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Crisis food insecurity outcomes increase as the lean season progress

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • April - September 2013
Crisis food insecurity outcomes increase as the lean season progress

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Acute food security outcomes worsen as the lean season progresses due to high food prices, reduced income, and persistent insecurity that continually disrupt livelihoods of the affected population. Displaced populations in Jonglei’s Pibor County are the worst affected as insecurity has deterred humanitarian access. Pibor County and other areas face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity (Figure 1).

    • Prices of staple foods continue to be high as households increase reliance on markets. Prices of most commodities are above five-year averages and will peak during the seasonal lean period between May and July. Although trade is expected to improve between Sudan and South Sudan, poor households are not expected to reap immediate benefits.

    • The Implementation Matrix agreement signed between South Sudan and Sudan is expected to improve relations between the two countries. Oil production has resumed and is likely to improve the economic situation of the country, as will the establishment of cross-border points and enhanced security for improve trade. Restrictions on trade and migration have limited income sources and substantially impacted food access for communities in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, Unity and Upper Nile. 

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Prices of staple foods started to increase as the lean season started one month earlier than normal. In March 2013, the price of sorghum in Juba was 68 percent above the five-year average and 73 and 89 percent higher than the five-year averages in Wau and Aweil, respectively. Imports of staple foods from the sub region have helped stabilize high prices as compared to the five-year average in Juba, Aweil, Wau, Rumbek and Bor. Informal trade between Sudan and South Sudan increased as tensions eased following the start of normalized relations between the two countries. Both governments agreed to establish ten border points to boost trade and movement across their common border as stipulated in the September 2012 agreement. Although prices are expected to further stabilize as a result of the improved trade, they are still expected to remain high during the lean season. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the annual increase in the consumer price index (CPI) in March was 14.1 percent higher than last year. The monthly increase in the CPI from February to March was 6.0.

    Insecurity increased from clashes between the SPLA and non-state armed groups in Jonglei state’s Pibor County in March. Aid agencies have estimated that more than 9,000 thousand people have been displaced from their homes following the recent fighting in Pibor County. The latest attack was on the UN peace keeping force convoy, resulting in 12 deaths near Gumuruk. The tense situation restricts humanitarian access to the affected communities in the county.

    Oil flow resumes following the recent agreement between Sudan and South Sudan. South Sudan announced the resumption of oil production on April 9, 2013 following the adoption of Implementation Matrix signed by the two countries on March 12, 2013. The agreement, which includes trade and trade-related issues, and border and security issues, among others, is expected to be a turning point for relations between the two countries.

    Increased chance of above-normal rainfall is expected to improve pastures and water availability and crop conditions. The Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum Consensus Focus (GHACOF) projects normal to above-normal rainfall for March to May over the southern part of South Sudan, while near normal to below normal rainfall is expected over the northern part of South Sudan. An early replenishment of pastures and water is expected to allow livestock to return early from migration, enabling households to access livestock products especially milk. The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) also shows a slightly increased chance of rainfall from June to September. The first half of the scenario period coinciding with the lean season is critical as parts of the country face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity (see Figure 2), while the situation is expected to improve as harvest starts in August/September (see Figure 3).


