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Sustained delivery of food assistance needed to prevent widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4)

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • February - September 2023
Sustained delivery of food assistance needed to prevent widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4)

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  • Key Messages
  • A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists in the Upper Nile and Northern Jonglei border area
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Areas of Concern
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Key Messages
    • Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will persist across South Sudan during the post-harvesting period and into the lean season (May through September), given atypically low food availability and access at the household level tied to the long-term impacts of conflict and flooding on livelihood activities, trade flows, and humanitarian interventions, as well as rising prices amidst continued poor macro-economic conditions. Ongoing food assistance in January and February in some counties of Unity, Lakes, and Jonglei has helped to mitigate acute food insecurity to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!), with the planned scale-up of assistance anticipated to continue mitigating further deterioration in many counties.

    • However, despite recent assistance, Fangak, Canal/Pigi, and Akobo counties of Jonglei, Pibor County in Greater Pibor Administrative Area; Mayendit and Leer counties of Unity; and Fashoda and Panyikang counties of Upper Nile remain of extreme concern given the protracted impacts of conflict. The anticipated resumption of conflict and flooding are likely to interfere with assistance deliveries, and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely, with some households expected to face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) levels of acute food insecurity. Based on recent reports of hunger-related deaths in Panyijiar county, food assistance was rapidly scaled up in Ganyiel and Nyal payams in February and is expected to continue through the projection period, mitigating deterioration to more severe outcomes.   

    • Overall, the scale and severity of acute food insecurity is expected to deteriorate starting in the February to May 2023 period as households’ food stocks decline and the availability of wild foods and fish reaches its lowest point by the end of the dry season in March/April, and further worsening as the lean season progresses from May through September and households fully exhaust their food stocks, prices rise to seasonal peaks in August and September, and the new harvest is not yet available. At the peak of the lean season, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to increase across 29 counties mainly in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap, Lakes, and Unity states, driven by depletion of stocks, deteriorating purchasing power, and increased dependence on wild foods and assistance.

    • Although WFP plans to reach a monthly maximum caseload of about 25 percent of the national population with food assistance between February and August, it will likely prioritize food assistance in areas of extreme concern with significant populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse, given the potential for funding shortfalls. Based on analysis of historical trends and anticipation of renewed conflict and flooding, deliveries are also expected to be widely disrupted.

    • FEWS NET assesses that a credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists in northern Jonglei and parts of Upper Nile, given the large share of populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) with associated high levels of acute malnutrition. Past events in South Sudan demonstrate the potential for new shocks to quickly arise and isolate households from food sources, leading to extreme hunger. An end to cycles of conflict and displacement, accompanied by multi-sectoral interventions to strengthen basic health and sanitation services, improve flood management infrastructure, and rebuild livelihoods and coping capacity, is required to end the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5).

    A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists in the Upper Nile and Northern Jonglei border area

    South Sudan faces protracted Emergency (IPC Phase 4) levels of acute food insecurity in 2023, and FEWS NET assesses that the Upper Nile-Jonglei border region – particularly the counties of Fangak, Canal/Pigi, Fashoda, and Panyikang – will remain the area of highest concern. A trend analysis of five years of household data from the WFP-FAO-UNICEF Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring Survey (FSNMS) provides evidence of widening food consumption gaps and the near-collapse of traditional livelihoods in this area due to compounding flood and conflict shocks since 2019, which culminated in the widespread loss of productive assets and market functionality during the 2021 and 2022 floods and a surge in conflict since August 2022 (Figure 1). These shocks have eroded household coping capacity over time, as most households own few to no livestock, lack access to land for crop cultivation, and face periodic restrictions on their freedom of movement that interfere with hunting and gathering and access to humanitarian aid. As a result, many households lack reliable, consistent access to food and income sources. A lull in conflict in the past month and receding flood waters have relatively improved humanitarian access and assistance deliveries within the last month, especially to displaced households around Kodok Town, Malakal PoC, and Melut IDP camp. Consequently, Famine (IPC Phase 5) is not currently considered the most likely scenario. However, conflict dynamics in this area remain volatile and there is potential for renewed flooding during the 2023 rainy season, leading to FEWS NET’s assessment of a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in the area during the February-September 2023 projection period.

    Episodic violence between October and December of this past year resulted in the destruction of health/nutrition facilities, extensive looting of household assets, and gender-based violence. While precise estimates of the full scale of displacement are difficult to ascertain, available information from specific camps and town visits indicate tens of thousands of people remain in these sites, and the high concentration of populations is contributing to poor conditions for all. While the security situation is currently relatively calm, the threat of a renewed outbreak of conflict persists, as evidenced by reports of the ongoing presence and mobilization of armed groups. As a result, most households choose to remain in displacement sites instead of returning home. In the absence of opportunities for crop cultivation, household reliance on wild foods, market purchases, and in-kind food assistance will remain high; at the same time, their financial access to food will be undermined by the sharp deterioration in purchasing power given the loss of traditional income earning opportunities and rising trend in staple food prices as the lean season progresses. Humanitarian food assistance will remain critical to saving lives and livelihoods in this area, but the frequency of deliveries will be contingent on security conditions.    

    In the most likely scenario, household food and income in the Upper Nile-northern Jonglei region will remain very low. While more recent outcome indicator data is unavailable, evidence on food consumption, livelihoods coping, and acute malnutrition in September 2022 and field visits and inter-agency rapid assessments (IRNAs) conducted in January and February suggest that Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes have and will continue to persist. However, there is a credible, alternative scenario in which Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur in Fangak, Canal/Pigi, Fashoda, and Panyikang, given the high proportion of the population that is acutely food insecure. If armed groups re-new their attacks, and/or if this occurs alongside flooding during the rainy season, and if these events isolate households from accessing food, income, and humanitarian aid for a prolonged time, then FEWS NET assesses that it is plausible that a Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur.

