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Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) amid high cost of assistance delivery

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • South Sudan
  • April 2024
Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) amid high cost of assistance delivery

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2024
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Key Messages
    • Food assistance needs in South Sudan are rising sharply as the lean season approaches due to the sustained negative impacts of conflict and/or flooding, high returnee burden, and seasonally low wild foods, and exacerbated by the deterioration in economic conditions since February. Area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are widespread, with some households expected to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in parts of Pibor, and among returnee populations. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes are expected to expand as the lean season progresses through the peak in July and August, particularly in parts of Jonglei and Unity where flooding and/or conflict are expected to disrupt humanitarian deliveries, trade, and livelihoods. 
    • South Sudan’s macroeconomic conditions have further worsened in April due to sustained large losses in oil revenue caused by the February rupture – and ongoing disruptions to repairs of – a main oil pipeline in Sudan carrying South Sudanese oil for export. This has led to deterioration and high volatility in the exchange rate which, when combined with government imposition of several new customs and border fees, is driving up import inflation and food and fuel prices. The rising cost of living is particularly impacting those in urban areas where market dependence is highest.  
    • Humanitarian operations in April have been directly impacted by the new customs/border fees, particularly those imposed on fuel, despite South Sudanese law stating that humanitarians are exempt from such taxes. WFP estimates that 60,000 people have been affected by missed deliveries due to the taxes, a figure likely to rise to 145,000 by May if the situation is not resolved. Humanitarians are in midst of scaling up the critical lean season response, with plans to distribute food to 2.6 million people in April; however, assistance delivery will remain disrupted by these high costs, insecurity and logistic challenges, and insufficient funding. 
    • The daily influx of people fleeing Sudan has slowed to an average 800 people per day, compared to average daily arrival rates of 1,400 to 1,500 in February and March. Cumulatively, over 655,000 returnees and refugees have arrived in South Sudan since April 2023. This high burden continues to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, amid rising cost of delivering assistance. 
    • While not the most-likely scenario, a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) exists in the upcoming lean season in parts of north-central Unity and Upper Nile. If severe flooding occurs along with periods of intense conflict and impedes households’ mobility and access to assistance for a prolonged period, particularly in areas with a high burden of returnees unfamiliar with traditional coping mechanisms and already experiencing Critical levels of acute malnutrition, Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur.

    Current Situation

    Conflict and insecurity: Intercommunal violence and insecurity persist in several places in South Sudan, disrupting livelihood activities, trade flows, and humanitarian food assistance deliveries to the most vulnerable host, returnee, and refugee households. Incidents of violent conflict have remained generally high, as reported by Armed Conflict Location and Events Data (ACLED) (Figure 1). Moreover, intercommunal conflict and petty crime are likely to increase over the coming months as herders compete for scarce resources in advance of the rains and as the macroeconomic situation deteriorates further. 

    Figure 1

    Trends in violent conflict and associated fatalities by greater regions, January 2021 – April 26, 2024
    Trends in violent conflict and associated fatalities by greater regions, January 2021 – April 26, 2024

    Source: FEWS NET using data from ACLED

    In Greater Bahr el Ghazal,the Twic-Abyei border region remains volatile despite the recent deployment of 5,000 additional security forces aimed at preventing further conflict escalation along the shared border. The deployment has sparked protests and tensions remain high, contributing to disruptions of movements along key supply routes between Twic and Abyei. Tensions also remain high in the area between Jur River of Western Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Gogrial of Warrap, with fatal incidents occurring on March 28 and April 16. These incidents continue despite the 2016 Marial Bai Agreement meant to reduce large-scale violence between migrating cattle keepers from Tonj and Gogrial counties of Warrap and farmers in Jur River and Wau counties of Western Bahr el Ghazal. Similarly, eight people were killed and over 500 heads of cattle raided at Ngo-Lingo Boma in Wau County in mid-April. Meanwhile in Lakes State, an unconfirmed number of cattle were raided at Aliet cattle camp in Yirol East, and eight people were wounded with unconfirmed heads of cattle raided in Yirol East on April 17. 

    In Jonglei and Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA), sporadic insecurity and cattle raiding incidents are disrupting delivery of assistance and trade flows. In Jonglei, according to key informant information and a media report, two people were killed and two children were abducted in Akobo County on April 8. Additionally, 42 heads of cattle were raided in Nyirol County on April 12. Insecurity is disrupting land preparations for 2024 crop production and delivery of assistance. In GPAA, according to key informants and a media report, persistent localized conflicts and insecurity are intermittently disrupting trade flow and assistance delivery. On April 3, 12 people were killed and 15 children were abducted at Ajwara village in Pochalla County, illustrating the continued threat of conflict to lives and livelihoods. 

