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Below-average harvests expected as insecurity restricts agricultural activity

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • South Sudan
  • August 2016
Below-average harvests expected as insecurity restricts agricultural activity

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through January 2017
  • Key Messages
    • Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity is widespread in parts of Greater Upper Nile (GUN) and Greater Bahr el Ghazal as households face significant food consumption gaps, high levels of malnutrition, and elevated risk of mortality. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, some households are experiencing extreme lack of food and are in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). While August green harvests are slightly improving food security in these areas, high market prices and depreciating local currency continue to restrict food access.

    • In July, staple food prices were at record high levels in Juba, Wau, and Aweil, reaching nearly ten times the five-year average. Price spikes are largely attributed to renewed conflict in and around Juba that disrupted trade, reducing supplies on most markets. Prices decreased slightly in August, but still remain significantly above the five-year average. 

    • The reemergence of conflict in July has displaced many households in Greater Equatoria, disrupting the first season harvest and second season cultivation. An increasing number of households are now facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Of high concern is Lainya county where a large proportion of the population has been displaced and lack access to own production and typical livelihood activities. With minimal access to food, many are likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). 

    Current Situation

    The reemergence of conflict in and around Juba between Government forces and opposition troops has resulted in high levels of displacement. Heavy fighting in Juba from July 8-11 forced new displacements to seek refuge in the PoC, where about 37,200 people now live. The spread of conflict to Greater Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal, and renewed conflict in GUN, is also displacing households. In July, approximately 3,700 people were internally displaced in Mundri West and 9,000 people in Raja town, bringing the total number of displaced in Raja to around 19,000 since June. In August, 2,852 people were displaced from Liang village in Maban and at least 2,000 were displaced in Leer and areas of Central Unity state. The livelihoods of recently displaced households have been significantly disrupted and many lack access to farms and typical income-earning opportunities and are facing significant food shortages. Additionally, over 90,000 people fled from Greater Equatoria to Uganda in July and August, bringing the total number of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda to 320,159.

    In July, staple food prices nearly doubled between June and July, reaching ten times the five-year average in several key markets. Price spikes were primarily due to fighting in Juba that resulted in market destruction, looting, and reduction in the number of traders, reducing supplies both in the capital and transiting through Juba to Rumbek, Wau, and Aweil.  Very poor road conditions and ongoing insecurity along the Western Corridor have further worsened the situation. Although prices have decreased in August, for example from 60 SSP/kilogram of sorghum in July to 34 SSP/kilogram in late August in Juba, prices still remain significantly higher than the five-year average. Additionally, the South Sudanese Pound (SSP) depreciated from 59.5 SSP/USD in mid-July to 69.2 SSP/USD in mid-August. 

    Conflict has interrupted the first season harvest and second season cultivation in Greater Equatoria as many households have been displaced and insecurity is restricting farmers’ access to their farms. In GUN and Greater Bahr el Ghazal, crops are at late flowering stage and in good condition. However, seasonal floods in August inundated crops in Jonglei and Unity and displaced an estimated 23,000 people in Twic East and 22,000 people in Mayom. 

    The prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) in Northern Bahr el Ghazal is very high and suggests extremely severe food insecurity. According to the Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System’s (FSNMS) findings, the state-wide GAM (WHZ) prevalence in Northern Bahr el Ghazal was 33.3 percent in May/June. In late July, an exhaustive screening conducted by Concern Worldwide in Aweil West and Aweil North measured the Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) of 37,776 children under 5 and reported proxy GAM (MUAC) prevalence of 23.7 percent and 32.3 percent, respectively. Among 73 nutrition surveys conducted in Northern Bahr el Ghazal between 2000 and 2016, the highest recorded GAM prevalence were 29.8 percent (WHZ<-2 SD) in June 2009 and 16.6 percent (MUAC<125mm) recorded in May 2013. Among a sub-set of 28 surveys which collected both MUAC and weight-for-height between 2008 and 2016, the average GAM prevalence were 19.2 percent (WHZ<-2 SD) and 7.7 percent (MUAC<125mm). These historical data suggest that the current situation is atypical and that the proxy GAM prevalence indicated by the Concern Worldwide MUAC screening likely suggests a substantially higher prevalence of weight-for-height based GAM. Note that according to the IPC, a GAM (WHZ) prevalence greater than 30 percent is one indicator of Famine (IPC Phase 5), along with a Crude Death Rate of >2/10,000/day and evidence that at least 20 percent of households face an extreme lack of food.  

    Updated Assumptions

    Although most of the assumptions made in FEWS NET’s South Sudan Food Security Outlook for June 2016 to January 2017 remain valid, the following assumptions have been updated based on the impacts of renewed fighting:

    • Conflict between Government forces and armed groups is expected to continue in areas where fighting took place in July and August, namely in Central Equatoria, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile, and Unity States (Figure 1).
    • Although conflict is expected to continue in Central Equatoria, it is likely the Nimule-Juba road will remain open. It is expected trade flows will continue at levels higher than in July, but still remain below average. As a result, staple food prices are expected to stay above both last year and the five-year average.
    • Both the first and second season harvests in Greater Equatoria are expected to be below normal as conflict has displaced many households, disrupting first season harvesting and second season cultivation. 

    Projected Outlook through January 2017

    Ongoing conflict and tension, displacement, lack of inputs, and flooding are expected to continue to disrupt agricultural activities. In Greater Bahr el Ghazal and GUN, crop development is favorable and the October to January harvest is expected to improve food security; however, newly displaced households in Unity and Western Bahr el Ghazal are unlikely to have access to their farms and  own production. In Greater Equatoria, conflict and displacement disrupted the first season harvest and second season cultivation. Similarly many newly displaced households do not have access to their farms and production is expected to be below average. This will reduce food access for these households. Prices will likely remain significantly high as the below-average harvest is unlikely to moderate market prices, further restricting food access.

    Many areas of Central Equatoria are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and in Lainya county Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely to persist through January. In Wau and Raja of Western Bahr el Ghazal and Aweil North, Aweil East, and Aweil West of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are also expected. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, given market dependence even during the harvest and restricted trade along the Juba-Wau-Aweil route that is keeping food supplies low and prices extremely high, there is a likelihood that some households will exhaust their capacity to cope and be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). In Koch, Mayendit, and Leer of Unity State where renewed insecurity is preventing IDPs from returning and disrupting markets and trade activities, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to continue through the outlook period. In Juba, record-high market prices and limited income-earning opportunities are restricting food access, especially among poor and newly displaced households. Juba is expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity through January.


    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Conflict-related incidents between Government and opposition, July 1-August 28

    Source: ACLED

    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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