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Extreme levels of acute food insecurity persist across South Sudan during the 2018/19 post-harvest period. Based on the January 2019 IPC analysis, 6.17 million people were in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse in January. This estimate was in the presence of humanitarian food assistance and included roughly 30,000 people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).
Conflict has declined somewhat since mid-2018, and staple food prices have declined slightly in several areas. Despite these improvements, conflict and very poor macroeconomic conditions still exist and are expected to persist throughout the projection period. Furthermore, many households still face extreme difficulty meeting their basic food needs as the protracted conflict has significantly disrupted livelihoods and eroded households’ coping capacity.
Food security is expected to deteriorate through the July/August peak of the lean season. Although humanitarian food assistance is anticipated to scale up during the lean season and will likely prevent more catastrophic outcomes, past trends indicate that the severity of food insecurity still increases during the lean season relative to the harvest period despite the increase in humanitarian food assistance. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are anticipated, and some households are likely to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Jonglei, Lakes, and Upper Nile States are of greatest concern, though concern still remains high for Unity, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Greater Kapoeta. The total population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse is expected to increase to an estimated 7.7 million people between May and July/August, in the absence of humanitarian food assistance.
A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will persist in South Sudan. Past trends indicate that food security can deteriorate sharply when conflict shifts and severely limits household movement and humanitarian access. Should this worst-case scenario occur, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely. In order to sustain long-term food security improvements and end the persistent risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in South Sudan, full implementation of the September 2018 peace deal and an end to the conflict by all parties is needed.
Recent data on food consumption (Figure 1), nutrition, and mortality indicates that outcomes during the 2018/19 post-harvest period remain severe, with widespread areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse. In January, the IPC Technical Working Group estimated 6.17 million people (54% of the population) were in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse, of whom 1.36 million were in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), and 30,000 in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). These estimates are in the presence of humanitarian food assistance delivery.
Conflict has decreased somewhat in late 2018 and early 2019 relative to the past three years and it is expected that conflict will continue in 2019 at current, relatively lower levels. This will lead to gradual improvements; however, some level of conflict is still likely, as are very poor macroeconomic conditions. Furthermore, the protracted conflict for over five years has eroded households’ typical livelihoods and capacity to meet their basic food needs.
As a result, food security is expected to deteriorate during 2019 lean season and an estimated 7.7 million people will be in need of food assistance between May and July/August. Humanitarian food assistance (HFA) through general food distributions (GFD) and targeted food for assets (FFA) programs is planned to scale up during the lean season and reach 3-4 million people a month, though the actual reach of assistance is anticipated to be somewhat lower due to periodic access and budgetary constraints. The planned HFA is expected to prevent more extreme and even catastrophic outcomes; however, historical trends indicate that the severity of hunger still increases during the lean season relative to the post-harvest period despite the scale-up of HFA (Figure 2).
Extreme outcomes, including households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), are expected throughout the 2019 lean season even in the presence of planned, seasonally high levels of HFA. The number of planned beneficiaries is far below the need; HFA well above planned and funded levels, and unhindered humanitarian access, is needed throughout the projection period to prevent the loss of lives and further erosion of livelihoods.
Past trends also indicate that conflict can shift quickly in South Sudan and food security deteriorates sharply when conflict restricts household movement and humanitarian access. Should this worst-case scenario occur, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely. Full implementation of the September 2018 peace deal and an end to the conflict by all parties is needed to lead to long-term food security improvements and end the persistent risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in South Sudan.
Extreme levels of acute food insecurity persist across South Sudan during the 2018/19 post-harvest period and outcomes are expected to further deteriorate through the July/August peak of the lean season, despite the scale-up of humanitarian food assistance during the lean season. According to the January 2019 IPC analysis, an estimated 6.17 million people were in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse in January, 1.36 million of whom were in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), and 30,000 of whom were in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Canal/Pigi and Pibor of Jonglei, Panyikang of Upper Nile, and Cueibet of Lakes. The population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse was in the presence of ongoing humanitarian food assistance (HFA). By July/August, it is expected the total population in need of food assistance will be 7.7 million people. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will persist, and some households are likely to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).
Since the signing of the September 2018 peace deal and subsequent efforts for ending hostilities, the number of reported conflict incidents has decreased in Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr el Ghazal. However, conflict still persists in South Sudan, most notably in parts of Greater Equatoria (Figure 3). Conflict in Yei, Morobo, Maridi, and Mundri is of high concern, posing further constraints to trade flows along the Kaya-Yei and Juba-Mundri-Maridi roads and limiting access to farmlands. Recent conflict in these areas has resulted in the displacement of an estimated 5,000 people to Democratic Republic of Congo and 8,000 people to Yei Town. As of January 2019, an estimated 4.1 million people remain displaced internally or in neighboring countries. In addition to displacing households, conflict continues to disrupt trade flows, the recovery of markets, free household movement, and engagement in typical livelihood activities. Although official tracking of returnees is not available, an estimated 12,000 people returned to Fashoda from Sudan, and over 8,200 people returned to their places of origin within Unity, though it is expected ongoing conflict is preventing further returnees.