    In Greater Equatoria, the tension between cattle herders and farmers persists in parts of Central Equatoria. On April 12, the governor dispatched security forces to address the threat posed by Ambororo nomads in Yei and Lainya counties. Although no fighting has been reported thus far, local authorities report destruction of farms in Lasu Payam (Yei) and Mukaya Payam (Lainya) and disruption of first season crop production. In Eastern Equatoria, intercommunal conflict and revenge attacks continued through the month, mostly between the Toposa and Didinga communities in Greater Kapoeta and Budi, resulting in five deaths and an unknown number of cattle raided. Additionally, two people were killed and an unspecified number of cattle were raided at Iteuso village in Ikwotos, disrupting land preparation for first season cropping. On April 26, there were reports of Murle attack on villages in Kapoeta East that resulted in the deaths and abductions of many civilians and raiding of an unknown number of cattle. In Tambura of Western Equatoria, armed bandits attacked civilians and burnt down several houses, injuring and killing multiple people, and displacing at least 13,000 to the protection of a civilian site in late April. This renewed violence is raising alarm and United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has deployed additional security forces to the area.

    Returnees: In April, the first sustained reduction in daily arrivals occurred since the start of the war, despite the ongoing fighting (Figure 2). On average, about 800 people crossed into South Sudan daily during April, compared to average daily arrival rates of 1400 to 1500 in February and March. Cumulatively, this amounted to about 25,000 people entering in April, 74 percent of whom are South Sudanese returnees. 

    Despite the recent reduction in daily arrivals, the huge burden of total arrivals (surpassing 655,000 people by the end of the month) continues to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan and increase the risk of local conflicts over scarce resources. Some returnee households are expected to face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) given that the majority have arrived without assets, have low coping capacity, and are dependent on host community and humanitarian assistance for food and basic services.

    Figure 2

    Monthly arrivals into South Sudan from May 2023 to April 30, 2024
    Monthly arrivals into South Sudan from May 2023 to April 30, 2024

    Source: FEWS NET using data from UNHCR and IOM

    First season progress and cultivation: This year’s first season onset has been broadly delayed, with many areas in Central and Western Equatoria starting 10 days later than typical, with longer delays of 20 to 30 days in some smaller areas of the southwest corner of Western Equatoria (Figure 3). As a result of the delayed rains, farmers in affected areas, including parts of Yei, Morobo, Lainya, and Lokiliri payams of Juba County of Central Equatoria; Magwi, Ikwotos Torit, and Budi counties of Eastern Equatoria; and localized areas in all counties of Western Equatoria are currently engaged in field preparation and planting. In areas where rains began on time across the bimodal zone, crops including maize, groundnuts, and beans are at emergence to first weeding stages. Similarly, early maturing sorghum crops that have been planted in localized areas in Greater Kapoeta counties and mountainous areas of Lafon in Eastern Equatoria are at their first weeding stages.

    Figure 3

    Onsets of rains anomaly, mid-April (left) and cumulative March-May rainfall as a percent of normal, March to late April (right)
    Onsets of rains anomaly, mid-April (left) and cumulative March-May rainfall as a percent of normal, March to late April (right)

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Floodwaters: Although there have been no new reports of recent flooding in April, key informants and FEWS NET field monitoring indicate parts of Rubkona, Leer, and Mayendit of Unity; western Duk; and Twic East of Jonglei are atypically flood-inundated even during the dry season (Figure 4). While flooding has significantly receded along the Sobat and Akobo catchment areas, the persistence of residual floodwaters in the Sudd wetlands continues to hinder trade flows, household movements, and humanitarian assistance deliveries.

    Figure 4

    Flood extent as of late April 2024
    Flood extent as of late April 2024

    Source: FEWS NET using data from NOAA

    Livestock production: Declining pasture and water resources, livestock diseases, extreme heat, and conflict are negatively affecting livestock body conditions and production, as well as household access to livestock products. Vegetative health conditions are below average in most pastoral and agropastoral zones of Greater Kapoeta, Pibor, Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal (Figure 5). This is corroborated by key informants’ and FEWS NET field monitoring reports in April, which indicate pasture and livestock body conditions are ranging from fair to poor in the Greater Bahr el Ghazal regions; Fashoda of Upper Nile; Leer, Mayendit, and Fangak of Jonglei; Pibor of GPAA; and Greater Kapoeta and Torit of Easter Equatoria. Cases of Foot and Mouth Diseases (FMD) have also been reported in Pibor County and Pajok payam of Magwi County. 

