Food Security Outlook Update

Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes spread amid funding shortfalls and assistance delivery constraints

August 2022

August - September 2022

October 2022 - January 2023

IPC v3.1 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 v3.1 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 v3.1 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 v3.1 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

  • Humanitarian food assistance deliveries continue to reach many areas of high concern across South Sudan in an effort to mitigate widespread acute food insecurity, which is driven by prolonged conflict and recurrent flooding. However, assistance deliveries in July were lower than distribution plans suggested, reaching around 20 percent of the population in need of food assistance compared to the target of 40 percent of the population in need. Given funding shortfalls and constraints to assistance delivery, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are now expected to emerge in six more counties than previously anticipated between August and September. Despite the harvest, levels of acute food insecurity are expected to further deteriorate in most areas between October and January, during which time widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely.

  • Despite the extension of the Transitional Government of National Unity through February 2025, armed clashes, revenge killings, banditries, and road ambushes remain key drivers of acute food insecurity by interfering with main-season crop production activities, population movements related to livelihood activities, and market and trade flows. Populations of highest concern are affected by the escalation in conflict along the Upper Nile-Jonglei border, where an increasing number of armed attacks have caused large-scale displacement and disruptions to food access.

  • While rainfall during the main rainy season has been below average in most areas, atypical flooding is still expected in the coming months based on forecasts for above-average rainfall through October amid already high river levels and highly saturated soils. A fourth consecutive year of flooding is expected to result in another year of livestock and crop losses. 

  • FEWS NET continues to assess that there is a credible, alternative scenario in which Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur, given the high proportion of the population likely to face large food consumption gaps and their vulnerability to new shocks. Fangak and Canal/Pigi are among the areas of highest concern for this Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5). If flood severity exceeds that of 2021 or if conflict were to intensify further to unforeseen levels, thereby restricting household movement and humanitarian access, then Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur. Even without the occurrence of Famine (IPC Phase 5), however, it is critical to emphasize that Emergency (IPC Phase 4) reflects an already elevated level of hunger-related mortality. A significant scale-up of food assistance is needed urgently and throughout the projection period in South Sudan to save lives.

CURRENT SITUATION

Conflict and insecurity: Any positive impacts of the extension of the Transitional Government of National Unity through February 2025 and the recent graduation of the first 22,000 soldiers under the unified forces are yet to be felt. Several armed clashes, revenge killings, banditries, and road ambushes occurred in July and August, with the greatest concentration of conflict in Unity, Warrap, Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Central and Eastern   Equatoria States. This conflict continues to interfere with main season crop production, population movement for livelihood activities, and market and trade flows.

Of highest concern are populations affected by the escalation in conflict along the Upper Nile-Jonglei border, where increasing armed attacks between groups loyal to General Simon’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) Kitgwang forces and General Johnson Olony’s Agwelek forces have occurred (Figure 1). In mid-August, the conflict in Panyikang spread to Canal/Pigi and New Fangak when Agwelek forces attacked SPLA-IO strongholds, leading to widespread population displacement within Canal/Pigi and from New Fangak to Old Fangak. According to OCHA, earlier fighting in Tonga of Panyikang displaced an estimated 27,000 people to Agunjuok near Malakal Town. The conflict has included the looting of markets in Diel of Canal/Pigi and Phom of New Fangak and the suspension of trade flows between Malakal and New Fangak, Tonga and New Fangak, and Tonga and Diel. Additionally, humanitarians were evacuated out of Fangak to Juba, hundreds of cartons of nutrition supplies were looted, and WFP suspended the transport of assistance via river between Adok and Kaldak.

Although calm has returned to central Unity, renewed clashes between government forces and the South Sudan People’s Movement/Army (SSPM/A) under General Buay in northern Unity continue to threaten lives and livelihoods. The volatile situation, particularly in Mayom, is interfering with market functioning and trade flows as well as food assistance deliveries in Warrap, Abyei, Bentiu, and Yida. The arrests and subsequent execution of four SSPM/A members by government forces in early August, coupled with the ongoing arrests and allegations of forceful recruitment into the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) in Bentiu and Rubkona and defections from South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) to the SSPM/A, is negatively affecting the humanitarian operating environment in Mayom and surrounding areas.

Meanwhile, Eastern and Central Equatoria have seen an increasing number of armed clashes, road ambushes, and banditries in July and August, primarily between farmers and Dinka Bor cattle herders. Magwi and Ikotos counties of Eastern Equatoria remain conflict hotspots due in large part to the forceful settlement of Dinka Bor herders in the Equatorias. In addition to these clashes among local populations, two humanitarians were killed on August 11, and WFP suspended its operations when following an attack on a vehicle carrying humanitarian workers in Ikotos of Eastern Equatoria. A few days earlier, on August 7, an attack on a bus along the Juba–Nimule Road left seven dead and many other passengers missing. Military confrontations between hold-out groups—specifically the National Salvation Army (NAS)—and SSPDF persist in parts of Yei, Lainya, and Morobo of Central Equatoria, disrupting first season harvesting and main season planting and interfering with trade flows from Uganda to Yei and Maridi.