    While these areas are of highest concern for a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), the risk exists to some degree across the country given the widespread volatility of conflict and vulnerability to weather shocks. Even without the occurrence of Famine (IPC Phase 5), though, it is critical to emphasize that Emergency (IPC Phase 4) reflects an already elevated level of hunger-related mortality. A significant scale-up of food assistance is needed urgently and throughout the projection period to save lives and end the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in South Sudan.

    Figure 1

    Violent Events in Jonglei and Upper Nile States from 2019 to February 2023
    A chart of Violent Events in Jonglei and Upper Nile States from 2019 to February 2023 using ACLED data.

    Source: Armed Conflict Location & Event Data

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Conflict and displacements: Despite a lull in conflict events in February 2023 compared to peaks seen in late December and mid-January, the threat of renewed inter-communal conflict persists, particularly in south-western Upper Nile and northern Jonglei, southern Jonglei counties, and Pibor County in Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) (Figure 2). In the Upper Nile-northern Jonglei border area, reports in early February suggested a build-up of troops and mobilization of forces indicative of potential future clashes along the White Nile. Across the southern Jonglei and Pibor counties, the likelihood of continued retaliatory attacks and cattle-raiding between the Murle and Dinka/Luo Nuer tribes remains high following incidents in Uror, Nyirol, and Akobo counties of Jonglei that caused additional population movements in January and that followed closely on the heels of earlier attacks on Lekuangole and Gumuruk payams of Pibor in late December to mid-January that displaced 17,000 people. Recent assessments conducted by FEWS NET in February in Akobo East of Jonglei confirmed that the persistence of inter-communal conflict was affecting household movement in search of food. A continuation of this cyclical violence will exacerbate already high levels of acute food insecurity in both of these areas.

    Figure 2

    Violent conflict events, October 2022 to mid- February 2023
    A heat map of South Sudan showing violent conflict events that happened between October 2022 and mid- February 2023.

    Source: Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED)

    Additionally, rising tensions and insecurity between Twic County of Warrap state and Abyei Administrative Area and along the border region between Northern Bahr El Ghazal and Sudan are disrupting trade flows from Sudan into greater Bahr el Ghazal and parts of northern Unity State at a time when cross-border trade flows are typically at high levels given dry season conditions. In addition, Tonj East and Tonj West of Warrap remain volatile with imminent insecurity threats including revenge attacks, bandits, localized crimes, cattle raiding, and theft, which can interfere with households’ livelihood activities, as confirmed by a rapid assessment conducted by FEWS NET in early February. In other parts of the Greater Bahr El Ghazal region, the relative calm is facilitating inter-state trade flows and greater household movement in search of wild foods and livelihood options.

    In the Greater Equatoria region, violent clashes between Dinka Bor herders and Equatorian farmers, stemming from long-held competition over land use and resources and fueled by political interference, continued into February with a deadly incident on February 3 in which 27 farmers were killed in Lire payam of Kajo-Keji county of Central Equatoria and an estimated 12,600 people (mostly women and children) were displaced to several locations in and around Mere town, according to findings from IRNA conducted on February 6. The attack was reportedly in revenge for last month’s attack on a cattle camp in which 400 cows were killed. Further violent looting of sorghum and groundnuts crops by armed groups was reported in early February in Otogo payam of Yei County and parts of Lainya County of Central Equatoria, disrupting the movement of people and trade flows from rural areas into Yei Town and Lainya Town markets. In addition, attacks by Dinka Bor cattle herders were reported in Wonduraba of Juba county in mid-February, displacing 390 people to Mundri East. Meanwhile, a rapid assessment conducted by FEWS NET in early February in Torit and Magwi counties of Eastern Equatoria found a noticeable reduction in insecurity events in Magwi and Torit Counties following the forceful expulsion of armed Dinka Bor cattle herders from Eastern Equatoria by armed local youths. As a result, trade flows from Magwi to Juba and Torit are occurring, over 7,500 refugees have returned as of late December 2022, and some crop-producing households are reviving their livelihoods. Nevertheless, some households in Magwi and Pageri payams in Magwi County, and Imurok and Kudo payams in Torit County remain negatively impacted by the 2022 farmer-herder conflict in Eastern Equatoria that disrupted their livelihoods and trade flow and displaced thousands of households. Overall, the likelihood of herders returning to these areas and armed attacks continuing between the two groups across Central and Eastern Equatoria states remains elevated.

    Flood impacts: Successive years of heavy rainfall and severe flooding, combined in many areas with the dual shock of conflict, have critically eroded household livelihoods and access to food by causing heavy asset loss (including crop and livestock) and widespread displacement, restricting mobility, and disrupting trade and market functioning. The most severely affected areas are in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, and Lakes. While the recession of the flood waters has been slow this year due to the extent of flooding and some abnormal rainfall in November and December (Figure 3), key informant and field monitors’ reports indicate floodwaters have receded sufficiently to permit household movement and recovery of trade and markets supply in many areas, including Aweil North of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Fangak and Twic East of Jonglei, and Leer and Mayendit of Unity. However, some residual floodwater is still limiting full recovery, particularly in low-lying areas of Duk, Ayod, and parts of Akobo West of Jonglei; Akop and Alabek in Tonj North of Warrap; and Bentiu of Unity.

    Figure 3

    Extent of surface water as detected by satellite imagery in late February 2023 compared to late February 2020, 2021, and 2022
    A series of 4 maps showing the extent of surface water as detected by satellite imagery in late February 2023 compared to late February 2020, 2021, and 2022

    Source: NOAA Satellite VIIRS

    2022 crop production and food stocks: Although the Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) report for the 2022 agricultural season is not yet available, overall production is expected to be similar to last year and to the five-year average, albeit with wide variation sub-nationally based on impacts of localized rainfall performance, flooding, and conflict. In bimodal areas of the Equatorias, the second season harvest is likely to be higher than last year despite below-average rainfall due to the relative calm that facilitated improvements in the number of households planting and the extent of area planted. This is corroborated by findings from FEWS NET rapid assessments and key informant interviews in early February that showed overall better second-season harvests than last year in Magwi of Eastern Equatoria; Yei, Lainya, Morobo, and rural Juba of Central Equatoria; and in Yambio, Ezo, and Maridi of Western Equatoria. However, visits to Imurok and Kudo in Torit County of Eastern Equatoria pointed to harvests lower than last year due to disruptions from farmer-herder conflict. Area planted and production is also expected to be higher than 2021 in non-flood and non-conflict affected parts of Lakes and Western Bahr el Ghazal. By contrast, in severely conflict- and flood-affected counties of Upper Nile, Jonglei, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Warrap, the harvest is likely to be significantly below average. Key informants, field monitoring reports, and several IRNAs conducted in Pibor county of GPAA, Akobo of Jonglei, Tonj East and North of Warrap, Panyijiar of Unity, and Melut and Fashoda of Upper Nile all indicate households have exhausted their own food stocks and are relying heavily on wild foods, markets, and food assistance, reflective of low local production in 2022.

