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Food assistance needs remain high and Catastrophic (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are possible in 2020

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • February - September 2020
Food assistance needs remain high and Catastrophic (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are possible in 2020

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  • Key Messages
  • Peace deal advances, but a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists in 2020
  • Key Messages
    • In February, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes remain widespread in South Sudan. According to the January 2020 IPC acute analysis, the acutely food insecure population is expected to reach 6.01 million people in early 2020 even in the presence of humanitarian food assistance. This number includes 20,000 people who are likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Akobo and Duk counties of Jonglei state, where the 2019 floods caused significant crop and livestock losses, destroyed household assets, and cut off pockets of communities from moving in search of other food sources. Of greatest concern are areas in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Lakes states, where the negative impacts on livelihoods from the floods or from periodic intercommunal conflict have been most severe. Urgent food assistance is needed to save lives, protect livelihoods, and prevent more extreme food insecurity outcomes.

    • 1.3 million children 6-59 months of age are acutely malnourished and in need of urgent treatment. The national prevalence of global acute malnutrition, measured by weight-for-height z-score among children 6-59 months of age, increased from 11.7 percent in December 2018 to 12.6 percent in December 2019 due to very high disease incidence and morbidity in flood-affected areas and poor dietary quality and diversity. A ‘Critical’ level of acute malnutrition is expected in over half of the 36 flood-affected counties through April.

    • Humanitarian food assistance remains pivotal in preventing more extreme food insecurity outcomes in parts of Upper Nile, Jonglei, Unity, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, where Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are present. However, the reach of food assistance remains well below the population in need, particularly in areas where large food gaps or extreme depletion of livelihood assets are indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. In January, WFP reached .89 million people with food assistance, which is 40 percent below the number of people assisted in January 2019.

    • According to FAO’s Desert Locust Watch, there is a risk that desert locust swarms may arrive in Eastern Equatoria from Kenya in March, coinciding with the bimodal planting stage. Given that crops will not have yet emerged, the swarms are expected to travel onward to breeding areas in Sudan. However, in the absence of effective control measures in the East Africa region, new swarms in May/June could pose a risk of damage to crop production and pasture.

    • An early start to the lean season is anticipated in February/March 2020, due to low household food stocks from the 2019 harvest, high food prices, and seasonal declines in milk, fish, and wild food availability. The population in need of urgent food assistance is expected to rise to at least 6.48 million people by the July/August peak of the lean season. Further, a recent increase in intercommunal conflict may push the food insecure population even higher than estimated.

    • Although planned food assistance is expected to scale up from May to July, planned levels are likely not sufficient to prevent Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in areas of greatest concern. It is also possible that pockets of highly vulnerable households could face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in counties where food insecurity is already indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse area-level outcomes. In the event that the peace deal is not implemented and a resurgence of conflict prevents populations from moving in search of food sources or restricts humanitarian access for a prolonged period of time, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible in South Sudan.

    Peace deal advances, but a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists in 2020

    The formation of the unity government in February advanced the next stage of the peace deal in South Sudan, where a relatively low level of conflict since late 2018 has facilitated gradual recovery of livelihoods activities. Data collected on food security outcome indicators, acute malnutrition, and contributing factors in Round 25 of the Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System (FSNMS R25) showed that the population experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes in the presence of food assistance had declined by 14 percent from January 2019 to January 2020. The decline was mostly due to improvements within Western Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Unity states and driven by lower levels of conflict, an increase in net cereal production, and better wild food and fish availability after an above-average rainfall season. According to the convergence of food consumption indicators utilizing the FEWS NET matrix methodology, the proportion of the population experiencing food consumption gaps indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse was lower during the 2019/20 harvest compared to both the 2019 lean season and the 2018/19 harvest (Figure 1).

