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Crisis food insecurity peaks with the May-August lean season

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • South Sudan
  • May 2013
Crisis food insecurity peaks with the May-August lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2013
  • Key Messages
    • With the recent outbreak of conflict, food security outcomes are expected to be worst in Pibor County, Jonglei State, due to the impacts of prolonged, severe, and deteriorating civil security. Some food deficits (IPC Phase 3: Crisis) outcomes are expected at least through the Outlook period (September). 

    • In Panyijiar and Mayendit counties in Unity state, as well as in Warrap and Lakes in the center of the country, intensive inter-ethnic conflict and some areas of excessive flooding in 2012 have contributed to IPC Phase 3 outcomes through August. 

    • In the eastern flood plains of Upper Nile and northern Jonglei States (Nyirol, Uror and Ayod), poor 2012 production due to extreme flooding will lead to food deficits at the peak of the agricultural lean season through August. 

    • In the northern states, civil insecurity and restrictions to trade and movement, though improving, are still likely to result in food deficits (IPC Phase 3: Crisis) through June/July. 


    Current Situation
    • Worsening civil security in Jonglei state has contributed to high and rising prices for sorghum (Figure 3) inconsistent with trends and levels in other parts of South Sudan. A number of schools, health centers, and markets have closed since the end of April. As of early May, at least 12,000 people were displaced within Jonglei state; humanitarians had left Pibor and Boma (though UN Peacekeepers remain); roads to Pibor are closed to all humanitarian traffic. Risks to trade are extremely high. Households will likely be less inclined to access seasonally available wild foods and income sources for the rural poor. Trade and exchange, which account for nearly 50 percent of poor households’ food, have also been disrupted by the ongoing insecurity in Pibor County.
    • High price levels, though staple food prices generally lower than 2012: Nominal sorghum prices were 20-70 percent above the five-year average in all reference markets in April 2013. However, other than in Bor, sorghum prices are lower in most areas now compared to April 2012, when prices were high due to conflict in Panthou (Heglig). Cereal prices, particularly in border states of South Sudan, are lower than 2012 as a result of a significant increase in informal trade between Sudan and South Sudan following the signing of the Implementation Matrix agreement in March, and the more favorable harvests in 2012/13 than 2011/12. Unlike other border areas, movement of traders through Abyei has not increased owing to prevailing tension between the Ngok Dinka and the Messeriya. Resumption of the cross border trade is expected to stabilize prices in the northern states. As a result, one-month trends are generally mixed with a slight inclination to decline or stability, as would be expected for this time in the marketing year. Occasional civil insecurity incidents continue to result in temporary disruptions to markets without significant food security impacts.
    • Temporary interruption of sorghum trade through Renk: Trade flow through Renk halted temporarily after an attack on traders in May. This was the first of its kind in the area. Occasional, temporary disruptions may continue in the future, but trade flows are expected to resume near normal levels, and no major food security impacts are expected.
    • Delayed start of rains in the North: The start of season in the North and northwest is effective with near-normal totals as of mid-May, but approximately 10 to 20 days late. Though livestock returns, sowing, and harvests in these areas may be slightly delayed, no major food security impacts are expected. 

    Updated Assumptions

    If not noted otherwise, the assumptions noted in the April Outlook report remain valid.

    • Rainfall for the peak of the rainy season between June and August is expected to be average nationwide (ECMWF, IRI, NOAA). Harvests in September/October are expected to be near average (close to 650,000 – 700,000 MT of cereals nationwide), but close monitoring of the seasonal progress is required. Areas with significant civil insecurity during the May sowing and August/September harvests (Pibor and northern Abyei) are expected to have below-average yields from reduced sowing due to conflict.
    • Intermittent civil insecurity is likely to continue. In Pibor County, Jonglei state, humanitarian assistance that had been planned, funded, and likely at the time of the April Outlook will now likely be insufficient and sporadic. Cropping activities will be below average. No change is expected for livestock conditions from the Outlook assumptions. In Abyei, the frequency of security incidents will increase as the October referendum approaches, though the nature and severity of these incidents is not currently expected to result in major changes in food security outcomes described in the Outlook report. 

    Projected Outlook through September 2013

    In Pibor County, Jonglei state, intermittent fighting with the non-state armed groups is likely to continue. This is expected to displace thousands from their home with significant impact on livelihoods. As a result, poor households will continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food security. The fighting has disrupted markets and commodity flows into this area restricting access to staple cereals. Livestock products, which normally contribute significantly to the total annual food needs of the households in this area, are expected to sustain household in less affected areas. However, the situation in Pibor requires close monitoring.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Nominal sorghum prices in reference markets serving Pibor county.

    Figure 2

    Nominal sorghum prices in reference markets serving Pibor county.

    Source: WFP, 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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