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3 in 4 people in Crisis or worse unlikely to receive food aid due to limited funds and rising costs

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • South Sudan
  • April 2022
3 in 4 people in Crisis or worse unlikely to receive food aid due to limited funds and rising costs

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The share of the South Sudanese population facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes is projected to reach record-high levels in 2022[1]. FEWS NET expects 7-8 million people nationally will experience food consumption gaps, including 2.5-3.0 million people (20-25 percent of the population) who face large to extreme food consumption gaps consistent with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse. Sub-national conflict and insecurity, three consecutive years of catastrophic floods, and macroeconomic challenges have progressively eroded household capacity to produce or purchase food and cope with recurrent shocks. As a result, the severity of acute food insecurity has worsened compared to previous years.

    • Humanitarians’ ability to mitigate the severity of acute food insecurity in South Sudan is increasingly constrained by limited donor funding and the rising costs of procuring, transporting, and delivering food commodities. Out of necessity, WFP and partners are expected to prioritize food assistance distributions to the most severely food insecure areas, including but not limited to eight counties with households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). However, this leaves 3 in 4 acutely food insecure people to face hunger and acute malnutrition. Food assistance needs are expected to be highest in July-September, which overlaps the lean season’s peak and the heaviest period of the rainy season.

    • The areas of highest concern include central and northern Jonglei, Pibor, central Unity, northern Lakes, and Warrap. Additionally, there are multiple counties where some households either have extreme hunger indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) or food aid is likely mitigating the occurrence of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). These areas include: Fangak, Canal/Pigi, Uror, and Ayod counties of Jonglei; Pibor; Tambura County of Western Equatoria; Cueibet and Rumbek North Counties of Lakes; Leer and Mayendit counties of Unity; and Tonj East County of Warrap.

    • FEWS NET assesses there is a credible, alternative scenario in which Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur in South Sudan, especially in areas with large populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or higher. Fangak, Canal/Pigi, and Pibor remain among the areas of most extreme concern for a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), with increasing, new concern for Leer, based on the severity of current food insecurity, the local population’s very high vulnerability to new shocks, and the likely exposure to severe floods and/or renewed conflict in 2022. Funding for a scale-up of food and nutrition assistance, supported by unhindered humanitarian access to conflict- and flood-affected areas, is required to save lives and livelihoods and end the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in South Sudan.

    • [1] This statement is relevant to the timeframe for which the IPC and FEWS NET have produced national needs estimates, which includes 2011-2022. 


    Conflict and insecurity: Sporadic clashes between armed groups, attacks against civilians, and generalized insecurity are worsening the severity of food insecurity in parts of Unity, Jonglei, Warrap, Upper Nile, and Greater Equatoria. Political tensions between government and opposition forces reached high levels in March and April, periodically manifesting in violence in central Unity and southeastern Upper Nile (Maiwut and Longochuk counties). Incidents of armed banditry and intercommunal conflict also persist, linked to political power struggles, territorial disputes, resource scarcity, and other factors. These events not only disrupt or prevent households’ ability to fish, gather wild fruits and vegetables, plant crops, protect their remaining livestock, and access markets, but also compromise humanitarians’ ability to pre-position food assistance in strategic locations ahead of the main rainfall season, such as in Maban, Pibor, and central Unity. To reduce tensions, the leaders of the Sudan People Liberation Movement in Government (SPLM-IG) and the Sudan People Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) signed an agreement to unify the command structure of the armed forces and cease hostilities on April 3rd and subsequently implemented the plan by republican degree on April 12th. Despite this achievement, challenges remain regarding the implementation of outstanding elements of the national peace agreement in advance of the 2023 elections. Furthermore, the decentralized command structure of the armed forces and political power struggles at the state level render it difficult for Juba-based leaders to enforce orders across the country.

    Central Unity – an epicenter of conflict during the civil war where Famine (IPC Phase 5) was declared in 2017 – has re-emerged as a flashpoint, with multiple clashes occurring between the South Sudan People Defense Forces (SSPDF) and SPLM-IO along inter-communal lines in Koch, Mayendit, and Leer counties. The attacks involved extreme violence against civilians and resulted in large-scale displacement, loss of household assets such as livestock, and interference with households’ ability to search for and access food. Estimates of displacement in Leer County, specifically, range from 13,930 people to 40,000 people, while an inter-agency needs assessment confirmed that around 7,000 people were displaced from Leer to Old Fangak and surrounding areas. Attacks on the port of Adok and humanitarian sites prompted WFP to temporarily suspend food assistance deliveries until they can re-secure the area. As a result, additional households are likely deteriorating to Emergency (IPC Phase 4), and there is increasing concern for households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Leer and Mayendit.