    Despite these improvements, approximately 5.29 million people or 45 percent of the national population were in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse in the presence of humanitarian food assistance in January, including 40,000 people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5)[1] in Akobo, Duk, and Ayod counties of Jonglei state. Additionally, 15 counties across the country were in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Acute food insecurity remains high in severity and scale due to years of conflict that have driven asset losses and significantly weakened the economy, as well as large-scale floods and periodic conflict that caused crop and livestock losses. According to FSNMS R25 data, 37 percent of households on average nationally reported a poor Food Consumption Score (FCS). In addition, 2.9 percent on average nationally reported severe hunger on the Household Hunger Scale (HHS) indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). A ‘Critical’ level (GAM WHZ 15-29.9 percent)[2] of acute malnutrition exists in 20 counties that are classified as Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse, attributed to poor dietary quality and quantity and to the impact of flooding on disease incidence, morbidity, and access to health and nutrition services.

    Although the implementation of the peace agreement is likely to facilitate further improvement in trade flows, market functioning, and area planted in 2020, high levels of food insecurity are expected to persist due to poor macroeconomic conditions, the residual effects of the late 2019 floods on rural livelihoods, and the effects of ongoing intercommunal conflict. Since severe acute food insecurity is already present in most flood-affected counties in January and most households will deplete their food stocks from the 2019/20 harvests by March, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are anticipated to be widespread. By the July/August peak of the lean season, the food insecure population is projected to reach at least 6.48 million people, equivalent to 55 percent of the national population. Further, more households may face acute food insecurity than projected at the January IPC due to the recent escalation of intercommunal conflict in parts of Jonglei, Warrap, and Lakes in January and February. The ongoing intercommunal conflicts have caused new internal displacement, disrupted food assistance delivery and trade, and led to loss of lives and household assets.

    The most severe food security outcomes are expected among poor host households and newly returned IDPs or refugees who lack access to arable land and do not own livestock. Past trends have shown that these populations are vulnerable to becoming cut off from other food sources during seasonal flooding or periodic conflict, leading to Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). In the event that the peace deal is not implemented fully, and a resurgence of conflict prevents populations from moving in search of food sources or restricts humanitarian access for a prolonged period of time, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would still be possible. Although past trends indicate that planned, funded, and likely humanitarian food assistance can mitigate the occurrence of worse outcomes, planned food assistance in early 2020 will most likely reach less than 45 percent of the population in need. A scale up of assistance levels is needed to save lives and prevent erosion of livelihoods assets.


    [1] According to the IPC, a Famine (IPC Phase 5) has occurred when at least 20 percent of households in a given area have an extreme lack of food, the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence, as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ), exceeds 30 percent, and mortality, as measured by the Crude Death Rate, is greater than 2 per 10,000 per day. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) occurs when a household group has an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even after the full employment of coping strategies and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels are evident.

    [2] Phase definitions for IPC Acute Malnutrition are as follows; Phase 1 (Acceptable): GAM WHZ <5 percent; Phase 2 (Alert): GAM WHZ ≥ 5 to 9.9 percent; Phase 3 (Serious): GAM WHZ 10.0 -14.9 percent; Phase 4 (Critical): GAM WHZ 15.0 - 29.9 percent; Phase 5 (Extremely Critical): GAM WHZ ≥30 percent.


    Current Situation

    The revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) was formed on February 22, 2020, following a resolution on the number of states and boundaries and a declaration of the complete cessation of hostilities between the government and non-signatories to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict. The formation of the R-TGoNU and related improvement in security conditions since the signing of the 2018 peace agreement have continued to facilitate relatively higher household engagement in livelihoods activities and relatively better cross-border trade flows and market functioning. Improved security has also encouraged the gradual return of internally and externally displaced persons. According to UNHCR data on returnee flows through January 2020, more than 126,800 refugees have spontaneously returned to South Sudan since January 2019. Most returnees have settled in Eastern Equatoria, Unity, Central Equatoria and Jonglei states, though these may or may not be their places of origin (Figure 2). In the month of January, the highest number of spontaneous refugee returnees was recorded in Kajo-Keji of Central Equatoria. During a rapid assessment conducted in late February, FEWS NET confirmed the presence of 30-40,000 spontaneous refugee returnees in Nyepo, Lire, Liwolo, and Kangapo 1 and 2 payams, most of whom are in urgent need of food assistance. Currently, they are primarily depending on food shared by host communities and food assistance sourced from refugee camps in Uganda, where they were formerly registered as refugees.  