    First-season rainfall and 2023 crop production: With the March to May first season rainfall approaching in bi-modal rainfall areas, typical first season land preparation and bush clearance is currently underway, as confirmed by key informant and field reports in Magwi and Torit of Eastern Equatoria; Yei of Central Equatoria; and Yambio, Maridi, and Ezo of Western Equatoria. However, the ongoing attacks by Dinka Bor cattle herders in the greater Equatoria are likely limiting many households in Kajo-Keji, Yei, Lainya, and in rural Juba of Central Equatoria from accessing their fields for preparation. According to early forecasts and analysis of past years with similar climate patterns, the March to May rainy season is expected to be near average.  

    Livestock production: Livestock conditions and production generally vary across the pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihood zones due to the impacts of flooding, conflict, and raiding on the availability of and access to pasture and water. In pastoral areas of Greater Kapoeta and GPAA, where pasture and browse conditions are currently poor and water availability is low, key informants and field monitoring reports indicate livestock herders have typically migrated to dry season grazing areas, leaving behind a few goats/sheep and weak cattle at their homesteads to provide milk for the children and elderly. However, in some areas, where pasture and water availability are better, such as along the Pibor river in Akobo East, in Panyang and Pagak of Duk County, and in parts of Leer and Mayendit, livestock have stayed closer to homesteads allowing for better-than-usual access to milk. In Upper Nile, Jonglei, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, and parts of Abyei Administrative Areas where floodwaters have partially receded, both field monitoring reports and satellite imagery indicate that pasture conditions have improved (Figure 4), resulting in fair to good livestock body conditions and improved household access to and consumption of livestock products. In addition, the incidence of livestock diseases, notably water-borne diseases, foot rot, Liver fluke, and Food and Mouth Diseases (FMD), are lower now as compared to September-November 2022 in Tonj East and North, Gogrial East of Warrap, and Aweil West and North of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. However, in parts of Duk and Ayod of Jonglei and Tonj North in Warrap, pasture and browse conditions remain poor due to persistent floodwaters. Despite overall positive conditions for this time of year, access to livestock products and income remains limited in areas where there has been a significant loss of livestock assets over the years and where intercommunal conflict and cattle-raiding are ongoing, notably in parts of Jonglei, Pibor, Warrap, and Abyei.

    Figure 4

    Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) Anomaly, February 16-25, 2023
    A map of South Sudan showing Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) Anomaly, February 16-25, 2023


    Trade flow and market supply: Cereal import volumes through the main cross-border points with Uganda and Sudan remained significantly below average during the fourth quarter of 2022 due to consecutive years of below-average harvests in Uganda, exacerbated by flood and security-related disruptions, high taxes, roadblocks, and policy-related disruptions in other exporting countries such as Tanzania. As a result, sorghum imports from Uganda in the fourth quarter were 75 to 90 percent lower than those of last year and the five-year average. Deficits with Sudan were even larger at nearly 100 percent. While there was a slight improvement in import volumes from Uganda in January, the overall quantity of sorghum imported from both countries in January remained depressed compared to the same time last year (down 84 and 41 percent, respectively). The lower import volume is negatively affecting local market supplies and putting upward pressure on sorghum prices. In terms of inter-state trade, Upper Nile region and GPAA trade flows remain low due to the presence of residual floodwater, insecurity along trade routes, and limited trade along the Nile River. By contrast, receding floodwaters, seasonal improvement in feeder road conditions, and calm security conditions are facilitating trade flows and market functionality in much of Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal (Figure 5), except between Uganda and Kaya which remains limited due to periodic insecurity.

    Figure 5

    Market functioning and trade route activity, February 2023
    A map of South Sudan showing Market functioning and trade route activity in February 2023

    Source: FEWS NET

    Macroeconomy and staple food prices: The persistence of poor macroeconomic conditions continues to drive a high cost of living and limit financial access to food. Despite continued inflows of hard currency from crude oil export and non-oil revenue in the country, the depreciation of the South Sudanese Pound (SSP) against the US Dollar (USD) accelerated again in February 2023, down 7 percent compared to January 2023 and 42 percent below the value in February 2022. At the end of February 2023, the SSP was trading at 824 SSP/USD on the parallel market, and about 753 SSP/USD on the official market, the highest rate seen since South Sudan independence in July 2011. According to Central Bank officials, the depreciation is partly attributable to increases in the interest rate at the bond markets by the US Federal Reserve from 2 percent at the end of 2021 to 4 percent in October last year. Government efforts to prevent further depreciation include reintroduction of weekly auctioning of USD to commercial banks and forex bureaus and restricting the use of USD in local transactions. The high exchange rate coupled with below-average harvest and high import costs, are driving high staple food and fuel prices. Based on available market price monitoring data in CLiMIS, the retail prices of a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum in January 2023 was 107-233 percent higher than same time last year and 200-278 percent above the five-year average in Wau, Rumbek Centre, Aweil Centre, and Juba markets (Figure 6). As a result, the cost of minimum expenditure basket (CMEB) for food and non-food items, as calculated from available data in CLiMIS, has risen by 87-109 percent from January 2022 to January 2023 in Western Bahr el Ghazal, Central Equatoria, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and is 100-144 percent above the five-year average in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Central Equatoria states.