Throughout the country, insecurity-related disruptions to cultivation negatively affected households’ capacity to cultivate crops in 2018, similar to the past five years. Furthermore, prolonged dry spells in 2018 in many counties and some pest infestations negatively impacted crop development, as corroborated by ground information and, for the former, remote-sensing imagery (Figure 4). Overall, 2018/19 harvests are estimated to be below pre-crisis levels and many counties are facing large cereal gaps: according to the 2018 FAO preliminary crop monitoring data, national cereal harvests are estimated to cover only 52 percent of the population’s cereal needs. Data from the 23rd Round of the Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System (FSNMS), collected between December 2018 and January 2019, indicated that approximately 57 percent of households harvested 1-4 months of food stocks.This is expected to be similar to last year’s harvest, though well below the estimated 7 months of stocks that agricultural and agropastoral households typically harvested prior to the outbreak of conflict in 2013.
Macroeconomic conditions remain very poor and similar to last year, despite the recent increase in crude oil production from 130,000 barrels per day (b/d) in early 2018 to 165,000 b/d in January 2019. Total crude oil production is still 43 percent lower than 2011 and 21 percent lower than 2013. The South Sudanese Pound (SSP) has continued to depreciate from mid-2018, following the sharp appreciation observed at that time. However, the rate of depreciation is slower than that observed from 2015-2017 due to the gradual increase in oil production, which is increasing foreign currency earnings and reducing import inflation. In mid-February, the parallel exchange rate stood around 260 SSP/USD. The depreciation continues to drive extremely high food prices.
An analysis of cross-border trade data indicates that trade flows from Sudan and Uganda remain lower than pre-crisis levels due to conflict, high cost of transportation, and low purchasing power in South Sudan. Sorghum imports from Sudan are 63 percent lower than the same quarter last year and 99 percent lower than the five-year average, driven by the macroeconomic crisis in Sudan. Given this, it is expected northern markets are experiencing intermittent supply shortages. Conversely, maize imports from Uganda increased 167 percent compared to the five-year average, respectively. Based on a rapid market assessment conducted by FEWS NET in Juba in January, increased imports are due primarily to the expansion of staple food businesses in Juba following the peace deal. The Nimule-Juba road remains passable, though conflict in several areas of Central and Western Equatoria continue to disrupt normal trade flows through Kaya.
In the state capitals, markets continue to operate nearly at near normal levels (Figure 5), though with lower supply and reduced effective demand than pre-crisis years due to persistently high prices. In February, based on price data from CLiMIS, a kilogram of white sorghum in Juba market is 90 percent lower than same time last year, but 203 percent higher than the five-year average. In Wau, the price of sorghum is 200 percent higher than same time last year and 581 percent higher than average. Overall, staple food prices have declined somewhat in recent months and are now lower than last year in Juba, though they remain above last year in markets outside of Juba and well above average in all markets (Figure 6). As a result of high prices, purchasing capacity remains low. In Juba, a day’s wage of around 1,300 SSP can buy roughly 12 kilograms of sorghum whereas a day’s wage in Wau buys around 10 kilograms of sorghum. It is estimated that an average household size of seven needs approximately four kilograms of cereal per day to meet their basic food needs, though it is unlikely most households are accessing labor opportunities daily.
Overall, the above-mentioned drivers of acute food insecurity in South Sudan remain similar to last year. Conflict has reduced in some areas; however, given the significant negative impact of years of conflict on households’ livelihoods and capacity to cope, many continue to face difficulty accessing sufficient food to meet their basic needs. Data on food consumption from FSNMS 23 indicate that extreme levels of acute food insecurity persist during the post-harvest period. Compared to January 2018, the percent of households nationally reporting a poor Food Consumption Score (FCS) declined from 63 percent in January 2018 to 51 percent in January 2019, with county-level trends varying across the country (Figure 7). The percentage of the population who reported severe hunger on the Household Hunger Scale (HHS), indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), declined from 6 percent in January 2018 to 4 percent in January 2019, with relative improvement in Jonglei and southern UNS, though deterioration in other areas (Figure 8). However, the reporting of moderate hunger increased from 54 to 61 percent over the same time period, greater than the decline in severe hunger. Additionally, an estimated 50 percent of the population reported currently engaging in at least one coping strategy indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) due to a lack of food or money to purchase food. Overall, it is expected food security outcomes have remained somewhat similar to last year, indicative of widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4), with some households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).