    Despite broad improvements in security, data from OCHA/IOM indicates that 1.47 million and 2.2 million people are still internally and externally displaced, respectively, as of January 27.    In addition, localized instances of intercommunal conflict and cattle-raiding continue to occur, resulting in loss of lives and new displacement. In late January and February, cattle raids in Cueibet and Yirol East of Lakes and Duk of Jonglei resulted in the loss of lives and livestock and disrupted trade flows and food assistance delivery. In Kolom, Amiet, and Dukora areas of Abyei, intercommunal conflict was reported between the Misseriye and Dinka Ngok communities in late January, though relative calm has since been restored. In Pibor of Jonglei, intercommunal violence and cattle-raiding between the Lou Nuer and Murle communities has led to loss of lives and disrupted food assistance delivery to flood-affected populations in Gumuruk and Lekwangole payams and Pibor Town. An estimated 5,000 people have been displaced by ongoing violence in Greater Pibor.

    Relative stability supported higher levels of planting in 2019 relative to 2018 on the national level, but the extensive flooding that occurred in mid- to late 2019 led to high crop losses in 36 flood-affected counties. The results of the 2019 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) indicate that harvests will cover only 63 percent of 2020 national cereal needs. Based on preliminary CFSAM data, net national cereal production in the 2019/20 season is approximately 10 percent higher than 2018/19, with the largest gains realized in Greater Equatoria and in parts of Lakes and Western Bahr el Ghazal states (Figure 3). In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile, and Jonglei, however, crop production declined by up to 25 percent in 2019 relative to 2018 due to the floods. As a result, many households had low to minimal food stocks in the post-harvest period, despite a relative improvement in national food availability. For example, households reported during the FSNMS R25 survey that they anticipated their own-produced sorghum stocks would last for 2-3 months on average, or roughly until February/March, compared to at least six months before the conflict. FEWS NET corroborated these findings during a February rapid assessment in Twic East and Duk of Jonglei, where many households reported that they have already started to deplete their food stocks.

    The floods also had significantly negative impacts on livestock health and production. At the peak of the floods, FAO estimated that 3 million livestock were affected. Although flood waters have receded in many areas as the dry season has progressed, livestock deaths continue to be reported. In addition, the availability of pasture and water have seasonally declined as the peak of the dry season approaches, especially in western parts of the country. As a result, milk production level is atypically low. FEWS NET observed during the February rapid assessments in Twic East and Duk of Jonglei that livestock have poor health conditions and livestock diseases remain prevalent. Though data on the cumulative number of livestock deaths is not available, key informant information suggests that cases of livestock disease and deaths are higher than normal in both counties. The increase is likely due to worsening livestock health conditions after the floods and as the dry season peaks, since some livestock are confined to areas with poor pasture availability out of fear of cattle-raiding.

    In December, households’ most important food sources were own crop production and market purchases, which provided approximately 25-60 percent and 25-50 percent, respectively, of food consumed within a 7-day recall period (Figure 4). Gathering of natural food sources, including fish, game meat, wild fruits, and leafy greens, were also of importance. The relative importance of wild food sources has grown in January and February, given that their availability has seasonally peaked after the heavy rains and since household food stocks have declined. Access to fish and wild foods is especially important in areas where households are regaining freedom of movement to search for food as flood waters recede.

