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Crisis food insecurity levels to persist through September

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • April - September 2012
Crisis food insecurity levels to persist through September

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  • Key Messages
  • General food security conditions and key assumptions underlying the April – September 2012 most likely scenario
  • Most Likely Food Security Scenario, April – September 2012
  • Key Messages
    • Key areas of concern remain most parts of Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap, and Northern Bahr El Gazal states, and northern parts of Unity State, where Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity will persist during the Outlook scenario period (April to September 2012), as the lean season peaks. 

    • Food insecurity in Northern Bahr El Gazal, Warrap, Unity and Upper Nile states, particularly in areas close to the South Sudan – Sudan border, could further deteriorate should conflict levels escalate during the scenario period.

    • Prices of sorghum, the main staple food, have substantially risen across key markets compared to the same time last year. Given increased inflation and high fuel prices, cereal prices are expected to remain above average, particularly after June, when most roads become impassable. 

    • The GHA Climate Outlook Forum (COF) forecast for the the March to May rains, which is relevant for the southern sector of South Sudan, calls for average rains for Western, Eastern and Central Equatoria, which implies a likelihood of normal rains for half of the Greater Equatoria April – July cropping season. 

    General food security conditions and key assumptions underlying the April – September 2012 most likely scenario

    In general, April – September food insecurity conditions will range between Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels, particularly for the northern sector of South Sudan. 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 to meet basic food needs. Crisis food insecurity is defined as households experiencing short-term instability that results in losses of assets and/or significant food consumption deficits.

    The key assumptions underlying the April – September 2012 Outlook are the following:

    • Conflict: Tensions between Sudan and South Sudan are likely to remain very high, particularly in border areas, with the potential for escalation.
    • Security in Jonglei: Improved security is expected in Jonglei compared to the previous months, though tensions are likely in some areas even after disarmament ends in April. 
    • Rainfall: Average rainfall for the June – September rainy season is assumed.
    • Refugee/displaced populations: Refugee populations from South Kordofan and South Blue Nile will remain in Unity and Upper Nile states, respectively; the Abyei displaced population is also expected to remain displaced in Warrap and Agok.
    • Humanitarian assistance: Delivery of humanitarian assistance to all areas of concern are expected to continue, based on the fact that WFP has prepositioned nearly 93 percent of the planned food assistance (40,000 MT out of planned 49,000 MT) in South Sudan ahead of the June rains.  An additional 10,000 MT is anticipated by the end of April and another 20,000 MT during May.
    • Trade flows from Sudan: Formal trade flows from Sudan are expected to remain restricted. Informal trade, which increased after formal flows were restricted, may be significantly hindered given a recent announcement by the Government of Sudan to declare a state of emergency in border areas to curb smuggling to South Sudan. The government indicated plans to strengthen its anti-smuggling policy and implement new and potentially extreme penalties.
    • Imports: In response to the reduced flows from Sudan, imports from Uganda and Ethiopia are expected to continue to increase, though they are unlikely to sufficiently compensate for the volumes that were typically imported from Sudan. 
    • Cereal prices: Given increased inflation, fuel shortages and trade restrictions from Sudan, cereal prices are expected to remain above average, particularly after June, when most roads become impassable.

    As in the previous quarter, areas of concern remain in Jonglei State counties of Akobo East, Akobo West, Wuror, DukFadiet, Pibor, KhorFulus and Fangak; Unity State counties of Mayom, Abiemnom, and Pariang; Warrap State counties of Twic, Gogrial East, and Gogrial West; Northern Bahr El Gazal State counties of Aweil East, Aweil West, Aweil North, Aweil Center and Upper Nile State county of Maban. Food insecurity in these areas has been driven by last year’s below-average crop performance, widespread insecurity, population displacements, disruption of dry season food access activities, and increased market-dependent populations comprising returnees and refugees from Sudan. Market flows for grain typically sourced from Sudan by all northern South Sudan states remains constrained, forcing increasing reliance on more expensive alternative grain markets, such as Uganda. There has also been greater reliance on grain flows from the Renk mechanized sorghum-producing area, especially for Upper Nile and Unity states. Previously, most production from Renk would be taken to Sudan, as most large farms were owned by Sudanese farmers, though many departed between the referendum and Independence period (December 2010 and July 2011).

    During the April to September period, food insecurity conditions will remain driven by the same factors, exacerbated by the peak of the lean season, which coincides with the peak agricultural/cultivation season.  While markets are the main option for households to cover their food shortfalls, grain availability and affordability will be highly constrained, especially for poor households. Unusually high prices are anticipated due to the negative impact of expensive grain due to alternative sourcing and the onset of the rains.