    In central Jonglei (Uror, Akobo, Nyirol, Duk, and Pochalla counties) and Pibor, a significant increase in Murle-led raids out of Pibor into Jonglei is exacerbating food insecurity in targeted villages and placing households in Pibor at risk of imminent retaliation. Food insecurity is already quite severe in Uror and Pibor, and escalating conflict will likely push more households into Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). The Murle have allegedly raided over 18,000 cattle and killed several civilians in Uror, Duk, and Nyirol since late March, in part motivated by efforts to restock herds after the large-scale loss of livestock due to conflict and floods in 2019 and 2020. In response, the Lou Nuer and Dinka Bor reportedly reached an agreement in late April to mobilize against the Murle, a move that could occur as early as May. Armed groups are still blocking humanitarian and commercial supplies along the Bor-Pibor road, and the window for humanitarians to pre-position supplies using the alternative Kapoeta-Boma route before it becomes inaccessible during the rainy season is rapidly narrowing.

    In Warrap, an outbreak of conflict in Abyei and Twic has led to restricted humanitarian access, a significant decline in import volumes from Sudan to the Greater Bahr el Ghazal Region, and rapid deterioration to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in Abyei, where at least 40,000 people have been displaced by violence since February. Prospects for peace remain poor despite the signing of a ceasefire agreement between traditional Dinka Ngok and Dinka Twic leaders in early April due to a lack of local community consultations. Meanwhile, in the Warrap-Lakes-Unity border region, inter-communal cattle raids and ambushes along the Rumbek Centre-Cueibet trade route are compounding crop and livestock losses that households incurred during the 2021 floods. In April, FEWS NET conducted rapid assessments in Tonj East, Tonj North, Rumbek North, and Cuiebet and observed cases of severe to extreme hunger. Households had few assets for food production and very low coping capacity in assessed areas, including Paweng, Paliang, Wunlit, Nyigor, Romich, and Ngapagok payams of Tonj East and in Marial-lou, Kirik, Awul, Rual-Atok, and Rualbet payams of Tonj North. In Rumbek North, where 12,000 people were displaced to Maper Centre and Amok in April, the worst-affected areas include Aloor, Malueth, Wun-rieng, and Meen payams. In the Citcok, Tiap-Tiap, Pagor, and Duany communities of Cueibet, households lack not only harvest stocks and adequate numbers of livestock, but also have limited access to fishing and wild food gathering areas due to the threat of attack.  

    Rainfall and flooding: Hundreds of thousands of people in northern, central, and eastern South Sudan are still dealing with the long-term impacts of the 2021 floods, which not only diminished the annual cereal harvest, killed off livestock, and damaged markets, but also left roads and infrastructure in very poor condition throughout the dry season. Parts of some counties are still inundated – such as Duk, Ayod, Canal/Pigi, and Fangak in Jonglei; Panyijiar, Leer, Mayendit, and Rubkona in Unity; low-lying areas of Cueibet and Rumbek North in Lakes; and Fashoda and Melut in Upper Nile – despite the fact that April is the peak of the dry season. Consequently, household movement, trade, and humanitarian operations remain arduous, especially in remote areas. Most displaced households have not returned to their places of origin and are living in makeshift camps on higher grounds in anticipation of renewed flooding this year. Many households face challenges traveling to markets, gathering food, and collecting potable water, and fishing is inadequate to compensate for other food and income sources. Meanwhile, markets outside of the main towns are under-supplied with food and non-food items due to the difficulty of transporting and restocking goods. Finally, humanitarians face considerable logistical difficulties transporting and delivering food assistance to flood-affected areas, such as higher costs, lengthier journeys, and increased physical risks to staff. As a result, some households either have extreme hunger indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) or depend on food assistance to prevent extreme hunger. During a rapid field assessment in Fangak and Canal/Pigi in March, FEWS NET found many households have no food stocks, few to no livestock, and low market access and depend on food aid, water lilies, and fish.