Humanitarian food assistance continues to reduce the severity and scale of acute food insecurity. An estimated 1.5 million people a month were reached with assistance through GFD and FFA with, on average, a 50 percent ration. The majority of assistance has been distributed to Greater Upper Nile and areas of high concern in Greater Bahr el Ghazal.
According to nutrition data from 23 SMART Surveys collected between September and December 2018, the level of acute malnutrition varies across the country and indicates slight improvement when compared with SMART surveys from the same months in 2017: the median Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ) was 10.1 percent, down from 14.1 percent. Of the 23 counties surveyed between September and December 2018, the GAM prevalence was ‘Alert’ (GAM (WHZ) 5.0-9.9%) in nine counties, indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2), ‘Serious’ (10.0-14.9%) in nine counties, indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3), and ‘Critical’ (GAM (WHZ) 15-29.9%) in four counties, indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Nutrition data from FSNMS 23 also indicated some improvement relative to last year. In part this is attributed to improved access nutrition and health services in some of the areas, including Unity and Jonglei.
Despite improved food access during the current post-harvest season relative to the lean season, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) persist, and assistance is preventing worse outcomes in several northern areas. Areas of greatest concern include Upper Nile (UNS), Jonglei, and Lakes, specifically Panyikang of UNS, Pigi/Canal and Pibor of Jonglei, and Cueibet of Lakes where it is expected some households are in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Central Unity also remains of concern, though HFA has driven notable improvements relative to late 2018 and Crisis (IPC Phase 3!) exist. Western Bahr el Ghazal also remains of concern, and in Raja, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist while in Wau, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) exists. In addition, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes exist in Kapoeta East and Kapoeta North of Eastern Equatoria due to high food prices and low access to livestock products. In Yei of Central Equatoria, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are due to the ongoing conflict that is displacing households and limiting access to harvests and markets. This was confirmed by a rapid assessment conducted by FEWS NET in late February in Yei Town which indicated significant disruption to markets and trade.
The February to September 2019 most likely scenario is based on the following national-level assumptions:
- Conflict is expected to continue; however, the number of conflict incidents is expected to be similar to current levels, which are lower than levels observed from 2016 to mid-2018.
- In view of expected continued conflict, some people will be newly displaced both internally and to neighboring countries, though new displacements are likely to be lower than trends in 2016-2018. Given the establishment of cantonment areas, joint monitoring of the cessation of hostilities, and confidence building, it is likely some IDPs will return to their places of origin, though the number will likely not be large-scale.
- Based on forecasts from NOAA and USGS, above-average March to May rainfall is forecast in Greater Equatoria. Accordingly to historical Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station Data (CHIRPS) from 2000-2018, the median and average rainfall amounts in Western and Central Equatoria are between 1,100 and 1,300 mm. In Eastern Equatoria, average and median rainfall amounts are typically around 850 mm. Based on the forecast for above-average rainfall, higher totals than the above-mentioned totals are expected in these areas.
- The June to September main rainy season in Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile is also forecast to be above average and based on historical rainfall data it is expected rainfall totals will be above the 700-1,100 mm that is typical across northern areas of the country. Flooding is likely in low-laying areas along the Nile River and its tributaries.
- The availability of fish and wild foods will decline seasonally through March. Availability will increase during the rainy season in March/April in Greater Equatoria and May/June in northern areas, and fish availability will likely be above-average given likely flooding. However, periodic conflict will limit some households access to these food sources.
- Many households are likely to plant first-season crops in Greater Equatoria in March/April and May/June in northern areas, though some will lack productive assets and be unable to plant. Overall it is expected the area planted in 2019 will be slightly higher than 2018 as some displaced households are expected to return to their places of origin to plant and conflict is likely to be relatively lower than in recent years. However, planting is only expected to be slightly higher given that many households, including returnees, are still expected to lack adequate productive assets and, in some places, insecurity will limit access to farmland. Overall, first season production is expected to be similar to, or slightly above, last year. Flooding is likely to cause some crop losses.
- Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections Juba, Wau, and Aweil, it is expected that staple food prices in Juba in 2019 will be lower than 2018 prices, around 65-90 SSP/kg, but remain significantly higher than pre-crisis levels and the five-year average (Figure 10). In Wau and Aweil, prices will likely to be higher than 2018, driven by continued high transportation costs and intermittent disruptions to trade flows. In these markets, the retail price of sorghum is expected to be between 100 and 145 SSP/kg.