    The most likely scenario for April to September 2013 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Food prices: Food prices are expected to increase significantly, particularly during April to June, as most households rely on markets as their main food source. With high food prices, households are expected to face significant food gaps. Although increased trade flow from Sudan is expected to stabilize food prices, poor households are not expected to gain access to food easily due to poor income opportunities. Markets are expected to be disrupted in remote areas with poor road infrastructure as roads become impassable during the rainy season.
    • Refugees/displaced populations: Pibor County in Jonglei state has become the epicenter of fighting between the national army and non-state armed groups. The situation is gradually becoming calmer although still tense. Displacement, as a result of the insecurity, will disrupt livelihoods and the current agricultural activities. As fighting continues in Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states, an increased influx of refugees from Sudan is expected during the scenario period.
    • Sudan-South Sudan agreement on implementation modalities: In March 2013, Sudan and South Sudan signed an Implementation Matrix to implement the earlier agreement in September 2012. Oil production has resumed thus far and other issues to be resolved include security arrangements and border issues, among others. It is expected that the various parts of the agreement will be gradually enforced over the course of the year.
    • Abyei: The Abyei referendum is not part of the March agreement and remains outstanding, but critical in terms of relations between the two countries. IDPs originally from Abyei now living in Agok and Twic Counties of Warrap state started moving back to Abyei with the intention of participating in the forthcoming referendum, to be held in October 2013. This will determine whether Abyei will join Sudan or South Sudan. However, the rates of return have reduced in recent months due to uncertainty about the security situation in the area. The presence of the Messeriya nomads poses a threat to the displaced who are returning as tensions continue mounting between the two communities. The situation in Abyei requires close monitoring.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Crisis food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) increases as the lean season progresses. The main areas of concern will be Pibor County of Jonglei state. The areas will face Crisis acute food insecurity throughout the scenario period. The current insecurity aggravates the already dire humanitarian situation in the area. Counties of Ayod, Uror, Duk, and Nyirol will also face Crisis food insecurity during the scenario period as access will be significantly hampered during the rainy season. The situation in these counties has been compounded by excessive flooding in 2012, which resulted in reduced cultivated areas as well as poorer yields. Other areas that will face Crisis levels include Aweil North and East (Northern Bahr el Ghazal state), Mayom, Mayendit, Abiemnhom and Panyijiar (Unity state), Twic, Gogrial East, Tonj North, East and South (Warrap state) and Abyei. The remainder of areas, those less affected by conflict, will face Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2), while all areas in Greater Equatoria state will face Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) from July following the onset of the first harvest.

    Markets play a key role as a major food source until harvest in August/September. Food prices are expected to be above average throughout the scenario period coinciding with the lean season. Although cross-border trade is expected to resume, the impact is not going to reflect in prices immediately. Poor road conditions following the onset of rains in April and May will hamper commodity flow and significantly reduce access to remote markets. As a result, poor households will increase their collection of wild foods and sale of firewood and charcoal. Households in pastoral areas will increase sales of livestock in order to purchase food, particularly during the first half of the scenario period. Poor households will face Crisis acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) in the first half of the scenario period with some improvement when fish and leafy vegetables become available in the second half of the scenario period. 

    Areas of Concern

    Western Flood Plains: Northern Bahr el Ghazal (Aweil North and East), Warrap (Twic, Gogrial West, Tonj North and East), and Unity (Abiemnhom and Mayom)

    Current Situation

    Food prices: High food prices continue to constrain food access to poor households in the northern part of the Western Flood Plain livelihood zone. Households in this livelihood zone missed the opportunity to migrate to Sudan for labor, which normally constitutes a significant portion of their income. Seasonally, households mainly from the northern part of this livelihood zone migrate to Sudan between January and April for labor, but border closures prevented them from moving this year. Traditionally Warrap, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Western Bahr el Ghazal rely mostly on commodities imported from Sudan. Informal trade continued despite the restrictions though the quantities reaching South Sudan are insignificant in comparison to the needs of the population. Food commodities imported from East African countries are ferried all the way to the northern part of the livelihood zone. Increased transaction costs and poor road conditions result in exorbitantly high prices, thereby reducing access for poor households. For instance in March, the price of white sorghum increased by 89 percent in Aweil compared to the five-year average (2008-2012). In February, white sorghum was not readily available in Aweil market due to the earlier tension along the border with Sudan. Recent political developments with Sudan have eased the tension and encouraged traders to increase informal cross-border trade.

