percent of GDP in 2018. As a result, the SSP is expected to further depreciate against the USD.
  • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections, cereal prices will remain near or below last year, but well above the five-year average. For example, the retail price of a kilogram of sorghum in Juba is projected to cost between 60 and 80 SSP, 20-40 percent below last year, but 200-300 percent above the five-year average.
  • Fish and wild foods are expected to be available at normal levels, though many households in conflict-affected areas will face periodic restrictions to accessing these natural sources food.
  • Based on forecasts by NOAA and USGS, the March to May first rainy season in Greater Equatoria and June to September main rainy season in in Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile are both forecast to be above average with timely onsets. Higher than normal levels of flooding are expected in some areas.
  • 2018 national-level production will be lower than last year and below pre-crisis levels due to expected further displacement out of the country, resulting in a lower number of people cultivating.
  • Household-level production is also expected to be below pre-crisis levels, and similar to, or slightly below, last year. CFSAM reports 2017 per capita production was similar to 2016 in 47 percent of counties and lower than 2016 in 31 percent of counties; it is expected the trend in 2018 will be comparable. This is driven by the assumption that conflict in many areas in 2018 will have similar scale of impact on cultivation as in 2017. However, in some areas, harvests will be lower than in 2017 as households ability to engage in livelihood activities continues to erode, and the presence of FAW causes some crop losses.
  • Food assistance is assumed to continue in 2018 according to WFP’s Interim Country Strategic Plan (ICSP), reaching roughly 2.5-3.3 million people per month. Some conflict-related disruptions to delivery are expected, though the large majority of planned assistance is still likely to be delivered. This is based on past trends, which show assistance in conflict-affected areas is occasionally disrupted but deliveries are similar to planned levels over the long term.

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Food security is expected to deteriorate through the peak of the lean season in July, as most households have already depleted their food stocks and those who still have stocks are likely to deplete stocks by March. Many households will continue to lack physical access to markets to purchase food. For those who can access markets, most will only be able to purchase 40-60 kilograms of cereal a month, based on current terms of trade and the expectation that most households are not accessing work every day of the month. This is well below the approximate 100 kilograms of cereal required monthly to meet the basic kilocalorie needs of a household of seven people. Consequently, most households will rely primarily on wild foods and fish, though the availability of these food sources will seasonally decline and access will also be volatile due to expected conflict. According to the recent IPC analysis, ‘Critical’ (GAM (WHZ) 15-30%) levels of acute malnutrition are expected in most counties throughout the lean season, and ‘Very Critical’ (GAM (WHZ) > 30%) acute malnutrition is likely in Leer, Mayendit, Renk, and Longochuck. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely through the peak of the lean season.

Food security is expected to improve somewhat in August and September in areas which harvest and with seasonally higher availability of fish and wild foods. However, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are still expected in many areas. The prevalence of malnutrition will likely improve to ‘Serious’ (GAM (WHZ) 10-15%) in some counties, though in many others it will remain ‘Critical.’

Throughout the projection period, humanitarian assistance is likely to prevent more extreme outcomes in many counties of Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr el Ghazal, and Crisis (IPC Phase 3!) is expected. Despite the continuation of assistance, most households will continue to face food consumption gaps or only minimally meet their food needs through unsustainable coping, as humanitarian assistance is planned to reach less than half of the estimated need. It is also expected some households will be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) even in the most-likely scenario of a continuation of assistance, and counties of highest concern include Leer, Mayendit, Koch, Panyijiar, Ayod, Uror, Nyirol, Fangak, Longochuck, and Wau. This is based on Round 20 FSNMS data and ground reports that indicated some households were in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) during the 2017 lean season, even with large-scale assistance across the state, and the expectation that the 2018 lean season will be similar to or worse than last year. 

In a worst-case scenario of a persistent absence of food assistance over a large area, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely. Areas of greatest concern include central and southern Unity, northwestern Jonglei, and Wau of Western Bahr el Ghazal. However, given the volatile nature of the current Emergency, and that food security can deteriorate rapidly among populations who face extreme movement restrictions, Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains possible in many areas of the country.

For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

About Scenario Development

To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more 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 34 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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