    While the start of the March to May rainy season in southern and western South Sudan was generally delayed and below average, the establishment of the rains over the Nile River basin and the early-to-imminent start of the June to September main rainy season in the north and east means much of the country is highly vulnerable to earlier, severe flooding in 2022. In bimodal southern and western South Sudan, the onset of the first rainy season was generally delayed by 10-20 days, resulting in cumulative rainfall deficits of 10-40 percent in much of Greater Equatoria Region and southeastern Lakes after the mid-point of the season (Figure 2). However, moderate to heavy rainfall in April also led to surpluses, including not only in bimodal areas of Western Bahr El Ghazal, but also in the unimodal north and east, where the rains typically begin by June.

    In the coming weeks, moderate to heavy rainfall – even if cumulatively below average or near average – is likely to quickly saturate the soil and raise river levels. Satellite-derived flood risk models already signal moderate to high flood risk in the southwest and parts of the east (Figure 3) despite normal to stressed soil moisture content (Figure 4). Consequently, many households in flood-prone areas are at risk of new or secondary displacement, losing their ability to cultivate crops, and/or losing access to typical wet-season livestock grazing areas. In addition, roads will quickly become impassable, leaving local markets with inadequate supplies and raising the logistical costs for humanitarians to deliver food assistance by boat or air.

    Crop production: The lean season is fully underway, with an atypically early start around March due to the severity of crop losses due to conflict and floods during the 2021 production year. Based on the preliminary results of the WFP-FAO Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission for 2021/2022, national cereal production in 2021 was about 4 percent lower than 2020’s already low production amounts, leading to a 16 percent increase in the national cereal deficit. As a result, many households have already or mostly exhausted their food stocks from the 2021 harvests, especially in the states with the largest cereal deficits, including Jonglei, Warrap, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile, and Unity. 

    Based on key informant reports, area planted for first season crop production has likely declined due to the impacts of conflict and the delayed start of the rains. Households in bimodal areas, which span the Equatorial Maize and Cassava, Ironstone Plateau Agropastoral, Highland Forest and Sorghum, and Western Plains livelihood zones, are predominantly dependent on crop production for their livelihoods. Herder-farmer conflict is the most significant driver of reduced planting in Magwi and Torit in Eastern Equatoria; Juba, Lainya, and Yei in Central Equatoria; and greater Mundri and Mvolo in Western Equatoria. The delayed onset of the rains and cumulative moisture deficits have also delayed planting activities and caused some moisture stress among maize crops (Figure 4). Consequently, land preparation is still ongoing in parts of Magwi County in Eastern Equatoria; greater Mundri, Maridi, Yambio, and Ibba counties in Western Equatoria; and rural Juba, Yei, Morobo, Lainya, and Kajo-keji counties in Central Equatoria. Meanwhile, households are still planting maize, groundnuts, vegetables, and sorghum in parts of Magwi and the Lopit Hills in Eastern Equatoria. The lower levels of planting notwithstanding, crop yields are likely to be favorable due to improved, adequate rainfall amounts in April. Satellite imagery already suggests maize is in the emergence and early vegetative stages in some areas.

    Livestock production: Household food and income from livestock is significantly below normal in most agropastoral and pastoral areas across Greater Bahr el Ghazal Region, Greater Upper Nile Region, and the greater Kapoeta area of Eastern Equatoria. Many livestock are in poor health due to a combination of low-quality pasture, contaminated water sources, and restricted access to grazing grounds, which are directly related to cattle raids, looting, floods, and limited access to veterinary services. Instances of livestock emaciation, excess livestock deaths, and low milk productivity are highest among cattle and highest in the worst flood-affected areas of Greater Upper Nile Region. Fangak, Canal/Pigi, and Pibor are among the areas of highest concern given the near-collapse of livestock production in 2020 and 2021, despite efforts by armed youths to restock livestock holdings in Pibor via raiding activities. In addition, FEWS NET found many grazing areas in Tonj East and Tonj North remain inundated in April, which is driving households to congregate their livestock in higher-ground areas, causing conflict over grazing rights, and leading to higher waterborne disease incidence. Conflict also drives low to no access to milk and other livestock products for family members at the homestead, as many households send their livestock to distant areas in an effort to protect them from raids. However, key informants report better conditions for some small ruminants, due to the regeneration of shrubs and browse as floodwaters have receded.