    Figure 6

    Five-year trends in the exchange rate and the price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of sorghum in four key markets
    A line chart showing the five-year trends in the exchange rate and the price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of sorghum in four key markets, Juba, Aweil Centre, Rumbek Centre and Wau

    Source: Data from CLiMIS, FEWS NET

    Humanitarian food assistance: WFP plans to reach about 2 million people with 18,500 MT of food in February 2023 representing roughly 30 percent of estimated need, according to FEWS NET’s projections. Between October 2022 and January 2023, WFP reached roughly 10 percent of the country’s population with General Food distribution (GFD) and Food-for-Asset (FFA) programs each month, meeting around 5 percent of the estimated need. Although WFP’s February 2023 food distribution data is not yet available, WFP’s biweekly reports for February show food and nutrition assistance are ongoing or completed for counties of extreme concern where it is estimated some populations are in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), including in Canal/Pigi, Fangak, and Akobo (West and East) of Jonglei; Pibor County in GPAA; and in Leer and Mayendit of Unity where double distributions are ongoing. Given the surge in inter-communal conflict and violence that interfered with road and river deliveries, airdrops were used in Walgak in Akobo West; and Gumuruk, Lokomarch, Verthet, and Lekuangole in GPAA. In Panyijiar of Unity, food distributions were scaled-up and completed in Nyal, reached 31,050 people, and were started in Ganyiel in mid-February, with plans to reach 47,820 people. Flood response is ongoing in Awerial county of Lakes, with 97 percent of planned beneficiaries reached by early February. Similarly, in Jur River of Western Bahr el Ghazal, food distribution reached 5,345 people in February. Additionally, food assistance distributions are ongoing in various IDP locations including Aweil East (for IDPs from Abyei), Bentiu, Malakal PoC, Kalthok in Mingkaman of Awerial County in Lakes, Adok port of Leer, Melut, and Kajo-Keji and Mangala of Central Equatoria. In other Emergency (IPC Phase 4) counties, lean season response is yet to begin in March and April in Tonj East, Tonj North, and Twic of Warrap; and Duk and Twic East of Jonglei.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    South Sudan continues to face very high levels of acute food insecurity indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes, with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes present in areas facing persistent conflict, insecurity, and residual flood impacts. While humanitarian efforts are underway to scale up food assistance deliveries for many conflict- and flood-affected households, there have yet to be reliable and consistent improvements in security in the most severely affected areas to allow greater household participation in livelihood activities or facilitate the full recovery in trade and market functioning. As a result, 39 counties are assessed to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in February. Assistance deliveries in seven counties, Ayod, Fangak, Leer, Mayendit, Panyijiar, Rubkona, and Awerial, are expected to be mitigating further deterioration to worse outcomes in the current period, with these counties assessed in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!). In counties of extreme concern, including Canal/Pigi and Akobo of Jonglei; Pibor County in GPAA; and Fashoda and Panyikang of Upper Nile, some households are likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) due to the rise in conflict from mid-August to mid-January that displaced thousands, caused crop and livestock losses, and severely disrupted livelihoods.

    Also of concern is Panyijiar of Unity, where local authorities reported several hunger-related deaths between late December and early January, indicative of protracted hunger and malnutrition among hard-to-reach households. Results from SMART survey conducted in November last year found an acute malnutrition prevalence GAM, by weight-for-heigh z-score (WHZ) of 20.2 percent (CI: 15.7-25.6) and a crude death rate (CDR) of 1.36/10,000/d (CI:0.80-2.31), both at ‘Critical’ level indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4). A recent IRNA conducted in January covering 333 households in Greater Ganyiel and Nyal payams found most of the households (76 percent) had poor Food Consumption Scores (FCS). In addition, 43 percent of the respondents from key informants and focus groups reported community deaths related to lack of food in the three months prior to the survey in January. However, the humanitarian response that was rapidly scaled up following the media reports and the subsequent IRNA has already reached an estimated 25 percent of the population with continued assistance planned for the coming months, thus mitigating further deterioration in food security.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal calendar: First harvest in Greenbelt and Hills and Mountains is from June to August. Second harvest in Greenbelt and Hills and Mountains is from November to January. Main harvest in all other zones is from October to February. The main rainy season in all other zones is from June to October. First rainy season in Greenbelt and Hills and Mountains zones is from April to July. Second rainy season in Greenbelt and Hills and Mountains is from August to mid-November. Seasonal flooding is from August to

    Source: FEWS NET


    The most likely scenario from February to September 2023 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Conflict and insecurity: While the ongoing implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement between SPLA-IG and SPLA-IO contributed to reduced political tensions through much of 2022, the continued slow progress of implementing key tenants of the deal means that there remains the latent risk of deterioration in the security environment. A major roadblock remains an agreement on the decentralized command structure of the unified security force, without which the Transitional Government of National Unity will continue to struggle to exercise control of armed security force factions across the country. This was a driving factor in an increase in clashes between armed factions in Jonglei and Upper Nile towards the end of the calendar year, which resulted in displacement of civilians and an increased need for humanitarian food assistance. In addition, episodic and cyclical bouts of politicized inter-communal conflicts over resources, cattle raiding, and looting are likely to continue across a number of areas that will result in further loss of life, displacement, interruption to livelihood activities, and disruptions to trade flows and assistance delivery across South Sudan:
      • Political tensions and direct conflict between the SPLA-IG and SPLA-IO will likely remain dampened given the extended transitional period for implementation of the RPA runs until February 2025.
      • Clashes between armed security force factions are expected to continue in Upper Nile and Jonglei through the dry season and into the rainy season, due in part to the lack of progress on the integration of armed factions into the unified national security forces and the continued politicization of the conflict. Violence will cause further civilian displacement, as well as disruption to trade flows, markets, and humanitarian assistance.
      • Intercommunal violence is expected to continue in a retaliatory and escalatory fashion in southern Jonglei and GPAA, as well as between pastoralists/farmers across Greater Equatoria given continued disputes over access to land and the continued presence of armed groups that have not been integrated into the unified national security force, notably the National Salvation Army. The violence is likely to impact trade flows and the first-planting season, which will have knock-on impacts on food availability and commodity prices.
      • There is expected to be relative calm in Unity and Warrap states given the increased deployment of security force personnel to the areas and continued efforts to disarm civilian elements, though localized and sporadic criminal attacks will likely continue.
      • Sporadic conflict in Abyei and neighboring Twic county, as well as between Messeriya pastoralists and farmers, is likely to continue despite the presence of security forces.
    • Internal displacements: Based on current and anticipated levels of insecurity, the internally displaced population is likely to continue to rise, particularly in conflict-affected areas of Jonglei, Upper Nile, Pibor, and Central Equatoria. Flood-related displacements will remain elevated in areas with protracted access issues related to insecurity and the continued presence of floodwaters, with new displacement likely during the June to September main rainfall season.
    • Rainfall and flooding: Based on the analysis of past years with similar trends of waning La Niña events1 and current forecast models, March to May rainfall over bimodal South Sudan is most likely to be above average in March and near average overall. In unimodal areas, the model forecasts for June to September indicate rainfall is likely to be near average, although there is uncertainty given the long-range nature of the forecast. Given continued elevated water levels in the White Nile River relative to the same period in past non-flood years (Figure 7), and slow recession of floodwaters in many areas per satellite imagery, the likelihood of renewed flooding is high.

