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Increased food insecurity as lean season sets in

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • South Sudan
  • March 2012
Increased food insecurity as lean season sets in

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through June 2012
  • Key Messages
    • Food insecurity remains concentrated in the northern and eastern regions of South Sudan (Figure 1), with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity in eastern parts of Jonglei, parts of Upper Nile (Maban and Longuchok), and northern parts of Warrap, Northern Bahr El Gazal, and Unity states. During the April-June quarter, additional areas in Western Bahr El Gazal, Unity, Jonglei, and Upper Nile will face Crisis levels (Figure 2).

    • Sorghum prices range between 50 and 250 percent above the five-year (2007-2011) average, and are significantly higher than prices at the same time last year in most reference markets, reflecting the ongoing impacts of last year’s below-average harvest, reduced sorghum imports from Sudan due to the trade blockade imposed by the Government of Sudan last year, and increased fuel costs. Transportation and fuel costs will increase further when the rains begin in March/April, sustaining above-average prices through at least the Outlook period. 

    • The ICPAC Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum Consensus Forecast (GHACOF) for the March‐May 2012 period projects a higher probability of normal to above-normal rainfall in South Sudan. However, this forecast is more relevant for the greater Equatorial region, as the major rains in South Sudan occur during June-September. Though there are emerging concerns that the onset of rains is delayed, it is early in the season as the onset of rains and planting typically occur up to the end of April.

    Updated food security outlook through June 2012

    March – June food insecurity conditions are likely to range between Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels. Crisis conditions will persist in significant portions of the northern and eastern sectors of South Sudan. Crisis food insecurity is defined as households experiencing short-term instability that results in losses of assets and/or significant food consumption deficits. Stressed food insecurity is defined as a situation in which households experience short-term instability, and food consumption is reduced, but households do not engage in irreversible coping strategies. Of particular concern are the Crisis levels of food insecurity among households affected by conflict in Jonglei State, and among the host and refugee population in Upper Nile State’s Maban County, where ongoing humanitarian interventions remain critical in preventing deterioration to Emergency levels.  Emergency food insecurity levels are defined as a situation in which households experience short-term instability and face extreme food consumption gaps resulting in very high acute malnutrition and/or excess mortality, and/or extreme loss of livelihood assets that will likely lead to food consumption gaps. Other areas of concern include Unity State counties of Abiemnom, Mayom, Pariang and Rubkona, Warrap State counties of Twic, Gogrial East, and Gogrial West; and Northern Bahr El Gazal State counties of Aweil East, Aweil West, Aweil North, and Aweil Center.

    Formal trade with Sudan remains at an all-time low due to the trade blockade imposed by the Government of Sudan last year. Though informal trade continues in some areas, prices of these goods remain high due to increased transactions costs associated with smuggling. In response to the reduced flows from Sudan, imports from Uganda and Ethiopia are expected to continue to increase, though they are unlikely to compensate for the volumes that were typically imported from Sudan. 

    Eastern Flood Plain Zone areas of Akobo East, Akobo West, Wuror, Duk Payuel, DukFadiet, Twic East, Pibor, Khorfulus, and Fangak counties

    Tribal and cattle raiding conflict from December 2011 through mid-February 2012 have affected and/or displaced over 140,000 people, particularly in Lekongole, Gumuruk, Boma, Labarab, Dengjok, Walgak, Waat, Yuai, Nyirol, DukFadiet, Duk Payuel and Twic East. Conflict recurred in the Denjok area of Akobo (Jonglei State), Wanding (Upper Nile), and across the border into Ethiopia on March 9. Disarmament in Jonglei State commenced on March 12, with up to 3,000 – 4,000 arms recovered in the first two days.  The latest updates on Jonglei State suggest that due to this year’s conflicts, another group of 15,000 people have fled into Ethiopia since mid-February.

    Conflicts in Jonglei have disrupted typical dry season movements and food access mechanisms, including gathering of desert dates, fishing, grain exchange (bartering), and loss of access to livestock products. These food sources (accessed during November – March) typically contribute up to 30 percent of the annual food basket. Part of this food gathered during the dry season is stored for consumption during May to July.  With significantly reduced access to this food source, no improvements are expected between now and June. At the same time, market access remains constrained by poor access in many parts of Jonglei state due to insecurity. Projected short-term security improvements with the onset of disarmament and increased presence of security forces remain to be seen, and are critical to monitor.