    Livestock and pastures conditions: Pasture conditions and water availability deteriorated and livestock are currently in dry season grazing places known locally as toic. The concentration of livestock in toic created tension among herders, resulting in intermittent clashes in January and February in: Twic and Gogrial East (Warrap state); Mayom, Abiemnhom and Panyijiar (Unity state); and Cueibet and Rumbek North and Central (Lakes state). Despite the effort made by the government to broker peace between rivaling communities, the clashes continued. In Gogrial East on March 23, 2013, an estimated 7,850 people were directly affected by the cattle raiding that took place. Earlier in the month, herders in Twic County also suffered attacks where 504 heads of cattle were stolen. The presence of Messeriya nomads in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Unity could cause further insecurity in the cattle camps. Livestock prices are stable, but expected to increase as sales increase during the lean season when households cope with food insecurity.

    Food security outcomes: Populations affected by insecurity due to cattle raiding and those displaced earlier from the border areas lost their assets and livelihoods opportunities. As a result, they are minimally meeting adequate food consumption. Households have exhausted food stocks and rely on markets as the main source of food. High food prices, coupled with diminished income sources from cross-border labor migration restrictions, limit poor households’ access to food at this time. Poor households are facing Crisis acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3). Overall, the Western Flood Plain zone faces Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity with Crisis levels of food insecurity concentrated in the areas with increased IDP populations, including Gogrial East, Tonj East, and South (Warrap), Panyijiar, Mayom, Abiemnhom, and Myendit (Unity), Rumbek North and Cueibet (Lakes), and Abyei.


    Market access and prices: Prices will be highest during April to June, which is the seasonal peak of food commodity prices. Poor households will face significant food consumption gaps due to poor income sources. However, the improvement in trade and cross-border labor migration is likely to stabilize food prices in this livelihood zone. During January and February, when tensions were high along the border, the informal trade flow had reduced, leading to a scarcity of white sorghum in major markets in the zone. As a result, the price of maize as an alternative commodity increased significantly, especially in Aweil where it doubled. Recent political developments have eased tensions and encouraged resumption of cross-border trade with Sudan.

    Conflict-related displacement: Displacement resulting from cattle raids is expected to decline from May to September when livestock return from the dry season grazing areas. The security situation along the border is expected to improve if security arrangements agreed upon by the two countries are honored and border issues are addressed. This is likely to benefit areas recently affected by cross-border attacks and aerial bombardments in Kiir Adem, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and areas in the northern part of Unity and Western Bahr el Ghazal states.

    Displacement in Abyei: Mass movement of Abyei IDPs is expected as the referendum draws closer. Increased influx of the IDPs is likely to create additional needs on the meager resources available in the area. However, movement has stalled due to tensions between the Messeriya nomads and returnees. However, the United Nations Interim Force for Abyei (UNISFA) has created a buffer zone separating the two communities to avert any potential conflict. Tensions between the two communities are likely to culminate in fighting without this accommodation.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Poor households are expected to face significant food consumption gaps during the lean season due to increasingly high staple food prices, reduced income from fewer wage labor opportunities, and persistent disruption of livelihoods due to conflict. Most households are relying on markets for food. In April 2013, the lean season started one month earlier than is typical (in May) because of the poor 2012 harvest. April to July is critical as a significant proportion of poor households will experience substantial food consumption gaps. The situation is expected to improve in August/September when the harvest of the early maturing sorghum and green consumption of maize start.

    South Sudan’s relationship with Sudan, which has only worsened since April 2012 following the fighting in Panthou (Heglig), is improving, and in turn is expected to facilitate trade and cross-border labor migration. In addition to the informal trade currently in small quantities, formal trade is expected to resume as the leaders of the two countries agreed to open the ten cross-border points to enhance trade. Despite the positive gestures, the Abyei referendum remains crucial in normalizing relations between the two nations. Conversely, a disruption of livelihoods and further displacement of the population, resulting from internal conflicts will continue to undermine food security.

    Poor households in the Western Flood Plain livelihood zone will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity throughout the scenario period. Overall, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity will prevail in the zone with increasing Crisis levels in Twic, Tonj East, South, Aweil North and East, Abiemnhom, Mayom, Panyijiar, Mayendit, Rumbek North, Cueibet, and Abyei as the lean season progresses.