    Staple food prices:  The impacts of conflict and weather shocks not only affect household capacity to produce food, but also reduce household capacity to purchase food by disrupting trade, diminishing market functioning and integration, and suppressing income-generating activities. Markets in areas severely affected by floods or conflict are either being rebuilt or remain significantly disrupted, especially in central and southern Unity, northern and central Jonglei, and southeastern Upper Nile. Furthermore, regional and global price shocks affecting fuel, cereals, and other basic commodities are contributing to rising staple food prices in 2022, a reversal of the relative decline in food prices observed in mid-to-late 2021 following some economic reforms (Figures 5 and 6). These regional and global shocks come against the backdrop of South Sudan’s macroeconomic challenges, national cereal deficit, high import dependence, and poor road infrastructure, all of which are linked to local conflict and flood shocks and have collectively driven a long-term increase in food prices since 2016.

    South Sudan primarily relies on the East Africa region for imported sorghum and maize – the mainstays of the local diet among poor, rural households – but the regional sorghum and maize balances are well below average due to drought and conflict shocks, pushing prices upward. Low stocks in source markets in Uganda, for example, drove a seven percent decline in trade volumes via the Nimule border-crossing point in March, while conflict on the South Sudan-Sudan border in Abyei and Northern Bahr el Ghazal has interfered with cereal imports needed to restock markets before the rainy season. In addition, while South Sudan has low reliance on imports sourced from Ukraine or Russia, the Ukraine crisis is indirectly contributing to food price hikes through increased volatility in global grain market prices; increased pressure on global vegetable oil supplies; and high global oil prices that are driving up food transport costs. Given that wheat composes 30 percent of cereal demand in South Sudan and 36 percent of cereal demand in Sudan, there is also considerable concern that wheat supply shocks linked to the Ukraine crisis will increase demand for sorghum and maize as substitutes and exacerbate prices for these items.

    As a result of the above factors, staple food prices are significantly higher than the five-year average but generally lower to similar than early 2021, according to available CLiMIS price data. In March, the retail price of sorghum ranged from 30 to 60 percent above average in the main rural markets of Rumbek Centre, Aweil Centre, and Wau. Meanwhile, sorghum, maize, wheat flour, vegetable oil, and sugar prices trended 140-210 percent above average in Juba. However, the price of sorghum was 20-25 percent lower than the same period of 2021 in Wau, Rumbek, and Aweil and similar to last year in Juba. In Juba, the price of other staple commodities (maize, wheat flour, vegetable oil, and sugar) followed similar trends, with vegetable oil showing the highest increase of 15 percent.

    These prices are unattainable for many rural and urban households, who lack access to sufficient income and tend to see their purchasing power decline as the lean season progresses. The amount of sorghum that a household can buy with a day’s wage for casual labor declined by 10 and 46 percent relative to the same time last year in Wau and Juba, respectively, corresponding to a decline of 1-4 kg of sorghum. While the terms of trade are improving in Aweil Centre, where a household can purchase 6 kg more than last year, many households simply lack enough days of work to cover their minimum food needs.

    Humanitarian food assistance: The scale of national food assistance needs, coupled with numerous logistic and security challenges in delivering food assistance to flood and conflict-affected areas, continues to outpace funding for the food assistance response. In March, WFP reached 1.85 million people with General Food Distributions and Food for Assets, equivalent to around 25-30 percent of the total national population in need of food aid. Unable to reach all populations in need, humanitarians prioritized flood- and conflict-affected counties at risk of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), as well as protracted IDPs and refugees. As a result, food assistance levels were highest in accessible areas of Unity, Jonglei, Pibor, and Warrap, in addition to other areas of extreme concern like Rumbek North in Lakes and Tambura in Western Equatoria. In April, WFP faces increasingly difficult resource-allocation decisions between reaching households affected by earlier shocks, initiating the lean season response, and pre-positioning food in towns near areas that will be hard to reach during the rainy season, such as Bor, Malakal, New and Old Fangak, Rubkona, and Yida. Already, WFP’s interim updates indicate humanitarians have postponed the lean season response in some counties in order to pre-position food in hard-to-reach locations and increase ration sizes from 15 days to 21 days in counties with households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).  

