South Sudan flag

Presence Country
Food Security Outlook

Famine (IPC Phase 5) risk persists and substantial scale-up of assistance needed

October 2018 to May 2019

October 2018 - January 2019

February - May 2019

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

  • During the peak of the 2018 lean season, over 6 million people were estimated to have been in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse, including over 1.7 million people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and 47,000 in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). This was the need in the presence of humanitarian assistance.  

  • Food security is expected to improve through the end of 2018, though some households did not harvest and will not share in improvements. Extreme levels of acute food insecurity will continue throughout the projection period, and some households will likely be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Leer, Mayendit, Greater Baggari, Yirol West, Yirol East, Pigi/Canal, and Panyikang.

  • Humanitarian food assistance continues to play a key role in reducing the occurrence of extreme food insecurity. However, planned assistance is estimated to reach only 2-3 million people a month throughout the outlook period, far below the need. Emergency (IPC Phase 4), and associated excess mortality, is likely in several areas in the absence of higher levels of food assistance and unhindered access to deliver assistance.

  • In Greater Baggari, a September MUAC screening indicated outcomes had deteriorated sharply since mid-2018, from which time humanitarians have faced significant access constraints and minimal assistance has been delivered. Should conflict continue to restrict household movement and humanitarian access, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible. In central Unity, data indicated that many households were in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) during the lean season. With the recent return of humanitarians to the area, consumption has improved slightly, though given the expectation of little to no harvests among households of concern, Famine (IPC Phase 5) is likely should conflict restrict the delivery of assistance throughout the projection period.

  • Although Greater Baggari and central Unity are of greatest concern currently, new areas of concern can arise quickly when an uptick in violence restricts household movement and humanitarian access, which can in turn result in significant food security deterioration. An end to the conflict, and full implementation of the peace deal is ultimately needed to end the persistent risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in South Sudan.  

South Sudan to continue facing Famine (IPC Phase 5) risk despite peace deal

Data on food consumption, nutrition, and mortality collected across South Sudan between May and August 2018, the peak of the lean season, pointed to extreme outcomes, indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse, across the country (Figure 1). According to August 2018 Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System (FSNMS) data, outcomes are broadly similar ot the 2017 lean season, though notable improvements were observed in some areas, while deterioration was recorded in others. 

In September, the IPC Technical Working Group estimated 6.1 million people1 (59% of the population) were in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse, of whom 1.7 million people were in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and 47,000 were in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5)2. These estimates were in the presence of ongoing humanitarian assistance.

Past data indicates food security outcomes do improve notably during the harvesting period, and food security improvements are expected through the end of 2018. However, even with these improvements, many households will continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes, and some households did not harvest and will not share in the improvements. Extreme food security outcomes, and associated excess mortality, is expected in South Sudan even during the 2018/19 harvesting period, and outcomes on par with the 2018 lean season are expected at the end of the projection period, which marks the 2019 lean season. The South Sudan IPC TWG estimated 4-5 million people will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse though March 2019, including 26,000-36,000 in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). These estimates are also in the presence of planned humanitarian food assistance.

FEWS NET estimates this number will further increase throughout May 2019 as the lean season progresses. Humanitarian food assistance is likely to reach 2-3 million people per month throughout these time periods. However, the reach is still far below the estimated need. In the complete absence of assistance FEWS NET estimates around 6.5 million people would be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse by the end of the projection period, and Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely should there be a protracted absence of assistance.

Nearly five years of conflict across the country has eroded the capacity of many households to meet their basic food needs. Despite the signing of the most recent peace deal on September 12, conflict persists across the country. It is expected that conflict will continue in South Sudan, though there is a possibility of lower levels of conflict should the peace deal be successfully implemented. Past trends indicate that food security can deteriorate rapidly when conflict significantly restricts the movement of affected households and humanitarian access. Given the volatile nature of conflict in South Sudan, the areas of greatest concern can shift quickly. For this reason, although central Unity and Greater Baggari are of high concern currently, new areas of concern are possible throughout the projection period.

Humanitarian food assistance well above current planned and funded levels, complemented by unhindered access, is needed urgently and throughout the projection period to prevent the loss of lives and further erosion of livelihoods. An end to the conflict by all parties, and full implementation of the signed peace deal, is ultimately needed to end the persistent risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in South Sudan.

 

[1] Five counties were not analyzed due to insufficient data driven by access constraints to data collection: Maban, Terekeka, Lainya, Morobo, and Yei. Consequently, the analysis excluded the populations of these counties, which together equal roughly five percent of the population of South Sudan

[2] According to the IPC, a Famine (IPC Phase 5) has occurred when at least 20 percent of households in a given area have an extreme lack of food, the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence, as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ), exceeds 30 percent, and morality, as measured by the Crude Death Rate (CDR), is greater than 2 per 10,000 per day. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is when a household group has an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even with the full employment of coping strategies.