    Figure 7

    Trends in water levels at 2 points along the White Nile (Red box indicating levels in January/February of 2020-2023)
    Two charts showing the trends in water levels at 2 dofferemt points along the White Nile with red boxes indicating levels in January/February of each year between 2020-2023. On the left is the water level in the Lower White Nile (near Terekeka in Central Equatoria) and on the right is the water level in the Upper White Nile (near Tondiak in Upper Nile)

    Source: Database for Hydrological Time Series of Inland Waters (DAHITI)

    • Crop production: Planting in the first and second seasons (in bimodal areas) and the main season (in unimodal areas) will vary between states depending on rainfall performance and extent of inter-communal and farmer-herder conflicts. In bimodal areas, overall area planted and harvests in 2023 are expected to be similar to or higher than 2022 due to the relative calm across the region, except in localized areas of Greater Equatoria where insecurity associated with the atypically high presence of cattle keepers in agricultural areas may interfere with cropping activities. Planting of main season crops in May/June in parts of Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr el Ghazal will be affected by the atypically prolonged presence of floodwaters and high soil-moisture content, anticipated conflict, and displacement, which are likely to significantly disrupt land clearance and preparation in April/May, as well as NGO delivery of farm inputs to vulnerable households. Across all areas, expected high prices of inputs are likely to continue to negatively affect production capacity.
    • Livestock: Livestock production will vary based on the extent of residual floods and conflict. Given the large-scale loss of livestock holdings over recent years, varying pasture availability, and livestock disease incidence, food and income derived from livestock production, including milk, will remain significantly below normal in flood- and conflict-affected areas of Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, parts of Warrap, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Lakes. More broadly, livestock body conditions will likely range from poor to fair during the dry season as floodwaters recede and swampy areas dry up, leading to shortages of water and pasture. In conflict-affected areas in Jonglei, Upper Nile, and parts of northern Unity, cattle raids are expected to continue, peaking during the dry season and resulting in further livestock losses. As such, household access to milk and meat will vary across the counties but overall be lower than normal in these states.
    • Fish and wild foods: The availability of fish and wild foods will remain high in February, before declining through April/May as flood waters recede during the dry season, though river basin and floodplain areas are likely to retain above-normal levels of fish availability during this period. Household access to these food sources will vary depending on seasonality and on the extent of flood recession and conflict, particularly in the Greater Upper Nile and parts of greater Bahr el Ghazal. In some parts of Central and Eastern Equatoria, clashes between cattle herders and farmers are likely to also interfere with the gathering of wild food. During the peak of annual flooding from July to August/September, while high and fast river waters will generally make it too dangerous to fish in rivers, the floodwaters can expand fish availability and enhance wild fruit/vegetable growth in the floodplains.
    • Macro-economy: South Sudan’s economy is expected to rebound slightly in 2023 (~6% growth) as higher crude oil prices and revenues will result in a 9.5 percent surplus current account. This growth will help to mitigate expected currency depreciation, but fluctuations in oil prices will remain the main downside risks to growth and limiting government revenues. The SSP is expected to depreciate to just above 600 SSP/USD, driving further increase in food and non-food prices and reducing household purchasing power amid limited labor opportunities and stagnant wages. Low crop production in Uganda will also put upward pressure on food prices.
    • Labor demand and wages: Based on the observed wage rate trends in CLiMIS for key urban centers in South Sudan, wages are likely to remain generally very low, and unlikely to keep pace with the high and rising staple food prices. As such, sorghum to casual labor terms of trade will broadly remain low and unfavorable to households who depend on a day’s wage to purchase food. Although the availability of labor opportunities will vary across urban centers and will likely remain limited due to poor macroeconomic conditions, rural wage labor opportunities will typically rise through the projection period with the agricultural season, starting in March/April in bimodal areas and May/June in unimodal areas.
    • Trade flows: Based on FEWS NET’s monthly cross-border trade monitoring data and observations of below-average production in exporting countries in the region for the 2022 crop harvest combined with high transportation costs and potential periodic border closures, especially with Sudan, import volumes of staple cereals from Uganda and Sudan through the third quarter of 2023 will remain similar to the fourth quarter of 2022. In terms of domestic trade flows, the re-stocking of goods that typically occurs during the dry season between November/December and March/April, will likely be below normal in flood- and conflict-affected areas in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, and Lakes states as many roads remain impassable longer than normal due to residual floodwaters, multiple checkpoints, and/or security incidents. As such, intermittent road closures linked to insecurity and checkpoints will continue to disrupt trade and impede the re-stocking of commercial goods, driving higher costs of transportation and food and non-food prices in rural areas.
    • Staple food prices: Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections, the retail price of a malwa (3.5 kgs) of white sorghum is expected to trend up to 270 percent higher than last year and 130-320 percent above the five-year average during February to September 2023 projection period in Bor South, Wau, Juba, and Aweil Center market, respectively, owing to high market dependency, low import, and high transportation cost, and continued SSP depreciation combined with persistent poor macroeconomic conditions. The price per malwa is projected to range from approximately 1,900-2,400 SSP in Aweil Center up to 2,800 – 3,150 SSP in Juba during the February to September 2023 projection period.
    • Household purchasing power: Linked to the high staple food prices and continued poor macroeconomic conditions in South Sudan, household purchasing power and overall financial access to food will remain below average.
    • Humanitarian food assistance: Based on WFP’s food assistance plans for February through August 2023, WFP plans to reach a monthly maximum caseload of 26 percent of the national population, with assistance anticipated to scale up in March/April and continue through the lean season across Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile, Eastern Equatoria, and Warrap. According to current plans, assistance is projected to reach more than 25 percent of the population with at least a 25 percent ration in more than 30 counties in the peak of the lean season; however, in the context of potential funding shortfalls and analysis of past trends, WFP will likely prioritize food assistance in areas of extreme concern with significant populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse. As many of these areas of extreme concern face high levels of insecurity and flood risk, deliveries will likely face disruptions through the projection period.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From February to May 2023, the severity and scale of acute food insecurity are likely to increase among conflict and flood-affected counties in greater Upper Nile and greater Bahr el Ghazal due to continued stock depletion, seasonally low availability and access to natural food sources, limited financial access to foods due to high staple food prices amidst poor macroeconomic conditions and low household earning and purchasing capacity. As a result, nationally households in 25 counties mainly in Lakes, Jonglei, Unity, Warrap, Upper Nile, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal are expected to face large food consumption gaps, indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4). During this period, planned humanitarian food assistance is likely to mitigate the severity of acute food insecurity in 22 counties particularly in Upper Nile, Warrap, Unity, Jonglei, and parts of Eastern Equatoria. However, Pibor county in GPAA; Akobo, Fangak, and Canal/Pigi of Jonglei; and Panyikang and Fashoda of Upper Nile will remain the counties of highest concern with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes due to the anticipated impacts of the likely resumption of conflict and flooding on top of already heavily eroded livelihoods and coping capacity of households. Although planned assistance is significant, aid deliveries are likely to be disrupted periodically, increasing the likelihood of pockets of households in remote locations of Pibor county, Akobo West, Fangak, and Canal/Pigi with limited to no access to assistance or markets and facing extreme lack of food, indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