    Trade routes are gradually reopening and market supply levels are rising due to the peace agreement and receding flood waters. However, rural markets are still operating at below normal levels compared to the same time last year, market access challenges remain common, and food prices are high and rising (Figure 5). Cross-border trade monitoring data collected by FEWS NET and the East Africa Grain Council suggest that trader confidence has increased within the past year, reflected by a 137 percent increase in sorghum imports from Uganda in January 2020 compared to January 2019 and a 293 percent increase compared to the four-year average. Similar trends were observed in sorghum imports from Sudan through the northern trading corridor. However, periodic road ambushes continue to occur along the border crossing points of Gok Machar and Warawar of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and a recent occurrence resulted in the deaths of Sudanese traders operating along these routes. Similarly, although domestic trade routes continue to recover and support increased trade flows, localized road banditry and illegal check points remain common. Data from FSNMS R25 indicates that, on average, 9 percent of households reported it takes one day to travel to and return from the nearest market, while 6 percent reported that conflict or other violence restricted market access. For example, a FEWS NET market assessment conducted in Buong payam of Akobo West in late February confirmed it takes eight hours to travel to and return from the nearest market.

    At the same time, poor macroeconomic conditions and the national cereal deficit continue to drive high, rising food prices and constrain poor households’ food access. Despite an increase in oil production from 130,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 178,000 bpd in October, hard currency reserves remain limited, which continues to cause high inflation and limit the ability of traders to import staple food commodities to fill South Sudan’s cereal production gap. In January, the exchange rate continued to fluctuate, averaging around 325 SSP/USD on the parallel market and around 160 SSP/USD on the official market. Although the average exchange rate on the parallel market declined to 265 SSP/USD in late February, food prices in key reference markets did not similarly decline.

    According to price data from CLiMIS, staple food prices in January 2020 remain above January 2019 and the five-year average in most key reference markets, such as Juba, Rumbek Central, Bor South, and Torit. Inflation, exchange rate fluctuations, and the national cereal deficit are primary drivers of high food prices, which are exacerbated by high transportation costs and informal taxes. In January, the retail price of a kilogram (kg) of white sorghum ranged from 210 to 280 percent above the five-year average in Juba, Rumbek Central, Wau, and Aweil. In Juba and Rumbek Central, the price of sorghum is also around 150 percent above prices recorded in January 2019. However, the price of sorghum in Wau and Aweil has declined 90-98 percent below last year, which is likely due to a relative increase in regional imports and high supply of local produce.  

    As a result of high food prices and below-normal income from crop and livestock product sales and few other viable income sources, household purchasing power remains low. Demand for casual labor in villages and towns remains low due to poor macroeconomic conditions. Although there are reports that the availability of income-earning opportunities in urban areas has slightly increased, the slight increase in demand relative to the supply of labor indicates that most poor rural households have yet to benefit. In Wau, household purchasing power as measured by the wage-to-sorghum terms of trade (TOT) has somewhat improved relative to last year. A household is able to purchase 18 kg of sorghum from a day’s wage in February, which provides sufficient kilocalories for a household of seven people for four days, compared to 13 kg at the same time last year, which could last for roughly three days. In Juba, the wage-to-sorghum TOT in February has somewhat deteriorated relative to the same time last year. A household relying on wage labor in the capital is only able to purchase around 11 kg of sorghum in February compared to 14 kg in February 2019.

    Land preparation for first-season cultivation in some parts of Greater Equatoria is currently underway. In flood-affected counties in Greater Bahr Ghazal and Upper Nile, dry season vegetable production is also occurring as flood waters have significantly receded. However, desert locust poses a threat to agricultural production. A mature swarm of desert locusts was reported in Magwi of Eastern Equatoria on February 17th, having entered into South Sudan from Lamwo district of neighboring Uganda. Although the swarms have reportedly since dispersed, the invasion prompted the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and the FAO to declare the threat of desert locusts in South Sudan on February 18. Efforts by the government and partners are currently ongoing to prepare for, combat, and mitigate the potential threat.