    The April – July rainy season, which is relevant for the southern sector of South Sudan, has begun and households in these locations have begun planting. While average rainfall performance is anticipated for most areas, there is a likelihood of poor performance in Kapoeta counties in the Pastoral Zone. This could negatively affect livestock access to sufficient water and grazing, especially from June to October. In preparation for the cropping season, FAO plans to distribute seeds to 63,000 households in Northern Bahr El Gazal, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Warrap, and Lakes states. WFP has prepositioned nearly 93 percent (40,000 MT out of a planned 49,000 MT) of food in preparation for lean season needs.

    This scenario assumes that tensions between Sudan and South Sudan are likely to remain very high, particularly in border areas, with the potential for escalation. An alternative scenario following the Most Likely Scenario section considers the possibility of full-blown conflict between the two countries, which is not considered as part of the most likely scenario.

    Following the April 9 deadline for South Sudanese in Sudan to return due to the July 2011 independence of South Sudan, there is increased uncertainty over the fate of the more than 700,000 South Sudanese still living in Sudan, particularly given the significant escalation of hostilities between the two countries since early April.  Their return will be highly determined by the outcome or nature of settlement of current hostilities. Though outcomes are difficult to estimate, returns during April – September will be challenged by transportation constraints posed by the June – September rains.

    Most Likely Food Security Scenario, April – September 2012

    Eastern Flood Plain Zone counties of Akobo East, Akobo West, Wuror, DukPayuel, DukFadiet, Twic East, and Pibor

    Food insecurity conditions have remained at Crisis levels due to intertribal cattle-raiding conflicts among Murle, Nuer and Dinka communities in Jonglei State during most of 2011, extending to March 2012. The conflicts have affected over 170,000 people through displacement, loss of assets, and disruption of 2012 dry season food access activities, exacerbating the impacts of last year’s poor crop performance.  Furthermore, approximately 25,000 to 30,000 people failed to cultivate at all in Wuror County due to last year’s insecurity. As a result, over 20 percent of households in Jonglei, including the conflict-affected population of 170,000 people, are estimated to face Crisis levels of food insecurity. This means that these households are either facing significant consumption deficits or are meeting basic food needs only through irreversible coping strategies. These conditions are concentrated Akobo East, Akobo West, Wuror, Nyirol, Duk Fadiet, and Pibor counties.

    Typical food sources during April – September are stored wild plants (mostly desert dates), dried meat obtained from wild game hunted during January – March, small quantities of milk, and small quantities of sorghum from the previous harvest or from barter trade. Stored food normally contributes anywhere between 20 to 50 percent of the seasonal food basket. Contribution of grain at this time tends to be through informal markets or exchange between the better and poor crop-producing areas. Livestock is bartered for sorghum or maize, but grain is stored for consumption during cultivation, which takes place during May through July.

    During April – September 2012, contribution of these food sources is expected to be largely insufficient. Persistent insecurity has severely disrupted typical dry season food gathering activities, resulting in a lack of stored stocks for consumption. Insecurity, largely rooted in cattle raiding, has also disrupted long distant livestock grazing, which goes hand in hand with bartering grain that is essential for consumption during cultivation. The response capacity of poor households without assets remains severely constrained, as reliance on kinship is now overstretched due to duration and scope of needs.

    Therefore, through September, significant food consumption gaps are expected to continue, with serious implications on the fragile chronic health conditions and multifaceted malnutrition (typically rooted in poor hygiene and sanitation and poor childcare practices) of children under five. A SMART survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and IMC in Akobo at the end of December 2012 recorded 19.6 and 5.3 GAM and SAM prevalence, respectively, just one to two months after the harvest. These findings indicate that malnutrition conditions were above WHO emergency levels at a time when food was still available. Some of the contributing factors identified were insecurity, diarrhea (caused by extremely poor WASH practices), and fever. Given ongoing crisis conditions in Jonglei, malnutrition remains a major concern, particularly during the May to September period, as screening and interventions may be hindered by rains.

    During the scenario period, security conditions are expected to be slightly improved following disarmament initiatives that conclude in April, though pockets of instability will remain, due to emerging resentment or perception among warring communities that some groups have not been effectively disarmed and remain a threat. This confirms recent reports of a large presence of armed South Sudanese youth in Ethiopia since March, when disarmament begun. The youth, who are from Uror, Akobo, and Pibor counties, fled to Ethiopia to escape disarmament.  