    During June to September projection period, which also overlaps with the peak lean season and the peak rainy season in July-August, food security conditions are expected to deteriorate further driven by the exhaustion of household stocks, rising staple food prices, and low purchasing power linked to poor macro-economic conditions. Although nationally, the availability of natural food sources, including fish, wild leaves, fruits, and roots, is expected to increase, household access to these food sources will vary and be limited in areas where conflict and insecurity are expected to persist. Additionally, livestock is expected to return closer to homesteads and provide livestock products including milk and blood to pastoral households, although access to these resources will also vary based on the extent of ownership and conflict dynamics. Given expected disruption to trade flows, markets, and humanitarian deliveries by insecurity and seasonal rains, some populations will face large food consumption gaps in many areas affected by conflict and floods. As a result, 28 counties mainly in Lakes, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap, and Unity are expected to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) at the peak of the lean season. Pibor county of GPAA; Akobo, Fangak, and Canal/Pigi of Jonglei; and Panyikang and Fashoda of Upper Nile will remain the counties of highest concern given anticipation of conflict and flooding. In 21 counties in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap, and Unity states, planned assistance is likely to mitigate the severity of outcomes leading to an area classification of Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!).

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1
    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario
    AreaEventImpact on Food Security Outcomes
    NationalA further deterioration in macroeconomic conditions, including dramatic rise in prices, and accompanied by low or further decline in household earning capacity  If the macro-economy deteriorates further than already anticipated, marked by spiking food and non-food prices, and accompanied by limited household income opportunities, many households would be significantly restricted in their ability to purchase sufficient food, leading to a further deterioration in acute food insecurity in many areas across South Sudan. As such, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would be more widespread.
    NationalBelow-average rainfall during the June-September rainy seasonAlthough rainfall forecast models currently indicate above-average rainfall is most likely, the global forecast model anticipates a transition from ENSO neutral to El Niño conditions in late summer and autumn 2023. El Niño is typically associated with below-average rainfall in South Sudan, which could impact crop yields, particularly in rainfed systems and if prolonged dry spells occur at critical crop development stages. If this occurs, then the resultant loss in yields would likely reduce food and income earned from labor and crop sales of the main harvest, contributing to an elevated population in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3), particularly among labor-dependent households.  
    NationalSevere escalation in conflict resulting from, for example, a critical breakdown in the implementation of the remaining key provisions of the peace deal that leads to widespread conflictIn the event that conflict or flooding restricts household movement, then worst-affected households would face significant difficulty accessing food from crops, livestock, markets, and/or wild foods. Limited humanitarian access would also restrict the capacity to respond with assistance. Such events have occurred numerous times in recent years in South Sudan and have repeatedly highlighted that food security can deteriorate rapidly in these conditions. If such an event were prolonged, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely.
    A large-scale flooding event that isolates households from food and income sources for a prolonged period and limits humanitarian access.
    Fangak and Canal/Pigi of Jonglei; and Fashoda and Panyikang of Upper NileAn escalation in conflict involving different armed groups including SPLA-IO Kitgwang forces and General Olony’s Agwelek forces and SSPDF, causing another destabilization of the communities and further displacements.An escalation in conflict with different armed groups in south-western Upper Nile and northern Jonglei, specifically, would further destabilize the region, displace households, and disrupt trade flows and markets and delivery of humanitarian food assistance. As such, the size of the county populations facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes would rise further. If such an event were prolonged, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely in these areas.
    Akobo of Jonglei; and Pibor County in the Greater Pibor Administrative AreaAn increase in the collaboration between the Dinka and Lou Nuer for attacks on the Murle, triggering a rise in intercommunal conflict, violence, and cattle raids beyond or similar to the levels seen in 2020.An escalation in inter-communal conflict and violence and cattle raids would displace households and significantly disrupt harvesting activities, trade flows, and market functioning. Additionally, the rise in conflict/insecurity would limit household access to natural food sources and hinder the delivery of food and non-food assistance, resulting in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, with a rise in the share of the population in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).