Main rainfall season and flooding: After a slow start to the June to September main rainy season, which was marked by below-average rainfall in June and July, rainfall totals have increased in August. Northeastern Jonglei, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, parts of Tonj South, and Tambura received average to above-average rainfall, but rainfall totals through August have remained below normal in northwestern Jonglei, Unity, northeastern Warrap and much of Equatoria (Figure 2). In these areas, satellite-derived vegetation conditions reflect below-normal cropping conditions.

Despite drier than normal conditions in several areas, the above-average rainfall from late July to August across much of South Sudan comes on top of already high river water levels and standing floodwaters. Amid now rising water levels in the Nile River, flooding in several settlements has destroyed or damaged facilities, crop fields, and pasture and restricted trade routes (Figure 3 and Table 1). According to OCHA, floods have affected 250,000 people in eight of South Sudan’s ten states between July 1 and August 25.

Crop performance: According to USGS’s satellite imagery for seasonal progress through August, crops are developing normally in most areas and are in the maturation phase. Available field reports also confirm that the harvesting of first-season maize, short-maturing sorghum, and groundnuts is ongoing and that households are consuming green maize in the Greater Equatoria region, along with Lakes, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and some parts of eastern Upper Nile.

However, as reported in the June Food Security Outlook, first-season crop performance was mixed across Greater Equatoria, with production linked closely to rainfall performance and security. Field reports indicate that crop production in the first season of 2022 likely exceeds that of the 2021 first season harvest, notably in Western Equatoria’s Yambio, Ezo, Maridi, Ibba, and Nzara, driven by relatively better rainfall performance and stability. However, harvests of maize and groundnut were delayed and lower than 2021 in parts of Greater Mundri of Western Equatoria; Kajo-keji, Morobo, Lainya, Yei, Aru, and rural Juba of Central Equatoria; Pochalla of Jonglei; and most of Eastern Equatoria. In Eastern Equatoria and eastern parts of Central Equatoria, poor rainfall performance coupled with farmer-herder conflict disrupted first-season harvests.

In Greater Equatoria, the second season crop progress is atypically delayed, with some areas still undergoing land preparation or planting, which is atypically late for the agricultural season, particularly in Yambio, Ezo, Maridi, and Ibba of Western Equatoria; and parts of Magwi, Yei, Morobo, Lainya, Kajo-keji, and rural Juba in Central Equatoria.

As expected in the June 2022 Food Security Outlook, a below-average start to the main season in unimodal areas, followed by heavy rainfall coupled with conflict and poor access to inputs, has resulted in mixed crop performance. In the Greater Bahr el Ghazal region, relative stability has led to improved harvest expectations in areas such as Warrap, with the exception of the Greater Tonj area. On the other hand, recent flooding along the Northern Bahr Ghazal and Jur Rivers has displaced households, damaged crops, and disrupted planting. In the Greater Upper Nile region, conflict and flooding in central Unity have further disrupted household planting and crop production, as most households cannot access traditional fields or do not have access to inputs, limiting the area planted. Lastly, recent flooding and renewed conflict in northwestern Jonglei have displaced households and disrupted agricultural activities in Fangak and Canal/Pigi along with southwestern Upper Nile.

Livestock production: In August, livestock body conditions and access to milk for consumption and sale have seasonally improved in many pastoral and agropastoral areas due to the increased availability of pasture and browse. However, key informants report livestock body conditions are still poor in some parts of Jonglei, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Unity due to the impacts of floodwaters on pasture and water quality, including recent flooding events that caused water contamination and increased levels of livestock disease. Furthermore, sporadic cattle raiding and attacks in Uror of Jonglei in July and Ikotos of Eastern Equatoria in August have led to livestock losses. Between June and August, FAO and implementing partners have vaccinated about 64,635 cattle, 50,910 sheep, and 64,414 goats against black quarter, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), anthrax and hemorrhagic septicemia (HS), sheep and goat pox (SGP), contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP), and peste des petits ruminants (PPR) in counties of concern including Fangak and Canal/Pigi.

Markets and staple food prices:  Although regional cross-border trade is occurring through the main border crossing points fairly normally, domestic trade flows and market functioning remain periodically disrupted by localized violence, poor feeder road conditions, floodwaters, and banditry. As a result, market supply and stock levels vary across the country, ranging from moderate to low in many rural markets. Furthermore, macroeconomic conditions continue to worsen, with the South Sudanese Pound (SSP) to USD exchange rate continuing to depreciate in August. Despite the weekly auctioning of hard currency in Juba, parallel markets reported an exchange rate between 12 and 17 percent higher than last year, and official markets were between 58 and 60 percent higher.