NATIONAL OVERVIEW

 Current Situation

Extreme levels of acute food insecurity existed across South Sudan during the May-August 2018 lean season. According to the September 2018 IPC analysis, an estimated 6.1 million people were in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse at the peak of the lean season, though the need was likely slightly higher as five counties were not included in this analysis[3]. This estimate included 1.7 million people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and 47,000 people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). However, these estimates were in the presence of food assistance and the total need was likely higher.

Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System (FSNMS) data indicated that most households across the country had poor food consumption (FCS), medium or low dietary diversity (HDDS), and were experiencing moderate or severe hunger (HHS), indicative of widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4). An analysis of a convergence of these food consumption and livelihood coping outcomes at the household level showed that five percent or more of the population in 14 counties reported outcomes indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). These data were complimented with ground information and corroborating evidence during the August IPC workshop and it was determined that households were likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) at the peak of the lean season in seven counties: Leer, Mayendit, Yirol East, Yirol West, Canal/Pigi, Panyikang, and Greater Baggari of Wau. In Gogrial East, Gogrial West, Awerial, Rumbek East, Mayom, and Fagak, based ground information analysts determined Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes were determined unlikely.  

Of the 21 SMART surveys conducted between May and August, 15 counties reported a ‘Critical’ level (15.0-29.9%) of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM), as measured by Weight-for-Height z-score (WHZ), and six counties recorded a ‘Serious’ (10.0-14.9%) GAM (WHZ) prevalence. These results are indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3), respectively. It is expected these outcomes are mainly driven by lack of food or inadequate access to food, and poor access to safe water and nutrition and health services. In most areas, the non-trauma crude death rate (CDR) was indicative of Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2), though in five counties the CDR was indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Most SMART surveys also collected data on food consumption and the results of HHS and FCS also point to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes, with some households across regions reporting outcomes indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) (Table 1).

Relative to the 2017 lean season, the 2018 lean season was broadly similar, though there were some areas, such as Jonglei, where data indicated improvement, while other areas, such as central Unity, showed deterioration. The above-mentioned convergence analysis found that, overall, the size and severity of food insecurity during the 2018 lean season was slightly lower than that of 2017. Given that the number of conflict events was lower during the 2018 lean season and humanitarian food assistance deliveries were slightly higher, it is possible outcomes during the 2018 lean season were in fact slightly less severe. However, it should be noted that several of the most conflict-affected counties were not accessed during 2018 data collection, which may have positively skewed the results. Nutrition and mortality data indicated similar outcomes during the 2017 and 2018 lean seasons. Of high concern during the lean season were counties with populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), as well as counties where data indicated further deterioration beyond already extreme outcomes would be likely in the absence of assistance. Analyses on these counties is further detailed in the area of concern sections.

Despite the signing of the revitalized peace agreement on September 12 by the Government and opposition, conflict persists across much of the country. The conflict has continued for nearly five years and is the key driver of acute food insecurity in the country, causing significant disruption to normal livelihoods and the economy and displacing millions of people. An estimated 1.84 million people remain internally displaced, and 2.47 million people have fled the country.  

The number of conflict incidents observed in 2018, as recorded by ACLED, were lower than in 2016/17; however, the number of incidents in October indicates conflict has recently increased. Typically conflict increases seasonally during this time period, though the increase observed in October 2018 was greater than usual (Figure 2).  The recent increase is driven heavily by violence in Wau of Western Bahr el Ghazal and Yei of Central Equatoria. In addition, conflict has continued in Koch of Unity and attacks have occured along Wau-Raga, Juba-Mundri-Yambio, Juba-Bor, Torit-Juba, and Kaya-Yei roads. Inter-communal conflict persists in Tonj South of Warrap, Cueibet of Lakes, Mundri of Western Equatoria, and Terekeka of Central Equatoria.

The conflict continues to disrupt normal market functioning and trade flows (Figure 3). Although markets are operational in state capitals, trade flows to rural areas remain very low and the high cost of operation, including illegal taxation, theft, risk of harm, and poor road conditions, drives extremely high prices and restricts many households’ access to markets.

South Sudan’s macroeconomic conditions remain very poor. The SSP appreciated significantly from 300 SSP/USD in mid-2018 to roughly 170 SSP/USD in June/July following an injection of USD into the country, though the currency has depreciated since July and is now trading at 213 SSP/USD. With the resumption of production in Toma South oil fields of Rubkona in Unity State, oil production increased from around 130,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 165,000 bdp. The increased oil production has not led to currency appreciation to date, though it is unclear if this is due to the fact that reserves are not yet available, or if total earnings will have a negligible impact on the value of the SSP. However, fuel prices at most stations in Juba have reduced slightly, from 180 SSP/liter in September to 175 SSP/liter in October.