    Eastern Flood Plains: Jonglei (Akobo, Uror, Nyirol and Ayod); Upper Nile State (Maban, Manyo, Maiwut, Longechuck and Nasir) and Unity State (Pariang)

    Current Situation

    A large part of this livelihood zone lies in Jonglei state and is prone to conflicts and seasonal floods. In 2012, the zone experienced one of the worst floods in recent years. According to UNOCHA reports, the highest number of conflicts resulting from cattle raiding and tribal fighting in 2012 was recorded in Jonglei state. Effects from both flooding and conflicts on livelihoods were significant. In February 2013, UNMISS reported 85 people killed, 34 people missing in cattle raiding in Akobo County, and an estimated 23,000 people affected and some displaced by the incident. Ulang County (Upper Nile state) received displaced people from the same incident. In Akobo, Uror, Nyirol, Ayod, and parts of Duk Counties, own food stocks declined and households face significant consumption gaps due to poor harvest, inadequate market access and persistent insecurity. From January to March, repeated attacks related to cattle rustling constrained wild food gathering mainly lalob (Balanites aegyptiaca), grass cutting, and hunting. Currently, Uror, Nyirol, Akobo, and Duk Counties of Jonglei and Manyo, Maiwut, Longechuk, and Nasir Counties of Upper Nile state and Pariang County of Unity are facing Crisis food insecurity (IPC Phase 3).


    Fishing: Fishing as a source of food and income will remain minimal during the April to June season, but expected to increase sometime between July and September during the flood season. Fishing plays a significant role as a food source for households in the Eastern Flood Plain livelihood zones during the scenario period. It is mainly carried out by poor households, yet all socioeconomic groups are involved during food insecure years. Given the current food insecurity situation caused by low yields and insecurity in 2012, fishing activities are likely to increase to above normal.

    Food and income sources: Poor households depleted their own food stocks as early as February and stated relying on markets and wild foods. Because they rely on scant income sources such as sale of grass, charcoal and firewood, their food access is reduced by the high market prices. As collection and sale of these forest products decrease during the rainy season, poor households will increase fishing and agricultural labor. Poor households owning livestock are expected to increase sales of livestock between April and June to offset food shortages. During the flood season starting in July, fishing will constitute the major source of income and food.

    Seasonal livestock migration: Livestock are expected to return from dry seasonal grazing areas to nearby cattle camps in May when the rains start. This will increase access to milk for poor households and reduce incidents of cattle raiding. With the average to increased chance of above-average rainfall during March to May, vegetation conditions are expected to improve quickly and water availability will improve livestock conditions.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Food consumption is expected to decline from April to July due to limited income and restricted livelihood activities. Since labor opportunities are expected to decline as of June and markets are likely to be disrupted by compromised road access during the rainy season, poor households are expected to face significant food consumption gaps. Livestock sales will increase from April to June, coinciding with the peak of the lean season. Poor households in most parts of Eastern Flood Plains will continue to face Crisis (IPC phase 3) acute food insecurity throughout the scenario period. Crisis food insecurity is expected to continue among displaced and poor households in Jonglei’s Uror, Nyirol, Akobo, and Ayod Counties. Food insecurity will deteriorate and almost most parts of Jonglei and southeastern parts of Upper Nile and refugee areas will be at Crisis levels (IPC Phase 3) of food insecurity while the rest of the Upper Nile will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). The food security situation will start to improve when the harvest of short-cycle sorghum starts in August/September.

    Pastoral Livelihood Zone: Jonglei (Pibor) and Eastern Equatoria (Kapoeta)