Recent market data from CLIMIS indicates that market prices continue to increase, driven by increasing fuel prices, depreciation of the SSP, trade route barriers due to flooding and insecurity, and high market demand. Between July and August, the price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum increased by between 14 to 41 percent and was 69 to over 600 percent higher than the same period last year in Juba, Wau, Rumbek Center, and Aweil Center. These prices were between 135 and 350 percent above the five-year average. The significant increase in food prices has negatively impacted purchasing power, as measured by the daily casual labor to white sorghum terms of trade (ToT). Juba, Wau, Rumbek, and Aweil markets reported decreased ToT in August 2022 compared to August 2021: a day’s casual labor could purchase only 3-8 kilograms of sorghum in August 2022, compared to 5-34 kilograms in August 2021. Overall, worsening macroeconomic conditions have driven food prices up and significantly disrupted household financial access to food, particularly for labor-dependent households.  

Humanitarian food assistance: The distribution of humanitarian food assistance in July was significantly lower than anticipated in June. At that time, WFP distribution plans suggested they would target 3.2 million people monthly, though actual distributions reached 1.96 million. The lower reach was due in large part to funding shortages and resulted in the suspension of assistance to priority counties in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). WFP has resumed food assistance deliveries in these counties with Ukraine Supplemental funding, and double rations are planned in August; despite this relative improvement, the number of beneficiaries reached through the peak of the lean season will likely be lower than original expectations. Furthermore, some areas of high concern are facing suspensions, including Atar 3 and New Fangak, within which assistance was suspended in August due to surging conflict. Additionally, food deliveries to Longochuck and Tonga of Panyikang of Upper Nile and Abiemnhom and Mayom of Unity were suspended due to ongoing insecurity and limited air delivery capacity.

Current food security outcomes:  The scale and severity of acute food insecurity are extremely high during the ongoing peak of the lean season, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in over 50 counties of South Sudan resulting from a combination of the impacts of conflict and flooding as well as global supply chain disruptions that have driven high staple food prices and limited income-earning opportunities. FEWS NET estimates 7-8 million people need urgent food assistance. However, the availability and consumption of some first-season harvests in bimodal southern South Sudan and ongoing green consumption in some parts of the unimodal Greater Upper Nile – including southern-central Unity, southeastern Jonglei, southeastern Upper Nile – and parts of Greater Bahr el Ghazal – such as Wau, Raja, Jur River, the southern parts of Tonj and Greater Yirol – are somewhat mitigating the scale and severity of acute food insecurity in these areas.  

Overall, the scale of humanitarian assistance delivery during the peak of the lean season has been lower than the distribution plans made available in June. As such, a lower number of counties are likely to face Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes than originally anticipated. Specifically, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are now expected in Cueibet of Lakes; Gogrial East of Warrap; Guit and Koch of Unity; and Nassir and Maiwut of Upper Nile, amid lower than planned assistance deliveries that are now considered insufficient to prevent worse outcomes at the area-level. In several of these counties, assistance deliveries are still ongoing, but levels are notably lower than the total population in need. Fangak, Canal/Pigi, and Ayod of Jonglei; Leer and Mayendit of Unity; and Tonj East and Tonj North of Warrap remain of highest concern, where some populations are likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) are those who have been severely impacted by repeated conflict and ongoing flooding that has significantly disrupted their livelihoods and access to food.  

UPDATED ASSUMPTIONS

The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the South Sudan Food Security Outlook for June 2022 to January 2023 remain valid, except for the following revisions:

  • The lack of political consensus regarding the remaining elements of the 2018 peace deal and the nature of the decentralized command structure of the armed forces continue to limit the Transitional Government of National Unity’s (TGoNU) ability to enforce orders nationwide. This manifests in the form of political power struggles at the state level, further exacerbating the risk of sporadic clashes between armed factions occurring in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei state:
    • Clashes in Upper Nile will likely continue to result in civilian displacement, destruction of properties, and evacuation of humanitarian actors, such as WFP suspension of all barge movements from Malakal in August. The cyclical and retaliatory nature of violence suggests that violence will continue in the area, though reduced levels are likely when the peak of the rainy season brings extensive flooding through the end of November. Despite a seasonal lull, conflict will likely increase in late 2022 and early 2023 after the end of the rainy season.  
    • In Unity, clashes between government forces and the SSPM/A under General Buay in northern Unity will continue due to the ongoing tensions following the extrajudicial killings of officers who were suspected to be behind the killings of Mayom County Commissioner and ten others in July. These tensions and insecurity will likely interfere with main season crop production, trade flows, and assistance deliveries from Warrap to Abyei and other areas of Unity. Conflict in Unity is likely to match that of 2021, remaining at current levels until increasing again between December 2022 and January 2023.
    • The forecast for above-average rainfall and a fourth consecutive year of flooding from August to November will likely depress the frequency and severity of inter-communal conflict in Jonglei and GPAA until the receding of floodwaters. Conflict is likely to rise again from November and peak in December, though levels are unlikely to be as high as in late 2021, given the additional security force deployments to the area.
    • Seasonal increases in conflict are likely at the end of 2022 due to worsening socioeconomic pressures, including the devaluation of the SSP coupled with high prices for food and essential non-food goods.  
    • In the Greater Tonj of Warrap, insecurity is expected to increase in late 2022 and into early 2023 as herders clash with farmer communities, though conflict levels are likely to be lower than last year due to the deployment of additional security forces to the area. This violence will likely manifest in the form of raids and counterraids.  
    • Violence will likely continue to cause significant disruption to second-season crop production. Despite the graduation of unified security forces in Juba, armed confrontations are still expected across Equatoria as a result of delays in the creation of a unified security force outside of Juba and failure to integrate all armed opposition groups – most notably the National Salvation Army. Violence against civilians will likely follow the seasonal pattern of increasing through early 2023, meeting levels observed in 2022.
  • Based on FEWS NET’s monthly cross-border trade monitoring data, imports from Uganda and Sudan are now expected to be lower than previously expected during the remainder of the third quarter, given low first-season crop harvests in source markets, increased transportation costs, and increased insecurity along cross-border trade routes, especially from Sudan. However, imports from Uganda and Sudan are still expected to increase during the fourth quarter of 2022, as harvests improve food availability in source markets and road conditions improve with the dry season.  
  • Based on updates to FEWS NET’s integrated price projections (Figure 5), the retail price of white sorghum is expected to unseasonably trend 25-200 percent higher than last year and between 90 and 275 percent above the five-year average in Aweil Center, Wau, Juba, and Bor South markets during the projection period. In absolute terms, the highest price (1,900-2,200 SSP/3.5 kgs) is still expected in Bor South and the lowest price (650-1,000 SSP/3.5Kgs) in Aweil Center.
  • Based on the reach of humanitarian food assistance through July, assistance is now likely to reach a lower percentage of the national population (~21 percent) through the peak of the lean season than previously expected (~28 percent expected at the time of the June Food Security Outlook). Roughly 16 percent of the population was reached in July, though additional funding streams are expected to allow for the resumption of assistance deliveries in areas of highest concern, supporting distribution to roughly 26 percent of the population in August and September.

PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2023

South Sudan will continue to face one of the largest food security emergencies worldwide, with many households likely to face large to extreme food consumption gaps, indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes. While food security outcomes are expected to improve somewhat during the October to January period with the availability of the harvest, ongoing conflict and forecast flooding will limit production prospects. Overall widespread assistance needs will persist, most notably in Greater Upper Nile, parts of Greater Bahr el Ghazal, and parts of Eastern Equatoria. Given lower than originally anticipated assistance delivery in July, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are emerging earlier than expected in six counties, and 22 counties in total are now expected to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes between August and September.

From October 2022 to January 2023, food security will improve in many areas of South Sudan with the harvest, in line with the analysis laid out in the June 2022 Food Security Outlook. Due to the multiple compounding shocks, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will expand to 36 counties in Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile, Warrap, and Lakes. Given anticipated impacts of fourth year of flooding on crops, and livestock as well as trade flows and assistance delivery, Fangak, Canal/Pigi, and Ayod of Jonglei; Leer and Mayendit of Unity; and Tonj East and Tonj North of Warrap will remain areas of extreme concern, where some populations will likely be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Food assistance will likely mitigate more severe outcomes in two counties (Maban and Pariang); however, overall assistance will have minimal impact on area-level outcomes amid the anticipated scale-down of assistance during this time.

FEWS NET assess there is a credible, alternative scenario in which Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur, given the high proportion of the population likely to face large to extreme food consumption gaps, and their vulnerability to new shocks. Fangak and Canal/Pigi are among the areas of highest concern for this Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), 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 impacts of further escalating conflict in the Upper Nile-Jonglei border region in 2022. However, the risk also exists to some degree in some areas across the country. If flood severity exceeds 2021 or if conflict were to further intensify at unforeseen levels, restrict household movement and isolate households in inaccessible areas where humanitarians were unable to reach the worst-affected for a prolonged period, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would likely occur. Even without the occurrence of Famine (IPC Phase 5), though, it is critical to emphasize that Emergency (IPC Phase 4) reflects an already elevated level of hunger-related mortality. A significant scale-up of food assistance is needed urgently and throughout the projection period in South Sudan to save lives.

About this Update

This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work 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 approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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