    Given persistently low food and income sources among at least half of the national population, humanitarian food assistance continues to play a pivotal role in mitigating food gaps at the household level and preventing more extreme food insecurity outcomes at the county level. Yet the reach of assistance remains below the national level of need, covering only 15 to 40 percent of the total population estimated to be in need since November 2017 (Figure 6). Food assistance distribution plans are frequently under-funded, resulting in shortfalls in the planned number of beneficiaries reached versus those actually reached. From November 2019 to January 2020, an average of 1.03 million people were reached monthly with general food distribution (GFD) and food for assets (FFA) programs, equivalent to less than 20 percent of the population estimated to be in need in January. Food assistance delivered in January, specifically, was being scaled down and only reached approximately 886,500 people – a nine percent decline compared to January 2019. This assistance reached at least 25 percent of the population at the county level in parts of Unity, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Wau states. In addition to GFD and FFA programs, a total of 826,000 flood-affected people were reached with food assistance as of January under the emergency flood response plan, including in areas such as Ulang of Upper Nile and Pibor, Nyirol, Uror, and Duk of Jonglei. However, other areas saw a prolonged lack of assistance due to flood-related restrictions.

    As a result of the above factors, the severity and scale of acute food insecurity in South Sudan remains high with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) persisting in many areas, despite moderate improvement in food security outcomes at the national level in January 2020 compared to January 2019. Upper Nile and Jonglei are among the areas with the highest proportions of the food insecure population due to the large-scale impacts of the floods. Data from the FSNMS R25 indicated that the percentage of households reporting a poor Food Consumption Score (FCS) declined from 51 percent in January 2019 to 37 percent in January 2020, though with varying trends across counties. Additionally, the percentage of the population who reported severe hunger on the Household Hunger Scale (HHS) that was indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) declined from 4 percent in January 2019 to 2.9 percent in January 2020. Half of the population was still experiencing food consumption gaps indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse (Figure 1).  

    In addition, acute malnutrition has remained at ‘Serious’ (GAM WHZ 10-14.9 percent) or ‘Critical’ (GAM WHZ 15.0-29.9 percent) levels across the country during the post-harvest period, indicating that urgent nutrition assistance is needed. Based on GAM WHZ data collected via SMART surveys or calculated using a domain weighted analysis of FSNMS nutrition data, 20 counties in Upper Nile, Unity, Warrap, Eastern Equatoria, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states are classified as ‘Critical’ (GAM WHZ 15.0-29.9 percent) and 28 counties in Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Upper Nile, Warrap and Lakes states are classified as ‘Serious’ (GAM WHZ 10-14.9 percent). This represents a slight deterioration in acute malnutrition compared to same time last year due to low quantity and diversity of food and high disease prevalence exceeding 50 percent (Figure 7).

    Based on the above outcomes on food consumption and nutrition, as well as the described contributing factors, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes remain widespread across the country during the 2020 post-harvest period. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely in 21 counties, including in flood-affected areas of Upper Nile and Jonglei state, and in parts of Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Eastern Equatoria states. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are likely still present in Akobo and Duk of Jonglei, where crop production was low, food assistance levels remain far below the estimated need, and standing flood waters and swamps still impede market access or household movement to food distribution points or other typical food and income sources.