    Figure 5

    Vegetative health, measured by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), percent of normal, April 11-20, 2024
    Vegetative health, measured by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), percent of normal, April 11-20, 2024

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Macroeconomy: South Sudan’s macroeconomic conditions have further deteriorated in April due to sustained large losses in oil revenue following the February pipeline rupture in Sudan’s White Nile State and impediments to repairs amid the ongoing conflict and insecurity. To date, the rupture has reportedly almost halved South Sudan’s crude oil production from an estimated average of 150,000 barrels per day to 80,000 barrels per day in March. The fiscal crisis is further aggravated by poor management of non-oil revenue, leading to delayed payments to government workers and service providers, and high cost of living in the country – particularly in the urban areas – where market dependence is highest.

    The limited liquidity of USD since the declaration of a force majeure on South Sudan’s crude oil exports by Sudan’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum in mid-March 2024 has significantly affected the exchange rate. As of late April 2024, the South Sudan Pound (SSP) is exchanging at 1,556 and 2,500 per USD on official and parallel markets: a 27 and 64 percent and 80 and 154 percent loss in values, respectively, compared to March and to the same period last year (April 2023). Moreover, the exchange rate is changing on nearly a daily basis, leading to high volatility in prices of basic goods. The deterioration in the exchange rate continues to drive high import inflation and rising costs of living. 

    Market and Trade: Cross-border trade in cereals from Uganda and Tanzania to South Sudan via Nimule and Kaya border crossing points were occurring at lower levels in April due to sharp depreciation of the SSP and the recently introduced Electronic Cargo Tracking system fees of 350 USD, increasing the cost of supply. While the fee was officially reduced to 300 USD as of April 22, there were conflicting reports as to which was being implemented on the ground. Based on FEWS NET’s April cross-border trade bulletin, volumes of maize and sorghum imported from Uganda were down by 64 to 67 percent compared to last quarter and down by 45 to 61 percent compared to last year. Cross-border trade with Sudan also remains disrupted due to the conflict and below-average production in Sudan, with April sorghum imports down by 7 percent compared to last quarter and down by 78 percent compared to the five-year average. These declines in import volumes are driving low market supplies and high food prices. 

    Food and fuel prices: In addition to the newly introduced customs taxes and tracking fees, the government has also introduced a 0.05 USD/liter fee on imported fuel. This added cost is compounding the currency depreciation and causing food and fuel prices to rise sharply. In April, fuel prices increased by between 30 to 55 percent in four key markets, and more than doubled compared to prices from last quarter (January 2024) (Figure 6). 

    Prices of staple food are also rising sharply due to the macroeconomic factors, as well as reduced imports and high fuel costs (Figure 7). Between January and April, the retail price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of sorghum in Juba, Aweil Center, Rumbek Center, Pibor, and Wau markets has increased by 25 to 85 percent, and is 15 to 50 percent higher than during the peak lean season (July/August), when prices are typically at their highest. Prices of sorghum in Juba, Aweil Centre, Rumbek Centre, and Pibor markets in April were also 50 to 125 percent and 160 to 390 percent higher than the same period last year and the five-year average, respectively, due to high supply cost linked to high fuel prices and low local production. These atypically high food and fuel prices, when combined with seasonally low income-generating opportunities in rural areas and interrupted salary payments in urban areas, are contributing to further deterioration in household purchasing power and driving higher than previously anticipated humanitarian needs.