    Humanitarian food and non-food interventions by government and non-governmental actors have been ongoing in all affected areas since February, and are expected to continue through September. FAO is currently transporting seeds and tools and aims to achieve a 90 percent delivery target by the end of April. The latest WFP updates indicate that sufficient food has been prepositioned to meet needs for the ongoing Jonglei crisis during the rainy season, but nutrition commodities such as Corn Soya Blend (CSB) and plumpy nut have not been pre-positioned. WFP is considering airlifts for these supplies.

    Given the current context and assumptions for the scenario period, Crisis levels of food insecurity are expected to persist for this population through September.

    Eastern Flood Plains – Maban County

    Crisis food security conditions in Upper Nile’s Maban County are due to continued arrival of refugees from neighboring Blue Nile State in Sudan, which has been affected by insecurity since 2011. According to UNHCR, close to 92,000 refugees have arrived in Maban County, whose population is estimated at 45,000. Over 52,000 refugees are concentrated in Doro camp, and 38,000 are in Jammam camp, with the remainder living with the host community.  Refugees are currently meeting basic food needs through food assistance, without which they would likely face Crisis levels of food insecurity. WFP has prepositioned about 30,000 MT of food to meet the needs of the refugee population. This is sufficient through September, but only if there are no additional significant inflows of refugees. However, given the hostilities along the border, a significant increase in the number of refugees is a possibility.  

    Despite sufficient food being prepositioned to cater to needs through September, other serious concerns persist. This area typically experiences critical water shortages during the dry season (January – April/May). Water shortages have been more acute this season due to the refugee influx, compounded by failed attempts by drilling companies to obtain more water. Though shortages will ease when rains begin in June, heavy rains – as the area is prone to flooding – raise concerns of disease outbreaks, especially cholera. MSF-Belgium has indicated that the number of children under five admitted to therapeutic feeding programs has reportedly tripled in Jammam, and currently stands close to 300. Over 130 children are in a similar program in Doro. Several agencies are currently preparing for cholera treatment and oral rehydration activities to address needs, though WASH preparedness remains unclear.

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

    Crisis conditions persist in Mayom, Abiemnom, Rubkona, Pariang, Fangak and Khorfulus counties due to the following factors:

    • About 20-25 percent of the Mayom population failed to cultivate in 2011 due to insecurity and landmines.
    • In Abiemnom, Crisis conditions are due to the overwhelming additional burden of hosting the displaced population from Abyei along with returnees, who together are the equivalent of more than 70 percent of the host population, severely stressing available food stocks.
    • In Khorfulus County, 15 – 20 percent of the population failed to cultivate last year as they had been displaced by insecurity. 
    • In Fangak, crops were lost to severe flooding last year, and dry season fish stocks and desert dates, which are typically stored for consumption in April-June, are now exhausted.
    • Pariang County continues to be burdened by close to 20,000 refugees from neighboring South Kordofan, most of whom are concentrated in Yida refugee camp and are dependent on ongoing food assistance and some host community support. The refugees are equivalent to 25 percent of the host population.

    The latest updates on Yida refugee camp indicate an increase in the number of refugees from South Kordofan since early April, with an average of 287 people arriving per day in April compared to 83 daily new arrivals in February and March. As of February, refugees in Yida camp numbered slightly over 16,000. Though unverified, UNHCR estimates that the Yida camp population might have increased to 24,500 people by April 24. Most of the new arrivals are from Buram County in South Kordofan. The increase is reportedly due to the temporary occupation of Heglig by South Sudan forces, which secured the main route for refugees to flee worsening conditions, and deteriorating food security conditions.

    Typical food sources during April – September in Rubkona, Fangak, and KhorFulus counties, located near the Nile River, are stored fish stocks and desert dates, water lily plants, and milk, supplemented by own grain stocks or cereal purchased from markets using cash from livestock sales. However, market purchases remain constrained by high prices caused by below-average production last year and reduced grain flows from Sudan since May 2011. Currently, grain is being sourced from mechanized farms in Renk (Upper Nile). This year, contributions of own grain stocks are expected to be minimal, particularly in areas such as Khorfulus, where a significant proportion of households lost an entire cropping season. This implies loss of a major food source that typically lasts from harvest to harvest.