    National Assumptions

    The February to September 2020 most likely scenario is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Although implementation of the peace deal is expected to facilitate greater household movement and support gradual recovery of livelihoods activities, several security challenges still need to be resolved, including national security arrangements and unification of the national army. As a result, sporadic banditry activities and localized insecurity are likely to persist across the country. Intercommunal conflict and cattle-raiding are anticipated in parts of Lakes, Warrap, Unity, Jonglei, and Eastern Equatoria. However, large-scale new displacement is not expected.
    • Based on implementation of the peace deal and recent trends in spontaneous refugee returnees, the number of refugee and IDP returnees is expected to rise throughout the scenario period. Returns are likely to be spontaneous, rather than through formal registration, as confidence gradually builds in the peacebuilding process. Many refugee returnees may not return directly to their places of origin due to localized insecurity and low availability of essential services.
    • Although South Sudan is among the fastest growing economies in Africa in 2020, macroeconomic conditions are expected to remain poor. Oil production is only projected to increase to 200,000 bpd by 2021, and hard currency inflows from oil exports will remain very low at around USD 12 per barrel due to oil revenue sharing, transit fees, and debt payments. Revenues are likely to be spent on peace deal implementation and infrastructure development. Overall, increased demand for the USD and steady depreciation of the SSP are still anticipated to drive inflation in 2020.
    • Based on rising trader confidence, recent cross-border trade monitoring data, and the official re-opening of the Sudan-South Sudan border, trade routes are expected to gradually reopen and expand, permitting an increase in domestic and regional commodity flows and facilitating improved market functioning in the ten state capital markets and some rural markets. However, localized insecurity and banditry is expected to periodically disrupt trade flows. In addition, poor macroeconomic conditions will most likely continue to limit traders’ ability to fill the cereal production gap.
    • Based on anticipated refugee returns and large cereal deficits, it is anticipated that additional pressure will be exerted on local market supply of staple foods in Eastern Equatoria, Unity, Central Equatoria, and Jonglei, where large returnee populations exist and insecurity and banditry periodically disrupt trade flows and household movement.    
    • Despite some anticipated improvement in trade flows and market supply, persistent inflation, the large national cereal deficit, high transport costs, and double taxation along trade routes are expected to continue to drive high prices of staple foods and essential non-food items. Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections for Juba, Wau, and Bor markets, staple food prices are likely to remain above the 2019 and five-year averages through September. For example, the retail price of a kilogram of sorghum is projected to range from 142-151 SSP in Juba to 190-202 SSP in Wau and 211-224 SSP in Bor. In contrast, however, the retail sorghum price in Aweil is likely to remain below or similar to 2019 and the five-year averages given its proximity to source markets in Sudan and Uganda.
    • Based on NOAA, ECMWF, and GHACOF forecasts, first-season rainfall from March to May in bimodal Greater Equatoria is most likely to be above average. In unimodal areas in Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr el Ghazal, seasonally dry conditions are expected through April. Main season rainfall from June to September is expected to be average, though forecasting uncertainty exists given the long-term nature of this forecast. Seasonal flooding is anticipated.
    • Based on the FAO Desert Locust Watch forecast, there is a risk that immature swarms of desert locust could arrive from Kenya in Eastern Equatoria during the bimodal planting stage in March, due to the prevailing westward direction of the winds. Given that only perennial vegetation will be available in March, which is less favorable to locusts, and that the seasonal winds typically shift northward by April based on wind climatology, it is most likely that the swarms will travel northward to breeding areas in Sudan before crops reach the vegetative stage. Damage to crops is expected to be low, but in the absence of control measures in the greater region, there will remain a risk of desert locust infestation in South Sudan in addition to the typical risk of FAW infestation.  
    • First-season cultivation in bimodal Greater Equatoria and main season cultivation in unimodal Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr el Ghazal are expected to be timely. Based on the rainfall forecast, low risk of desert locust infestation, and relative improvements in security, area planted in 2020 is likely to be higher than 2019. There may be exceptions, however, in areas where insecurity may continue to limit access to far fields or where a lack of agricultural inputs impedes area planted. Overall, first season harvests in June/July are most likely to be similar to the five-year average but above 2019. Green main harvest consumption will not begin until late August or September.
    • Fish and wild foods are expected to be available throughout the dry season but at steadily declining levels. The main rainy season will likely lead to seasonally high availability by September. However, access to these food sources will vary across counties depending on the level of insecurity, recession of standing flood water, and seasonal flooding in 2020.
    • Given increased availability of water and pasture as a result of above-average rainfall in 2019, livestock production is expected to remain seasonally high through at least March, before declining from April to May and rising again from June through September. Seasonal declines are expected from April to May as livestock migrate to dry-season grazing areas, which reduces access to milk at the homestead. Milk consumption and livestock sales will vary at the household level depending on the livestock holdings and the extent of flood-related impacts on livestock.
    • Based on WFP’s operational plan made available during the January 2020 IPC acute analysis, humanitarian food assistance through GFD and FFA programs will likely reach an average 20 percent of the country population per month with an average 38 percent of kilocalorie needs from February to April. From May to July, food assistance is planned to slightly scale-up in response to the lean season, reaching an average 26 percent of the country population monthly with an average 37 percent of their kilocalorie needs. No information is available of planned HFA beyond July. Based on past trends, the planned assistance will be delivered, though periodic disruptions are expected in areas where insecurity and physical access challenges are anticipated.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From February to May, food consumption gaps or livelihoods coping indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse are expected to be widespread. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is anticipated in 21 counties, including those that were most affected by floods in 2019 and those that are likely to continue to experience periodic intercommunal conflict, including in parts of Jonglei, Lakes, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Eastern and Central Equatoria. Stocks from the main season harvest in northern regions and the second season harvest in Greater Equatoria are only expected to last until February or March, compared to May or June in years before the onset of the conflict in 2013. The exhaustion of household stocks, coupled with rising food prices and seasonal declines in the availability of natural food sources, such as fish and wild foods, will lead to an early start to the 2020 lean season. Additionally, the availability of livestock products at the homestead will decline as livestock migrate to distant, dry-season grazing areas. Although access to markets will further improve over the course of the dry season, low household income and high food prices will continue to drive poor food access.