    Figure 6

    Percent change in the price of fuel per liter in four key markets compared to last month (March 2024), last quarter (January 2024), and the same time last year (April 2023)
    Percent change in the price of fuel per liter in four key markets compared to last month (March 2024), last quarter (January 2024), and the same time last year (April 2023)

    Source: CLiMIS and FEWS NET monitoring data

    Figure 7

    White sorghum (feterita) prices in South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) per malwa (3.5 kg) in 5 key markets, January 2021 to April 2024
    White sorghum (feterita) prices in South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) per malwa (3.5 kg) in 5 key markets, January 2021 to April 2024

    Source: CLiMIS

    Humanitarian food assistance: WFP continues to scale up assistance: about 760,000 beneficiaries were reached in February and approximately 1.3 million people were reached in March (Figure 8). WFP plans to distribute food to 2.6 million people in April, prioritizing counties of highest concern where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes exist. However, the imposition of the new customs/border fees and taxes is affecting the import of UN supplies, including fuel, and interfering with their ability to operate by increasing cost of delivery. According to the UN, the taxes and fees have already forced a pause on air drops, affecting an estimated 60,000 acutely food insecure households in hard-to-reach areas, a number that will rise to 145,000 by the end of May if the situation remains unresolved. This imposition of fees violates international practice and South Sudanese law that exempts the UN, diplomatic missions, and other international donors or their contractors, grantees, and implementing partners from such fees. If resolution of the issue takes even longer, then food security outcomes will likely be much worse than previously projected, particularly in areas where pre-positioning did not occur, as humanitarian operations scale down with reductions in fuel access.  

    As of the end of April, most of the lean season response distributions for March had been completed in Priority 1 (81 percent of March target reached) and Priority 2 counties (78 percent reached).1 However, only 23 percent of targeted beneficiaries were reached in April due to a number of factors including delayed targeting and registration processes, issues with flow of commodities into and within the country, below-expected level of prepositioning of commodities, the pause on air drops due to high fuel fees, and excessive checkpoints and roadblocks affecting movement along main routes. According to WFP, only 43 percent of the targeted prepositioning was achieved to date, mostly driven by the delayed receipt of Title II commodities (slated for April but now expected in late May) and the aforementioned fees and fuel shortages. At present, WFP anticipates commencing double distributions in May in many counties that missed April distributions, though it is likely these challenges will continue to disrupt the implementation of the lean season response. 

    Figure 8

    Population reached with humanitarian food assistance (General Food Distributions and Food for Assets programs) compared to FEWS NET’s estimated population in need, January 2021 – March 2024
    Population reached with humanitarian food assistance (General Food Distributions and Food for Assets programs) compared to FEWS NET’s estimated population in need, January 2021 – March 2024

    Note: FEWS NET produces population in need estimates using a range; a point estimate is used here for data visualization purpose. Additionally, the gradient shading between the population reached (green bars) and the remaining population in need (gray bars) is intended to reflect the inherent uncertainty in establishing if those most in need were reached.

    Source: FEWS NET using WFP data


    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the South Sudan Food Security Outlook for February to September 2024 remain valid, except for the following revisions: 

    • Staple food price projection:  Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projection analysis, the price of a malwa (3.5kg) of white sorghum (feterita) is expected to vary with the level of market supply and integration across the key reference markets of Aweil Centre, Wau, Juba, and Bor South, with the highest price level (4,948 to 6,400 SSP) projected in Wau and the lowest (3,626 – 5,363 SSP) in Aweil Centre. The retail price is likely to trend 35 to 150 percent higher than last year and 150 to 400 percent above the five-year average, respectively, in Aweil, Bor South, Juba, and Wau due to significant deterioration in macroeconomic conditions, sharp local currency depreciation, and low market supply that is linked to disrupted trade with Sudan, high fuel price, and supply costs. The price per malwa is projected to further rise and range from 4,446 to 5,200 SSP during the April to May 2024 projection period due to stock depletion, low import supply, and high market dependency. Malwa prices will likely increase further as the lean season progresses and stocks are depleted during the June to September projection period, likely ranging from 3,626 to 6,400 SSP across the reference markets. 
    • Macroeconomy: Although ongoing measures are being taken to reduce hard currency losses, uncertainty is expected to prevail due to disruption in crude oil production and export amid poor management of oil and non-oil revenues. This will give rise to currency speculation, further depreciation of the SSP at or above 2,000 SSP, increased import inflation, and higher transport costs, exerting upward pressure on food and non-food prices and cost of living amid low or declining household purchasing power. 
    • Trade: Trade flow with Sudan will remain significantly disrupted, driving low market supply and high commodity prices in northern states. However, trade flows from Uganda via Nimule and Kaya/Vura border crossing points are now expected to remain lower than anticipated through September due to high supply costs linked to newly introduced customs fees and declining stocks in the source country. 
    • Rainfall: Based on updated ensemble forecasts and the delayed start to the rains, the March to May 2024 first season rains in bimodal South Sudan are likely to be below average, while the June to September main season rains in unimodal parts of the country will be above average. 