    While the number of beneficiaries in March was consistent with recent trends (Figure 7), millions of people in need do not consistently receive food aid. Consequently, they face widening food consumption gaps and the erosion of their coping capacity. As a result, food assistance is increasingly used to mitigate large to extreme food consumption gaps rather than prevent hunger. This trend is now likely to worsen in the remainder of 2022. WFP reports fuel price shocks have driven transportation costs upward by 6.4 million USD monthly, while the cost of food procurements has risen by 289,000 USD monthly. Meanwhile, donors have funded less than five percent of the 2022 South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan.

    Current food security outcomes:  In light of the above shocks, FEWS NET assesses up to 7 million people in South Sudan need urgent food assistance to prevent Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes as of April. Of this figure, FEWS NET estimates up to 35 percent are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or higher, placing South Sudan among the most severe crises of food insecurity globally. This estimate is broadly consistent with the results of the April 2022 IPC acute food insecurity analysis, which concluded the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse totaled 6.8 million in February/March and would rise further between April and July. At the county level, FEWS NET assesses that households likely face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in 36 counties across South Sudan. However, the delivery of significant levels of food assistance is likely mitigating more severe outcomes in 13 counties, leading FEWS NET to map these areas as Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!).  

    Given the severity of food insecurity, there are many areas of high concern in South Sudan. However, based on the share of the population in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or higher, the areas of highest concern include central and northern Jonglei, Pibor, central Unity, northern Lakes, and Warrap. Within these areas, FEWS NET assesses that ten counties either currently have households with extreme hunger indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) or food assistance delivery is likely mitigating the occurrence of extreme hunger and preventing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). These areas include Fangak, Canal/Pigi, and Uror counties in Jonglei; Pibor; Tambura County in Western Equatoria; Cueibet and Rumbek North counties in Lakes; Leer and Mayendit counties in Unity; and Tonj East County in Warrap. In each of these areas, food security and acute malnutrition data collected by the WFP-FAO-UNICEF Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System between September 2021 and January 2022 indicate households had severe to extreme hunger during the harvest period. As of April, these areas are either still experiencing or still recovering from the impacts of conflict and flood shocks, compounded by economic challenges.

    Fangak, Canal/Pigi, Leer, and Mayendit were among the counties worst affected by the 2021 floods, and the recent escalation of conflict in Leer and Mayendit has exacerbated the situation, especially in Pilling, Deed, Geer, and Thonyor villages of Pilieny payam in Leer, where humanitarians were forced to evacuate. Meanwhile, the provisional results of two SMART surveys conducted by Action Against Hunger and International Medical Corps in March 2022 confirmed that food consumption and acute malnutrition levels are still severe in Fangak and Canal/Pigi counties, with nearly 40 percent of households reporting severe to extreme hunger in Canal/Pigi. Addressing humanitarian access challenges and scaling up food assistance and basic services remain critical to alleviating the severity of acute food insecurity, especially given the near-collapse of crop and livestock production in Fangak and Canal/Pigi in 2021 and the continued inaccessibility of some remote areas.

    In Pibor, Uror, Tambura, Cueibet, Rumbek North, and Tonj East, recent and ongoing conflict is the key driver of extreme food insecurity, followed by recent floods. In the case of Pibor, household food and income sources and market functioning have yet to recover from the devastating conflict and floods of 2020, which led to the classification of Famine Likely (IPC Phase 5) in late 2020. A large share of the population is at risk of deteriorating to Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) if threats of retaliatory attacks on Pibor materialize and if humanitarian and commercial routes become completely inaccessible. Meanwhile, the prioritization of food assistance to the other five conflict-affected counties – reaching 15 percent of the population Cuiebet, 30-40 percent of the population in Uror, Tambura, and Tonj East, and over 70 percent of the population in Rumbek North in March – is alleviating extreme outcomes. Nevertheless, food security conditions remain precarious as the lean season intensifies, especially given the exhaustion of household food stocks, volatility of cattle raids, competition for access to grazing and water resources, and low market access.