    Areas of greatest concern include Akobo, Duk, Ayod, Nyirol, and Pibor of Jonglei; Cueibet, Rumbek North, Rumbek Centre, and Yirol East of Lakes; and Maban, Maiwut, Nasir, Longochuk, and Ulang of Upper Nile. In Akobo and Duk of Jonglei, an estimated 20,000 people who did not harvest, have few to no livestock, and face difficulty accessing markets are likely to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Although planned and funded food assistance will reach 18-19 percent of the Akobo and Duk population, it is expected that these households may continue to face difficulties accessing food distribution points until flood waters completely recede. In several areas of concern where food assistance is likely to be significant from February to May, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected, including in Maban of Upper Nile, Aweil East and Aweil South of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and parts of Unity and Eastern Equatoria. As projected at the January IPC and based on historical trends, acute malnutrition prevalence is expected to deteriorate as food intake worsens, but each county’s respective classification of ‘Serious’ (GAM WHZ 10-14.9 percent) or ‘Critical’ (GAM WHZ 15.0-29.9 percent) is likely to be sustained through April/May.

    From June to September, food security outcomes are likely to further deteriorate as the lean season progresses and food prices rise even higher, particularly in areas where returning refugees or IDP households are likely to put additional pressure on the available food sources and market supply. More than half of the South Sudanese population is expected to experience food consumption gaps, though in some areas, the scale up of planned, funded and likely food assistance is expected to mitigate the occurrence of more severe outcomes. According to January IPC projections, an estimated 6.48 million people will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity at the peak of the lean season in the presence of humanitarian food assistance; however, the total population in need is likely to be higher than estimated due to recent increases in the level of intercommunal conflict. Outcomes are expected to be most severe in June and July, before gradual improvement occurs in August and September with seasonal increases in livestock products in pastoral and agro-pastoral areas, seasonal increases in availability of wild leafy vegetables, and the start of the main green harvest. During the lean season period, past trends indicate that acute malnutrition will likely deteriorate to ‘Critical’ levels (GAM 15.0-29.9 percent) in additional counties, driven by low food and milk intake as well as a seasonal rise in disease incidence such as acute watery diarrhea, fever, and malaria.