    Projected Outlook through September 2024

    South Sudan is facing rising levels of acute food insecurity given the sustained negative impacts of conflict and/or flooding, high returnee burden, atypically early depletion of food stocks, seasonally low availability of wild foods, fish, and livestock products, as well as the significant deterioration in the macroeconomic conditions since February. Crisis (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will remain widespread, with 23 counties in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in parts of Unity, Warrap, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Lakes, and Eastern Equatoria. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are likely to persist in Pibor County in GPAA, particularly with the pause on air drops, as well as among returnee households in transit and those who have limited social connections and minimal to no assets. In 17 counties located mostly in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile, humanitarian food assistance is expected to mitigate more severe outcomes through May 2024. 

    In Aweil East, assistance deliveries have been sustained at planned levels and, according to FEWS NET observations, those receiving assistance are heavily reliant upon it. However, the scale of need remains high and FEWS NET expects that there are likely high levels of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) with some households likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) among the most vulnerable host and returnee populations. In neighboring Aweil South, a SMART survey conducted in March found GAM rates approaching Extremely Critical levels (29.8 percent) driven by a combination of poor food consumption and lack of dietary diversity, very poor health and sanitation practices, and high morbidity rates. Compared to the same time last year when the GAM rate was found to be 19 percent, this represents a severe deterioration and requires close monitoring; FEWS NET is currently engaged in a rapid food security assessment that will be included in next month’s reporting.   

    In Rubkona, sustained and consistent assistance distributions since November 2023 have likely reduced the number of households facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes; however, FEWS NET assesses that there are likely more than 20 percent of the most vulnerable returnee and protracted flood-displaced households still facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes given the size of need in the county. In Panyijiar, Rumbek North, and Maiwut (included in the Priority 3 group receiving assistance between April and August) the disruptions to prepositioning and transport resulted in no distributions in April. As a result, FEWS NET assessed that these counties are likely to remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through May. Meanwhile, distributions have been broadly consistent in Uror, Nyirol, Fangak, Canal/Pigi, and Duk of Jonglei, leading to assessment of Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) through May, though with some households likely still in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).  

    The severity and scale of acute food insecurity is expected to increase through September, peaking during the height of the lean season (in July/August). This is driven by complete depletion of household stocks and further increases in staple food prices, and exacerbated by deteriorating economic conditions, high returnee burden, and anticipated flood- and conflict-related disruptions to humanitarian assistance, trade flows, markets, and livelihood activities. As a result, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to expand to 31 counties across the country. While WFP plans to reach 2.3 million people per month through the peak lean season period with rations meeting at least 25 percent of kilocalorie need in 24 counties, FEWS NET assesses that distributions will be disrupted in 15 of these. As a result, assistance is expected to mitigate the severity of acute food insecurity to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) in only nine counties, including Longochuk, Luakpiny/Nasir, Maban, Maiwut, and Ulang of Upper Nile; Nyirol and Uror of Jonglei; Pariang of Unity; and Abyei of Warrap. 

    Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are expected through the peak of the lean season in Pibor County of GPAA and Duk County of Jonglei, as well as among returnee households in transit sites and in some parts of Rubkona of Unity, Renk of Upper Nile, and Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Given the high proportion of populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in some of the counties of concern and the assumptions for above-normal rainfall, severe flooding, and continued conflict, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) may emerge at the peak of lean season in additional areas. 

    FEWS NET has determined that a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) exists in the upcoming lean season (between June and September 2024) in parts of north-central Unity and Upper Nile due to the increased likelihood of above-average rainfall under the forecasted La Niña conditions during the main rainy season and the potential for severe flooding in these persistently inundated parts of the Sudd wetlands. While it is not FEWS NET’s most likely scenario, if severe flooding occurs in conjunction with periods of intense conflict and impedes households’ mobility and access to humanitarian assistance for a prolonged period, particularly in areas with high burden of returnees unfamiliar with traditional coping mechanisms and already experiencing Critical levels of acute malnutrition, then Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur. 


    Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. South Sudan Food Security Outlook Update April 2024: Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) amid high cost of assistance delivery, 2024.

    1

    Five counties are included in Priority 1 and will receive distributions between January and August; 18 counties are included in Priority 2 and will receive distributions between March and August; 14 counties are included in Priority 3 and will receive distributions between April and August.

    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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