    Insecurity in Jonglei’s Pibor County has disrupted the livelihoods of thousands. The area witnessed serious fighting in 2012, at which time most of the affected households did not cultivate their land and remained displaced throughout the county. Although the fierce fighting between the SPLA and the non-state armed groups gradually calmed down, the situation in the area is still tense. According to UNOCHA, eight injured civilians received treatment at a clinic in Gumuruk, Pibor County, with an additional three being treated in Pochalla. According to the report, aid agencies suggested that nearly all of the estimated 9,000 inhabitants have deserted their homes for safer areas. Of those who fled, over 4,000 were said to have crossed into Kenya as refugees as of the beginning of 2013. On Tuesday April 9, 2013, an armed group attacked a UNMISS convoy killing five peacekeepers and seven civilians and injuring others near Gumuruk. Humanitarian access to the area has been constrained as a result of the persistent insecurity. The population affected by the violent clashes in Boma in December 2012 and January 2013 are in need of food assistance. In 2012, only 24 percent of the population in Pibor County cultivated their land and the resulting annual cereal deficit was estimated at 14,426 MT for 2013.

    In Eastern Equatoria state, the pastoral areas of Kapoeta East received excessive rains in 2012, resulting in a poor harvest. However, the floods improved access to water and pastures delaying migration of livestock to dry seasonal grazing areas, thus enabling households to maintain access to milk and meat until end of January. An interagency assessment in February 2013 reported a decline in households’ food access leading to an increased reliance on wild foods, especially in Kapoeta East. Food prices increased by 30 to 40 percent over the past six months limiting food access to poor households who obtain their income mainly from the sale of firewood and building materials. Livestock conditions are good, but herds have moved to dry seasonal grazing areas, depriving women and children from access to milk.

    The current displacement in Pibor County is likely to aggravate the effects of the previous year’s poor harvest due to heightened insecurity and excessive flooding. This is also expected to negatively impact the current agricultural season and households’ livelihoods. Livestock, the principal source of food (mainly milk and meat) in this livelihood zone, are likely to remain in the dry seasonal grazing areas until May when vegetation starts to rejuvenate. Wild foods and game are normally consumed in the dry season mainly from February to April although poor households increase their reliance on these food sources in times of insecurity. As these sources gradually decrease, the sale of livestock is expected to increase during the peak of the lean season from May to July. The start of season in areas of Kapoeta is erratic with a likely delay in both cropping and the return of livestock from dry seasonal grazing areas.

    Cultivation is likely to be delayed by the prevailing insecurity, further delaying the harvest and increasing food consumption gaps particularly among poor households. Markets are also likely to be disrupted by the current insecurity, limiting households’ access to staple food. Therefore, in Pibor, poor households will continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity outcomes during the entire scenario period. In greater Kapoeta, the situation is expected to remain at Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.

    Refugees: Unity (Pariang County) and Upper Nile (Maban County)

    The number of refugees continues to increase as aerial bombardment and fighting intensifies in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states of Sudan. In Upper Nile state, the number increased from 111,904 in early January to 115,489 as of April 8, while the number in Unity state increased from 58,628 to 73,600 over the same period. Insecurity in the two Sudanese states will continue to be tense, forcing thousands of refugees to flee into South Sudan though the rate appears to be reducing given the current start of the rainy season. An increased concentration of refugees in large numbers is expected to create health-related issues (related to waterborne diseases) as the sanitary situation in the camps is inadequate.

    Food insecurity is expected to worsen in Maban County of Upper Nile from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during the first half of the scenario period to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes over the second half of the scenario period. However, Crisis levels are expected to persist throughout the scenario period in Pariang County of Unity state due to increasing numbers of refugees in dire conditions and limited access to food during the rainy season. 

    Events that Might Change the Outlook



    Impact on food security outcomes

    Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, Unity and Upper Nile, Western Bahr el Ghazal

    Implementation of the cooperation agreement as outlined in the Implementation Matrix

    Resumption of oil flow, the expected resumption of formal trade between the two countries and cross-border labor migration will improve the food security in South Sudan. However, failure to implement the other aspects of the agreement including security arrangements and border demarcation will reverse the situation.

    Abyei and Twic

    Abyei Referendum

    The failure to implement Abyei referendum is likely to strain relations between the two nations and have a significant impact on the livelihoods and food security of people from Abyei and the neighboring Twic County (Warrap). This would also lead to failure to fully implement the cooperation agreements signed in September 2012.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, April 2013

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, April 2013

    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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