    Areas that are far from the Nile River, such as Abiemnom, Pariang and Mayom, typically depend on own sorghum production, milk, and small amounts of desert date during the scenario period. In these areas, own grain harvests are more significant because these counties are better producers than the other counties closer to the Nile, though stocks are very low this year due to the extreme burden of hosting additional populations in Abiemnom and Pariang. In addition, the potential for increased insecurity along the South Sudan-Sudan border could threaten cultivation in these areas during June to September.

    Crisis conditions are expected to persist through September 2012 for asset-poor households, refugees, and returnees in these areas due to the compounding effects of ongoing insecurity, arrival of refugees from South Kordofan and Abyei, high sorghum prices, and poor harvests last year. Furthermore, the likelihood of continued or escalated conflict with Sudan is high, marked by the recent occupation of Heglig by South Sudan forces and subsequent aerial bombing of northern areas (Mayom, Bentiu, Rubkona, Abiemnom) of Unity State by Sudan forces even after withdrawal of South Sudan forces from Heglig.  Increased bombing has resulted in reduction of humanitarian workers in Bentiu, with some evacuating and others temporarily relocating to Leer, further south. However, as of April 19, WFP reports having pre-positioned five months worth of food stocks to support food insecure populations in Unity State.

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

    Following extremely poor October sorghum harvests last year, poor households in Aweil East, North and Centre, and Gogrial East, West, Twic and Abyei counties have been at Crisis levels due to significant consumption gaps starting in January 2012, when harvest stocks ran out. These shortages have been exacerbated by cereal market supply shortfalls caused by the Sudanese trade restrictions.  Furthermore, increased demand from the high concentration of returnees and the displaced from Abyei has put additional pressure on resources. During January – March, poor households turned to increased reliance on wild food, labor, petty trade, support from better-off kin, and movement to fishing areas; however, these have not been sufficient to compensate for food shortfalls. Additional stress is anticipated, as recent reports indicate that some of the Abyei displaced that were in neighboring Abiemnom County of Unity State have started fleeing bombing in Abiemnom and returning to Abyei. MSF-CH reports that an estimated 1,500 people have arrived in Abyei from Abiemnom around mid-April.

    Consequently, most poor households comprising over 40 percent of the total population in these counties face Crisis levels of food insecurity. This includes both the displaced Abyei population (over 67,000 people are located in Agok in southern Abyei, and 47,000 are in Twic and Gogrial counties) and returnees that have arrived since late 2010.

    Primary food sources during the scenario period include small quantities of sorghum, groundnuts and simsim from previous harvests, purchased cereals, and a wide variety of wild green leaves. Purchased cereals are bought using income generated from petty trade or sale of small livestock by poor households. The displaced from Abyei continue to rely on food assistance, largely supplemented by wild foods and grain purchased through proceeds generated by petty trade activities such as grass, firewood, beer, and charcoal sales. The latest updates suggest that over 80 percent of the Abyei population is planning to cultivate and some have started preparing land, although many lack seeds and tools. ICRC is reportedly distributing seeds. Following escalation of hostilities between South Sudan and Sudan, WFP has begun efforts to pre-position food supplies to cater to increased needs. Initially the region was not a high priority for prepositioning as access is typically better compared to Unity, Jonglei, and Upper Nile during the rainy season.

    Significant food consumption gaps are expected to persist through September for most poor households who comprise over 40 percent of the total population in these areas due to lack of stored harvests, and reduced grain flows and associated high food prices, which are further threatened by insecurity along the Sudan and South Sudan border. At the end of March 2012, the price of sorghum in Northern Bahr El Gazal was close to 150 percent above the price at the same time last year. Food consumption gaps could worsen the chronic malnutrition that exists in the region.

    Alternatives and events that would change the most likely scenario

    FEWS NET develops most likely scenarios to provide early warning of food insecurity. However, some assumptions underpinning the most likely scenario are more certain than others. As a part of its scenario development process and analytical framework, FEWS NET identifies these assumptions, their probable alternatives, and the potential changes to food security outcomes that could result from these alternatives.

    One such assumption that remains uncertain is the progression or direction the increased armed confrontation between South Sudan and Sudan will take. The confrontation started in early April and was marked by the occupation of Heglig oil fields on 10 April by South Sudan forces. Despite withdrawal of the forces around April 21, Sudan escalated aerial bombardment on Unity State on April 23. Additional conflicts have occurred elsewhere along the Sudan – South Sudan border, especially in Northern Bahr El Gazal and Renk. This has now raised concerns that another round of conflict between the two countries is possible.