    Areas of Concern

    Fangak and Canal/Pigi of Jonglei: Eastern Plains Sorghum and Cattle LHZ (SS06); and Fashoda, Panyikang, and Malakal of Upper Nile: Northern Sorghum and Livestock livelihood zone (SS11) (Figure 8)

    Current Situation

    Conflict and displacement: The armed conflict involving different factions of SPLM-IO and armed Jonglei youth (the white army) that erupted in Tonga of Panyikang County in mid-August 2022 and spread in November and December to the northern Jonglei counties of New Fangak and Canal/Pigi and to Fashoda County of Upper Nile has resulted in extensive displacement, property and asset loss, and significant disruption of livelihoods, trade and humanitarian flows. The large-scale influx of displaced persons to different sites, including 19,000 from Panyikang County to the Malakal Protection of Civilians (PoC) site, 20,000 from several villages to Kodok Town of Fashoda County, approximately 14,000 people to the Melut IDP site, and displacement of the entire population of Phom in New Fangak to Old Fangak, has dramatically increased the number of people in need of food assistance in these areas and put an additional burden on the surrounding host communities. In Malakal PoC, an assessment in September reported the IDP caseload had increased to 52,000 people; in Melut IDP Site, an IOM DTM assessment in December reported a population of 15,347 people, 90 percent of whom arrived between November 2022 and January 2023; and in Kodok Town, headcounts conducted by Danish Refugee Council (DRC) in late (25-26th) January, estimated the displaced population at 15,000 people, a reduction from 20,000 reflecting sporadic back-and-forth movement of IDPs to their areas of origin in Lul and Aburoch payams of Fashoda in order to access farm fields as well as to collect any remaining property that survived the December attacks. While some of the displaced households have returned home more intentionally, most are reportedly remaining in the sites to which they were displaced given rumors of further mobilization of armed groups and underscored often by past traumatic experiences. Most of the displaced are women, children, and the elderly, and incidents of conflict-related sexual violence and abductions have dramatically escalated, likely contributing to increased fear and distrust among the displaced.

    Figure 8

    Area of concern reference map: Fangak and Canal/Pigi of Jonglei; and Fashoda, Panyikang and Malakal of Upper Nile State
    Area of concern reference map of Panyikang, Malakal and Fashoda of Upper Nile and Fangak and Canal/Pigi of Jonglei.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 9

    County of origin of displaced in Melut IDP Camp, late January 2023
    Map of Upper Nile State showing the county of origin of displaced persons in Melut IDP Camp, late January 2023

    Source: DTM IOM January 2023

    With increased congregation of displaced households, conditions have also reportedly deteriorated in many sites. In Kodok Town, for example, an inter-agency assessment conducted in late December 2022 found IDPs facing severely limited access to food, basic health services, and clean water, with widespread unsanitary conditions marked by open defecation in the encampments and along the riverside from which water for cooking and drinking is collected. Diseases including diarrhea and cough were reportedly common among children and the elderly and there were unconfirmed reports of deaths due to disease. A follow-up rapid assessment conducted by DRC in Kodok Town in late January 2022 found unchanged conditions. In late January, cases of measles were also confirmed in Malakal and Melut, with suspected cases in Fangak. In addition, based on information from the nutrition cluster, the conflict led to the destruction of some health/nutrition facilities and the suspension of services in eight sites in Fashoda County, three sites in Panyikang County, and two sites in Manyo County.

    Despite a lull in armed clashes in Fashoda of Upper Nile and Fangak of Jonglei in January and February 2023, localized insecurity and continued mobilization of the white army and Agwelek forces remain a threat to lives and livelihoods across the area. Much of Panyikang County of Upper Nile remains under the control of the white army, with civilians reporting threats while fishing and gathering wild food, raising the concern for resumption violence. Traders operating along the riverine routes between Fangak and Malakal and crossing through areas controlled by different armed groups report facing high and illegal checkpoints and taxes. Likewise, in Canal/Pigi, the presence of Agwelek forces in Atar/Diel is restricting household movements which interferes with household engagement in livelihood activities.

    Flooding and flood recession: The negative impact of the severe flooding in 2022 continues to be felt by households across the area as they struggle to access typical food and income sources as well as food distribution sites or air drop zones. While field and key informants’ information report gradual flood recession with the progression of the dry season, floodwaters remain to varying extents across the area, corroborated by satellite imagery from NOAA flood monitoring. The overall flood extent in Fangak and Canal/Pigi in February is slightly higher than in Fashoda and Panyikang, where significant flood recession has occurred since October. The presence of floodwater continues to limit household movement in search of alternative food and income sources as well as the movement of traders and road delivery of food aid.

    Livestock Production: In all the counties of concern in south-western Upper Nile and northern counties of Jonglei, livestock ownership remains low, reflective of successive years of asset loss and subsequent livelihood collapse due to the conflict and floods, with limited if any recovery of critical assets in these traditionally strongly agro-pastoral zones. With the increase in cattle raiding (approximately 10-15,000 head) and looting during the recent conflict events, as confirmed by IRNA and key informants, some households’ consumption of livestock products has been negatively affected. In fear of further looting, many households in Panyikang took remaining livestock to safer areas in Malakal, while many from Fashoda fled with remaining livestock to Kodok Town. Given the increase in cattle in and around Kodok Town, reports emerged in December of thousands of livestock deaths due to lack of pasture, information that was corroborated in a rapid assessment by DRC in late January. In general, the body conditions vary from fair to poor depending on exposure to 2022 floods and the availability of pasture and water, negatively affecting production of milk. With herd sizes and herd health in decline, meat availability in the markets is also low and prices are elevated. In Fangak and Canal/Pigi of Jonglei, key informants have reported fair livestock body conditions as floodwaters have gradually receded in many areas, permitting livestock movement in search of better pasture and water. Nonetheless, cases of foot and mouth diseases and brucellosis diseases remain common.