    In Pibor County, people who fled the Lekongole area began returning in February, and are expected to continue returning if security is sustained. Most of the displaced are expressing the intention to cultivate more this year due to loss of livestock. FAO completed a seed distribution to 4,000 households, while the IOM and Plan International are providing non-food items.

    Crisis levels in eastern parts of Jonglei State are expected to persist through June for affected households and their hosts, and multi-sectoral interventions involving many agencies are critical in preventing deterioration to Emergency levels, particularly to address needs before the June-September rainy season, when most areas become inaccessible.  

    Upper Nile State – Maban and Longuchok counties

    Crisis food security conditions in Upper Nile’s Maban County are driven by an extremely high concentration of refugees fleeing neighboring Blue Nile State in Sudan, where conflict has persisted since September 2011. According to UNHCR, more than 81,000 refugees are concentrated in Jammam (36,000 people) and Doro (over 47,000 people) camps in Jinmekda and Buong payams, respectively. With a local population of 45,000 people in Maban County, according to the 2008 South Sudan Census, refugees are nearly twice the size of the host population, resulting in extreme competition over access to local resources.  Refugees are currently depending on humanitarian assistance to meet basic food, water, and sanitation needs. Due to the high concentration of refugees, access to fuel for cooking by cutting trees for firewood and charcoal has the potential to trigger conflict between the refugees and their hosts.

    In the neighboring county of Longuchok, conditions are expected to deteriorate to Crisis levels in March/April through at least June, following exhaustion of last year’s harvest, combined with a high concentration of returnees that missed last year’s cultivation season. The Longuchok population relies on sourcing grain from the Maban population, which is now overwhelmed by refugees.

    Nile Sobat Zone counties of Mayom, Abiemnom, Pariang, Fangak and Khorfulus

    Crisis conditions persist in Mayom, Abiemnom, Pariang, Fangak and Khorfulus counties, where last year’s insecurity significantly disrupted livelihoods, especially cultivation, and above-average flooding in Fangak caused damage to planted crops. A UNHCR registration exercise in March indicates that there are slightly over 18,000 refugees in Unity State, 16,000 of which are concentrated in Yida (Pariang County), while the rest are in Nyeel and Pariang towns. There are concerns over the security of refugees in Yida camp due to insecurity along the border with Sudan. The latest insecurity included the bombing of Jau area at the end of February, forcing the evacuation of humanitarian workers.  Possible relocation of those in Yida is underway. In addition, the presence of displaced populations from Abyei, and many returnees from Sudan, continue to overwhelm Abiemnom County.

    Western Flood Plains Zone: Aweil East, North, Centre and, Gogrial East and West, and Twic counties

    Crisis levels of food insecurity are driven by early food shortages driven by last year’s poor harvests, high demand from IDP and returnee populations, and high grain prices in the Northern Bahr El Gazal counties of Aweil East, North and Centre, Gogrial East and West, and Twic counties. For poor households in Aweil counties, increased reliance on wild food, labor, and petty trade through June will be insufficient to meet basic food needs. The same applies to poor households in Gogrial and Twic counties who rely more on fish, water lily plants and desert date collection, and labor exchange to compensate for harvest shortfalls.

    The Twic County population is still supporting over 37,000 displaced people from Abyei. In the Abyei Area, UNHCR reports that the increasing numbers of people transiting through Agok from Warrap State and other locations as they return further north is straining food security of both displaced and host communities. About 114,500 people remain displaced, with 67,250 people in Agok and over 47,000 in Warrap State. Some individuals and families continue to move from South Sudan up to the Agok area south of the Bahr el Arab/ Kiir River, whilst others continue to explore conditions north of the river. The displaced, who face Crisis levels of food insecurity, are unlikely to return to their areas of origin until they see significant progress on the ground in terms of security, administration, and improved humanitarian assistance.

    The latest updates from GOAL in Agok at the end of February reported increased admissions of acute malnutrition cases. Around the same time, MSF-B in Gogrial West County reported admissions having doubled compared to the same time last year. As anticipated, earlier than normal food shortages caused by last year’s poor harvests, continued below normal food supplies, and high prices have potential to exacerbate the chronic multi-faceted malnutrition that typically peaks during April – June, just before the lean season peak in July. Status of nutrition conditions will be confirmed when SMART surveys are completed in March - May in several areas. 

    Figures Seasonal calendar and critical events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar and critical events

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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