    In anticipation of deteriorating security, the United Nations contingency planning shifted from Readiness status to Crisis Mode status in mid-April specifically for states bordering Sudan in preparation for worsened humanitarian conditions that would result if conflict between the two countries escalated. In the UN contingency planning, Crisis Mode entails identification of potential crisis areas, re-activation of sub-national or state level clusters, determination of information requirements and staff surge capacity preparations.  These preparatory actions are currently ongoing.

    In the event that current confrontations and aggressions turn into full-blown conflict, outcomes would be far-reaching, particularly for Northern Bahr El Gazal, Warrap, Unity, and Upper Nile states that are close to the South Sudan – Sudan border, which remains highly contentious. This alternative scenario considers the impact of escalated or full-blown conflict on these areas of concern. 

    Below are brief details on likely events and impacts.

    Increased insecurity along South Sudan – Sudan border and population displacements: Escalation into a full-blown conflict would cause displacement of border populations from their homes to safer areas further south. Frontlines of conflict would be Unity State (Abiemnom, Mayom, Pariang, Rubkona), Northern Bahr El Gazal (Aweil East, Aweil North, Aweil West, and Twic), and Upper Nile areas of Renk, Fashoda, and Maban. Other areas at risk include Ere and Kaffia Kengi areas of Raga County.

    Increased population returns but with constraints: Increased hostility between the two countries would likely cause increased returns of South Sudanese populations living in Sudan. In March, Khartoum and Juba drafted a deal that would grant extensive freedoms - including residency and work permits - to each other's citizens, but the intervening escalation of hostilities between the two countries has cast doubt on future implementation. However, should the South Sudanese face increased pressure to leave Sudan, their movement would be highly constrained by transportation difficulties due to their huge numbers, compounded by the June  – September rains and insecurity along the way, putting pressure on all returnee transit centres in Upper Nile especially Renk and Malakal, where most are likely to stay concentrated. Up to 700,000 South Sudanese are estimated to live in Sudan.

    June – September rain and cultivation season: Further conflict and displacement implies a negative impact on the June – September cultivation season. Displaced populations would likely miss or face serious disruptions to cultivation.

    Safety of Refugees: South Kordofan and Blue Nile refugees in Maban and Pariang would potentially face intensified attacks. Counties or areas neighboring refugee locations would also be at risk of insecurity. South Kordofan and Blue Nile refugees are currently in camps and relying on humanitarian assistance for their survival needs. Furthermore, increased refugee flows, particularly from South Kordofan and Blue Nile into Unity State and Upper Nile (as well as into other countries), would be likely.

    Informal trade between South Sudan and Sudan: Since Sudan restricted formal flows of essential commodities such as grain, fuel and other essentials in May 2011, markets in Northern Bahr El Gazal, Western Bahr El Gazal, Warrap, Unity and Upper Nile states turned to informal trade with Sudan as an alternative, and increasingly sought much more expensive imports from Uganda and Ethiopia. Increased conflict would have severe impacts on informal flows because the insecurity would be a major disincentive to traders and transporters who are smuggling goods. Already, the Government of Sudan has announced plans to enact extreme penalties for those smuggling goods to South Sudan.

    Surge of internal conflict in Jonglei: Increased attention to conflict in border areas could divert efforts intended to maintain security in areas such as Jonglei where insecurity surged during December 2011 – March 2012. Disarmament has just been completed, and there is emerging discontent that the disarmament was not uniform among the different ethnic groups, signaling that recently achieved calm is likely to be temporary. Diversion of security efforts to other areas could encourage a conflict surge in Jonglei, which would escalate current Crisis levels to Emergency levels.

    Surge in armed militia activities:  Increased attention to conflict in border areas could also trigger increased militia activities especially in Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei where armed militia groups are present.

    Lean season humanitarian interventions: Much needed humanitarian interventions during the April –August lean season would be interrupted in all areas where different types of conflicts would surge. This would reverse gains by ongoing prepositioning of lean season food stocks in areas that tend to be inaccessible during the rainy season.

    Increased needs with poor delivery capacity; Though humanitarian organizations are currently reviewing and updating  contingencies or preparedness to factor in deteriorating insecurity, physical preparedness in terms of pre-positioning additional supplies to cater to the conflict-induced contingency needs before the onset of rains are still likely to be constrained due to the narrow window between now and the rainy season.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current estimated food security outcomes, April, 2012

    Figure 2

    Current estimated food security outcomes, April, 2012

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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