    At the peak of the lean season, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will be present in 33 counties, including in most areas of greatest concern in Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Lakes as well as in parts of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, and Warrap. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will remain widespread, though eight counties in Greater Equatoria are expected to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to the availability of the local bimodal harvest in June/July in those areas. Given the anticipated severity of food security outcomes at the peak of the lean season, it is possible that some most vulnerable households – including those with no livestock who face difficulty accessing physical markets, food assistance, or fish due to insecurity and seasonal access constraints as well as newly returned IDPs and refugees – could face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). In the event that the peace deal is not implemented, and a resurgence of conflict prevents populations from moving in search of food sources or restricts humanitarian access for a prolonged period of time, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible. Urgent humanitarian assistance beyond currently planned levels will be required to save lives and protect livelihoods and prevent further occurrence of more extreme food insecurity outcomes.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.



    Impact on food security outcomes


    Non-adherence to implementation of the signed peace deal that lead to lack of trust between the parties, and an uptick in conflict

    An increase in conflict events would restrict household movement, disrupt access to markets and collection of wild foods, cause new displacement, and impede delivery of humanitarian assistance. As was observed from 2016 to 2018, more widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would be expected throughout the projection period. In areas of concern, some households who lost crops due to flooding, own no livestock, or are restricted from accessing fish, markets, or food assistance would likely be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible.  


    Scale-up in oil production and exports or an increase in other sources of foreign currency earnings with improved accountability

    Although an increase in the availability of foreign currency earnings would likely be primarily directed toward loan repayment, some earnings would likely be used to increase imports of basic goods and increase spending on public services, assuming improved accountability also exists. The SSP would likely appreciate slightly, leading to at least a slight decline in food prices in key reference markets, and increasing household access to foods. Food security outcomes would improve, though Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes would still exist in many areas given the prolonged erosion of household assets and income sources. 

    Southern and Eastern areas of South Sudan

    Infestation by desert locusts

    In the event that no effective control measures are put in place in the greater East Africa region and a new wave of locusts arrives in southern and eastern South Sudan when unimodal crops are in the vegetative stages around June/July, damage to crops could be significant. In addition, some pasture loss would be likely, though above-average rainfall through September would likely help to regenerate and offset pasture losses. Given that a high proportion of the population is already expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in the affected areas, the population in need would likely only slightly increase during the February outlook scenario period. However, crop losses would raise the risk of more severe food security outcomes during the 2020 post-harvest period.

    Cueibet, Rumbek North, Yirol East of Lakes; Duk, Nyirol, Ayod, Pibor of Jonglei

    Low levels of intercommunal conflict and livestock raids

    In the event intercommunal violence and cattle raiding events decline in all the eight counties of concern, agricultural production, trade flows and market functioning, and assistance delivery would likely improve. This would lead to gradual improvements in food availability and access for many households, increasing household food consumption and narrowing food gaps. Improvement from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) would be likely.


    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.

    Figures Graphic comparing the percent of the population in each IPC food security phase according to the convergence of food consumpt

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FSNMS R23-R25 and FEWS NET

    Map of food insecurity outcomes in South Sudan in February 2020

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, February 2020

    Source: FEWS NET

    Seasonal calendar: First harvest in Greenbelt and Hills and Mountains is from June to August. Second harvest in Greenbelt and

    Figure 3

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Bar chart showing the total number of spontaneous refugee returnees in each state based on UNHCR data collected from November

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: UNHCR data

    Stacked bar chart comparing net crop production in metric tons from 2014 to 2019, distributed by state.

    Figure 5

    Figure 3

    Source: CFSAM data; *2019 data is preliminary

    Stacked bar chart showing the proportion that various food sources contributed to the household weekly diet during a 7-day re

    Figure 6

    Figure 4

    Source: FSNMS R25 data

    Map of South Sudan depicting market and trade route activity in Feburary. Most markets and trade routes have some disruption

    Figure 7

    Figure 5

    Source: FEWS NET

    Time series data comparing the planned versus actual number of beneficiaries reached with humanitarian food assistance from J

    Figure 8

    Figure 6

    Source: FEWS NET analysis of monthly food distribution data

    Chart showing the national prevalence of GAM during the post-harvest period from 2014 to 2019

    Figure 9

    Figure 7

    Source: UNICEF and IPC data

    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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    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

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