- Trade and market functioning are likely to improve relative to last year given likely lower conflict, though in areas where insecurity will persist, trade flows will be intermittently disrupted. Imports from Uganda will likely increase relative to recent years, as demand is expected to increase with the return of some households and given the expectation of trader confidence in improved security. Imports from Sudan will likely remain similar to, or slightly lower than, 2018 given the worsening of macroeconomic situation in Sudan.
- Macroeconomic conditions are expected to remain very poor; however, slight improvement, or at a minimum stability, is expected due primarily to increases in oil production. Currently production is at 165,000 barrels per day and there are plans for increased oil production in Unity and Upper Nile, as well as the opening of new oil fields due to reduced conflict. As a result, oil production is expected to be higher in 2019 than in 2018 and this is expected to help slow depreciation of the SSP. It is expected the exchange rate will fluctuate between 250 and 300 SSP/USD.
- WFP plans to reach 3-4 million people monthly between February and July through GFD and FFA, with a 50 percent ration on average. The most likely scenario assumes assistance according to these plans as they are the most up-to-date available, though all 2019 distribution plans are currently under review and there may be revisions to the size and location of distributions. Based on past trends, it is expected that the reach of assistance will be somewhat lower than the 3-4 million planned, around 2.5-3 million per month, based on periodic access and budgetary constraints. Also based on past planning and funding trends, it is expected that assistance delivery will continue through September, though at lower levels than given through July.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
Food security is expected to deteriorate in many counties throughout the projection period. Between February and May, many households are expected to face food consumption gaps as they deplete harvests. Fish and wild foods will be one of the primary food sources for many, though conflict will periodically disrupt access. Furthermore, high prices and low market supplies in some areas will continue to limit households’ capacity to purchase sufficient food. In pastoral livelihood zones of Eastern Equatoria and southern Jonglei, this time period will represent the peak of hunger as livestock will still be seasonally away from homesteads, limiting access to milk and livestock sales for some household members who remain at homesteads. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in many counties, and some households in areas of greatest concern will likely be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).
Food security is expected to deteriorate further through the peak of the lean season in July/August. Food availability and access, outside of assistance, is lowest during this period and many households will face large consumption gaps. The prevalence of acute malnutrition is expected to deteriorate to ‘Serious’ or ‘Critical’ levels in many areas, and widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely, and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are still expected. Areas of the greatest concern including Panyikang of UNS, Canal/Pigi, Akobo, and Pibor of Jonglei, and Cueibet, Rumbek North, and Yirol East of Lakes. Central Unity and Western Bahr el Ghazal also remain areas of high concern.
Although food assistance is planned and likely, planned levels are significantly lower than that needed to meet the need (Figure 11) and past trends indicated that food security deteriorates during the lean season even though assistance scales up during this time. It is expected that during this time an estimated 7.7 million people will be in need of food assistance during the peak of the lean season. Food security will begin to improve somewhat towards the end of the projection period with the 2019/20 harvest, though a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will persist throughout the projection period.
For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.
Current food security outcomes, February 2019
Source: FEWS NET
Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year
Source: FEWS NET
Figure 3. Conflict density, Oct.1, 2018-Feb. 15, 2019
Source: ACLED data
Figure 4. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) conditions immediately preceding harvest, September 2018
Source: USGS/FEWS NET
Figure 5. Market and trade functioning, February 2019
Source: FEWS NET
Figure 6. Retail price of sorghum in key markets versus USD/SSP exchange rate on the parallel market
Source: WFP data
Figure 7. Change in reporting of poor FCS, 2018/19 harvest compared to 2017/18 harvest
Source: FSNMS Rounds 21 and 23 data
Figure 8. Change in reporting of severe HHS, 2018/19 harvest compared to 2017/18 harvest
Source: FSNMS Rounds 21 and 23 data
Figure 9. Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) results by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ) from SMART surveys conducted during the harvest season, Sept-Dec. 2018 versus Sept-Dec 2017
Source: South Sudan Nutrition Information Working Group/UNICEF
Figure 10. Projected retail price of white sorghum, Juba
Source: FEWS NET projection based on WFP data
Figure 11. Projected population in need of humanitarian food assistance (HFA) during the Feb-July 2019 lean season versus estimated population expected to receive HFA
Source: South Sudan IPC technical release; WFP Operation Plan
Source: FSNMS Round 23 data
Figure 2. Percentage of the population reporting severe hunger across seasons versus percentage receiving GFD or FFA food assistance from WFP
Source: FSNMS data Rounds 19-23; WFP distribution reports
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.