    Updates to the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the South Sudan Food Security Outlook for February to September 2022 are below:

    • Political tensions are expected to remain relatively high. The timeline for unifying the armed forces and security structure of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU) – a process that took several years under similar plans in other countries – and the implementation of outstanding elements of the 2018 peace agreement before the 2023 elections is ambitious. While the process should bring an overall peace dividend, tensions may escalate further if deadlines are missed, and sporadic clashes between government (SSPDF) and opposition (SPLM-IO) forces are still expected, primarily in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile. In Central and Eastern Equatoria, delays in integrating non-signatory armed groups into the RTGoNU forces will likely cause confrontations and, in turn, aggravate herder-farmer conflicts. Overall, clashes will likely surpass levels observed in 2021 but are unlikely to reach levels recorded prior to 2018.
    • Clashes between ethnic militias and youth groups will likely rise in the remainder of the January-May dry season and reach, if not surpass, levels observed during the same period of 2021, followed by a relative decline during the main rainy season. The frequency of incidents will likely be highest in Jonglei, Pibor, and Eastern Equatoria, driven by shifting political allegiances by local leaders, cattle raids and resource scarcity, the mobilization of armed youth groups, and lack of commitment to local peace agreements. Intercommunal violence in Lakes and Warrap states will likely remain high but lower than 2021 due to the deployment of security forces to cattle camps, the local government’s emphasis on disarmament campaigns, and recent local peace initiatives.
    • Based on past trends, banditry and armed ambushes along transport corridors are likely to peak between April and May, when the dry season enables greater movement of goods. The risk of criminal activity will be driven to higher levels by protracted economic challenges, exacerbated by high inflation and the increasing scarcity and costs of importing basic commodities such as cereals and fuel. Government security forces will prioritize the protection of major highways (e.g., Juba-Yei, Juba-Nimule, and Kapoeta-Torit roads), though this is unlikely to eliminate the risk of banditry.
    • Despite the below-average start of the March to May rainfall season in bimodal areas, total seasonal rainfall is forecast to be above average, based on the NMME, ECMWF, and WMO ensemble forecasts. Ensemble forecasts also continue to forecast an above-average June to September main rainfall season. Based on the analysis conducted by FEWS NET’s partners at NASA, USGS, the NOAA/CPC, and the Climate Hazards Center, there is an increased likelihood for a 1-in-20-year flood event occurring near major river basins in northern and eastern South Sudan during the main rainy season.
    • Based on reductions in area planted during the first rainfall season in bimodal cropping zones, the 2022 first-season harvest in Greater Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal is expected to lower than 2021 and lower than typical levels. In addition, area planted for the 2022 second season in bimodal areas and 2022 main season in unimodal areas are expected to be similar to lower than 2021 due to the impacts of persistent conflict and anticipated flooding.
    • Staple food prices are generally expected to trend high and above average, primarily driven by macroeconomic factors, the deepening national cereal deficit, high import dependence, and the risk premium placed on transporting goods along insecure trade routes. Regional and global food and fuel price shocks – including but not limited to the Ukraine crisis –are expected to place upward pressure on imported staple food prices. FEWS NET projects the retail price per malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum will generally trend 40 to 150 percent above the five-year average in the major markets of Aweil, Wau, Juba, and Bor South. In comparison to last year – when sorghum prices dropped dramatically (Figure 5) – widely varying increases of eight to 155 percent are expected in Juba, Bor South, and Aweil. In Wau, however, prices are only expected to peak at 30 percent higher than 2021. Overall, prices will likely be highest in Juba and Bor South (1,165- 1,495 SSP) and lowest in Aweil (720-1,055 SSP).

    Due to the drastically low donor response to the 2022 South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan, rising costs of procuring and transporting commodities, and increasingly limited resources, it is highly unlikely that WFP will be able to scale up food assistance during the lean season. Rather, WFP plans to re-prioritize distributions to eight counties with households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) and 20 counties with a large share of the population (over 50,000 people or over 30 percent of the population) in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). While the revised distribution plan for April to August is not yet available, WFP’s provisional statements suggest around 2 million people – roughly 25 percent of the total population in need of food assistance nationally – will receive food aid. Most households will likely receive 15-day rations, but households in Fangak, Canal/Pigi, Ayod, Pibor, Cueibet, Rumbek North, Leer, and Mayendit are expected to receive 21-day rations.