In state capitals, the price of sorghum is around 110-140 SSP according to data from WFP and the Crop and Livestock Market Information System, though higher prices are observed in rural markets. Staple food prices have declined somewhat from mid-2018, though prices in most markets in October are still above the same time last year. Similar to trends observed in Juba (Figure 4), staple food prices in many areas of the country continued to increase year-on-year, though current increases are much lower than those observed in 2016/17. Staple food prices remain over ten-fold higher than pre-crisis levels.

The June to September main rainy season in northern areas and second rainy season in Greater Equatoria started on time in most areas, though rainfall was erratically distributed over space and time in several areas. Overall, rainfall was below average in large parts of Lakes, Jonglei, Eastern Equatoria, and Central Equatoria (Figure 5). Although rainfall was overall average in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, 

and Unity, dry spells were reported in June/July. Above-average late season rainfall largely made up for early season deficits; however, these dry spells were reported as a key barrier to cultivation by a significant number of households during July-September FSNMS data collection. Insecurity and Fall Armyworm (FAW) were also noted as main constraints. Overall crop losses due to FAW were considered slight to moderate, though some areas reported more significant crop damage.   

In October, the harvesting of second season crops in Greater Equatoria and main season crops in Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile is ongoing. Although many households are harvesting, FSNMS data and rapid assessments conducted by FEWS NET and partners indicate that there are households in many areas who are unlikely to harvest due to conflict-related disruptions and displacement away from fields.

Humanitarian food assistance continues to play a key role in reducing the occurrence of extreme food insecurity. The majority of assistance is delivered in Greater Upper Nile, though several areas of Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Equatoria are also receiving large-scale food assistance. Between July and September, general food distributions (GFD) were delivered to roughly two million people per month. Some areas receive assistance once every two or three months. It is therefore likely the beneficiaries reached each month were not the same two million people, and the total number of people reached throughout South Sudan was higher than two million. Monthly rations were between 33 and 100 percent of kilocalorie needs. This assistance is mitigating food consumption gaps for many, though it is reaching far less than the estimated population in need. For the past two years, roughly 20 percent of the population was reached with GFD each month. However, the SS TWG has estimated that roughly 40-60 percent of the population was still in need in the presence of this assistance. Throughout 2018, similar to recent years, conflict at times inhibited the delivery of humanitarian assistance, most notably in central Unity, Raga and Greater Baggari of Wau of Western Bahr Ghazal, and many areas of Central Equatoria.

By October, it is expected that food consumption has improved somewhat with the ongoing harvest and increased availability of fish and wild foods following the rainy season, and the number of people facing food consumption gaps or engaging in negative livelihood coping to meet their basic needs as declined. However it is still estimated that between 4-5 million people are in need of assistance above needs already met by ongoing humanitarian food assistance. It is expected that households are still likely in Catastrophe in in Leer, Mayendit, Greater Baggari of Wau, Pigi/Canal, Yirol East, Yirol West, and Panyikang, and that some households have now deteriorated to Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Pibor.

Assumptions

The October 2018 to May 2019 most likely scenario is based on the following national-level assumptions:

  • Given the difficulty in projecting the evolution of conflict, this scenario assumes a continuation of conflict similar to recent years. It should be noted though that, given the revitalized peace agreement, a decline in conflict is possible with successful implementation, and this best-case scenario is noted in Table 2.
  • The 2018/19 harvest is expected to be similar to last year but lower than pre-crisis levels, based on data from FSNMS, CFSAM, and rapid assessments. Many households are likely to harvest; however, conflict-related disruptions, low household assets, prolonged dry spells, and the impacts of FAW and other pests will result in little to no harvests for some households. Among those who harvested, it is expected household food stocks will last 2-4 months in Greater Upper Nile, 2-5 months in Greater Bahr el Ghazal, and 3-7 months in Greater Equatoria.
  • Based on forecasts from NOAA and USGS, the reminder of the August to November second rainy season is forecast to be average, and, despite current rainfall deficits over southern South Sudan, total seasonal rainfall is still expected to be average. The March to May 2019 first rainy season in Greater Equatoria is forecast to be average.
  • With the timely start of the March to May rainy season, most households are likely to plant first-season crops in Greater Equatoria in March/April, though some lack productive assets and will be unable to plant. Given the likelihood of some returnees, the area cultivated will be slightly higher than 2018, but below pre-crisis levels as conflict is still expected to disrupt cultivation.
  • Fish and wild foods are expected to be available throughout the outlook period, but the availability will decline seasonally during the November to April/May dry season. Overall access to these food sources will at times be limited due to conflict.
  • Imports of sorghum from Sudan will be slightly higher than last year given the expectation of a near average harvest in Sudan and likely formal border opening; however, volumes traded will remain below pre-crisis levels. Imports of maize from Uganda will likely be higher than in 2017 and early 2018, as conflict along the key trade route has been somewhat lower. However, incidences of road ambushes are still likely and import volumes are expected to be lower than pre-crisis levels. Internal trade and market functioning are expected to remain similarly constrained by occasional conflict.
  • Based on recent increases in oil production and plans to increase production further, it is likely total oil production will be greater than 165,000 bpd, increasing the country’s oil exports and foreign currency reserves to levels higher than last year. As a result, the value of the SSP on the parallel market is expected to be between 200 and 250 SSP/USD.
  • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections, it is expected that staple food prices will remain 8 to 10 times higher than pre-crisis levels and well above the five-year average. However, prices in Juba and Aweil are likely to be lower in 2019 than prices observed in 2018. In Wau, prices in 2019 are expected to remain higher than 2018 prices.
  • According to WFP’s Operation Plan for November 2018 through May 2019, general food distributions are expected to reach 2.5 to 3.5 million people per month. The Operation Plan through March 2019 is 49 percent funded and based on current funding and past trends, further funding is likely and it is expected the majority of planned assistance through May 2019 will be delivered. Assistance delivery is likely to be occasionally disrupted in conflict-affected areas.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Food security is expected to remain largely stable through December 2018 with the availability of the harvest and seasonally high availability of wild foods and fish, though access to wild foods will be periodically limited by insecurity in conflict-affected areas, and some households did not harvest and will not share in improvements. Levels of acute malnutrition are expected to improve to ‘Serious’ GAM (WHZ) of 10.0-14.9 percent in some areas. Relative to the 2018 lean season, a higher number of households will face no acute food insecurity or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during this time period, though Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phases 4) will persist throughout the country. Humanitarian food assistance is expected to prevent more extreme outcomes, in particular in Greater Upper Nile and parts of Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Eastern Equatoria. In Leer and Mayendit, Greater Baggari of Wau, Pigi/Canal, Pibor, and Panyikang, some households are expected to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). These households will face extreme difficulty meeting their basic food needs as they have little or no harvests, lack typical sources of income, will likely face constraints to regularly accessing fish and wild foods, and conflict is expected to occasionally disrupt the delivery of humanitarian food assistance to populations in need in these areas.

Food security is expected to deteriorate through May 2019, and, similar to recent years, the lean season is expected to start by January 2019 with the early depletion of household food stocks. More widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected. In pre-crisis years, many households would rely on market purchases to meet a large portion of their food needs during the lean season. Given the likely persistence of extremely high food prices and low wages, the daily wage rate will remain insufficient to purchase a household’s daily minimal kilocalorie needs in many areas (Figure 7); in some areas it will be minimally sufficient though it is unlikely households will access labor daily. Although the peak of the lean season is typically July/August, the severity of food insecurity is also expected to increase notably towards the end of the dry season (April/May) when the availability of wild foods and fish are seasonally low. Levels of acute malnutrition are likely to deteriorate to ‘Critical’ (15.0-29.9%) due to both the decline in food availability and seasonal increase in disease prevalence, and some areas may record a ‘Very Critical’ GAM (WHZ) prevalence (>=30%). Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are also expected during this time in the above-mentioned counties of greatest concern with the exception of Panyikang where a recent decline in conflict is expected to enable better household movement and higher trade flows than were observed at the peak of the lean season. Humanitarian food assistance is expected to continue preventing more extreme outcomes in many areas. Given that severity of outcomes in central Unity at the peak of the lean season, and the expectation of little to no harvests among households of greatest concern, Famine (IPC Phase 5) is likely should conflict restrict the delivery of humanitarian food assistance throughout the projection period. 

Broadly speaking, the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will persist in South Sudan throughout the outlook period, during both the post-harvest period and start of the 2019 lean season. In addition to central Unity, Greater Baggari is of extreme concern. Food security outcomes are already extreme and should ongoing conflict continue to restrict household movement and humanitarian access, it is expected an increased number of households will be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) and the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will increase. Throughout the county, the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) is greatest when conflict restricts household movement in toward typical food sources and humanitarian assistance deliveries. Significant deterioration in food security and nutrition outcomes due to these factors has occurred several times over the past few years in central Unity, Greater Baggari, and areas of Jonglei. Given the volatile nature of the conflict, there remains difficulty projecting the areas where households and humanitarians are likely to face these restrictions. Therefore, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely in several areas in the event conflict prevented the delivery of food assistance and household movement for an extended period of time.


[3] Five counties were not analyzed due to insufficient data driven by access constraints to data collection: Maban, Terekeka, Lainya, Morobo, and Yei. Consequently, the analysis excluded the populations of these counties, which together equal roughly five percent of the population of South Sudan

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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