    Funding to support a scale-up beyond currently planned levels of food and nutrition assistance is urgently needed to save lives and livelihoods across South Sudan. Based on anticipated levels of conflict, a fourth consecutive year of severe flooding, and cost-prohibitive staple food prices, the severity of acute food insecurity will only worsen. FEWS NET estimates 7 to 8 million people will likely need food assistance, with the highest level of need expected between July and September, which overlaps the peak of the lean season and the heaviest period of the rainy season. Apart from bimodal cropping zones, most of the country will not begin to harvest crops until September at the earliest. Seasonal food and income from livestock, fish, and wild fruits/vegetables will be at their lowest levels through May, and the intensity of heavy rains and floods is expected to disrupt physical access to food and cause crop and livestock production losses between June and September.

    In past years, humanitarians were able to scale up food assistance delivery under a lean season response to mitigate the size of household kilocalorie deficits and use of negative coping strategies. This year, however, food assistance will likely be limited to areas with the most severe to extreme needs. While refined targeting is critical to prevent the worst outcomes, FEWS NET’s rough calculations based on WFP’s provisional statements suggest up to 6 million people nationally will not receive aid to prevent food consumption gaps. Furthermore, among the 28 counties that meet the criteria for prioritized food assistance, only around 55 percent of the total population in need will likely receive a distribution directly, leaving the rest without aid.

    As a result, FEWS NET anticipates Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in up to 48 counties through September, while food aid is expected to drive Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes in a few parts of Jonglei, Unity, Warrap, and Upper Nile. All remaining areas face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, except for a few bimodal areas that are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) after the first season harvest begins in June. FEWS NET also expects multiple counties classified in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) will have a subset of households that either have extreme food consumption gaps indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) or receive food assistance that mitigates Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). In these counties, access to food and income and coping capacity are already extremely low, while vulnerability to conflict and flood shocks is high: Fangak, Canal/Pigi, Uror, and Ayod in Jonglei; Pibor; Cueibet and Rumbek North in Lakes; Leer and Mayendit of Unity; and Tonj East of Warrap. In the case of Tambura, however, food assistance coupled with a sustained, relative decline in active conflict events in 2022 is expected to facilitate the recovery of trade, market functioning, and cropping activities for the first and second season harvests, ultimately reducing the likelihood of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).  

    FEWS NET assesses there is a credible, alternative scenario in which Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur, especially in areas with large populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or higher. Fangak, Canal/Pigi, and Pibor remain among the areas of most extreme concern for a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), with increasing, new concern for Leer, based on the severity of current food insecurity, the local population’s very high vulnerability to new shocks, and the likely exposure to severe floods and/or renewed conflict in 2022. While it is not the most likely scenario, past events show the potential for conflict and floods to isolate households from food and income sources and leave them dependent on wild foods, as occurred in central Unity in 2017, Greater Baggari in 2018, and Pibor in 2020. While Fangak, Canal/Pigi, Pibor, and Leer are currently of extreme concern for this alternative scenario, new areas of extreme concern can arise quickly due to the volatility of the drivers of food insecurity in South Sudan. A scale-up of food and nutrition assistance, supported by unhindered humanitarian access, is still required to save lives and livelihoods and end the persistent risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5).

    Figures Map of South Sudan showing heat map of conflict events in South Sudan, January 1 – April 20, 2022

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: data from Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project

    Map of South Sudan showing cumulative rainfall as a percent of the 1981-2020 average, March 1-April 30, 2022

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    Source: Climate Hazards Center

    Map of South Sudan showing flood risk in river basin areas as of April 30, 2022

    Figure 3

    Figure 3

    Source: USGS

    Map of South Sudan showing soil Moisture Index for cereal crop development as of April 30, 2022

    Figure 4

    Figure 4

    Source: USGS

    Line chart showing the Price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of sorghum in four key reference markets, Jan. 2016 – Mar. 2022

    Figure 5

    Figure 5

    Source: data from the Crop and Livestock Monitoring Information System

    Line chart showing the Unit price of various food commodities and petrol in Juba, Central Equatoria, Jan. 2016 – Mar. 2022

    Figure 6

    Figure 6

    Source: data from the Crop and Livestock Monitoring Information System

    Bar chart showing the Population reached with humanitarian food assistance (General Food Distributions and Food For Assets pr

    Figure 7

    Figure 7

    Source: FEWS NET’s analysis of WFP distribution data

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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