    Food stocks and crop production: According to FSNMS trend analysis, the proportion of households in Fangak, Canal/Pigi, Fashoda, and Panyikang counties who planted declined precipitously from over three-quarters typically engaging in crop production to fewer than one quarter in 2021 and 2022 due to widespread flooding and conflict. In Malakal, where flooding and conflict were less directly felt, a greater proportion of households were able to plant. Nonetheless, of households who did manage to plant this past year, most of their crop fields were either destroyed by floods or looted or abandoned as households fled for safety. Where sorghum harvests for poorer households would typically last for six to seven months in Fashoda, Panyikang, and Malakal of Upper Nile, and up to nine months in Fangak and Canal/Pigi of Jonglei, most households’ food stocks this year are significantly below normal or depleted by February, thereby increasing household reliance on markets, food aid, and wild foods. Key informants report that some dry season vegetable production is ongoing in safer areas in and around displacement sites, in areas with high moisture content, and in nearby water bodies or areas where floodwaters have substantially receded. While land preparation for the upcoming 2023 agricultural production season has yet to start (typically beginning in March/April, with planting in May/June), ongoing insecurity, and in some areas atypically high floodwaters and high soil-moisture content, are likely to delay or interfere with planting and production.

    Fish and wild foods: Typically, the availability of fish and wild foods is at peak levels in January and February. However, household access to these natural food sources varies across the counties depending on the level of insecurity and the presence of the floodwaters. While the recession of the flood waters in localized areas allows greater household movement in search of wild foods, the reduction in flood extent also translates to lower availability of water lilies compared to the peak flooding times. Meanwhile, fish availability remains typically at its peak, and many households living along the Nile and Sobat Rivers, as well as those closer to swampy or standing floodwaters, are relying on fish for both food and income. Access to wild foods is particularly threatened in Panyikang County and for households in Malakal PoC given the ongoing presence of white army in Panyikang County, continued insecurity along the river Nile, and high likelihood of increased insecurity.

    Trade and market system: Market functioning and trade flows in the area, following extensive disruptions from flooding and conflict in 2022, have seen some recovery in localized areas, facilitated by the lull in conflict since mid-December. Old Fangak market is functional with some availability of food items such as wheat flour, sorghum, and sugar coming from Malakal and Juba. According to key informants, the number of traders and the overall food supply has increased following the arrival of six boats in mid-January 2023 with 750 sacks of 90 kg of red sorghum in Old Fangak and New Fangak. As a result, the price of sorghum per malwa reduced by eight percent in January 2023 (from 1,680 SSP in December 2022 to 1540 SSP in January 2023), and the price of red beans reduced by seven percent (from 650 SSP/kilo in December 2022 to 600 SSP in January 2023).

    By contrast, markets in areas with greater prevailing insecurity remain significantly disrupted. Diel and Atar markets of Canal/Pigi County remain closed and there is reportedly no functional market in Panyikang, with little prospect of market recovery due to displacement of most traders to the Malakal PoC since mid-August. Although the market in Kodok Town of Fashoda started recovering following disruptions in mid-December, the overall market supply remains below normal given the continued closure of the road from Sudan via Kitgwang of Manyo in addition to high taxations along these routes. For instance, retail prices of a 90 kg bag of sorghum in Kodok Town market increased by 20 percent between December 2022 and January 2023 (from 50,000 to 60,000 SSP), while a 50 kg bag of maize increased by 25 percent in the same period (from 40,000 SSP to 50,000 SSP) – further limiting household financial access to foods.

    Food Assistance: Between October and January, assistance in these areas was intermittent and lower than expected. In Canal/Pigi and Fangak, no assistance was delivered in December, and in the 3 other months, assistance reached an estimated 5-15 percent of the population. In Malakal and Fashoda, assistance improved in December, reaching approximately 30-45 percent of the population, respectively, but only reached 20-30 percent in one of the two months prior in each county. However, in January, assistance reached about 20 percent in Malakal and none in Fashoda. In Panyikang, the last food distribution was in August 2022 and has not resumed given the poor operating environment and the substantial displacement of the population to Malakal PoC. Beginning since January, WFP planned to increase assistance to priority counties (counties in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) with populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5)), which includes Canal/Pigi and Fangak of northern Jonglei, for a period of eight months; as of the latest available reports from WFP, distribution was ongoing, reaching 25 and 40 percent of county populations in February in Canal/Pigi and Fangak, respectively. While the lull in conflict has permitted the movement of convoys along the Nile River between Malakal, Canal/Pigi, Fangak, and Bor and facilitated improved humanitarian access in south-western and northern Jonglei, the volatility of the conflict remains a threat to sustained access. In addition, floodwaters continue to impact the delivery of food assistance by road, as well as household access to distribution sites and drop zones in localized areas of the counties of concern. Assistance to the internally displaced in Malakal PoC and Kodok Town of Fashoda County continues unhindered.

    Current food security outcomes: Available food consumption and livelihood change data, collected in July-August 2022 by WFP (except in Panyikang due to inaccessibility at the time of data collection), found levels indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) even prior to the latest escalation in conflict. With the significant conflict- and flood-induced losses in livestock and crops, and further disruptions to assistance delivery and market/trade functioning, it is most likely that the share of the county populations using either crisis or emergency-based coping strategies and facing large food consumption gaps increased in February. As a result, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely widespread. Although the delivery of humanitarian assistance is improving and preventing deterioration to a worse phase, especially in Fangak, there are still concerns for some populations likely facing extreme food consumption gaps, indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).


    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to these areas of concern:

    • Livestock production will remain minimal throughout the projection period due to the repeated exposure and livestock losses linked to conflict and floods, coupled with periodic cattle raids that have driven down livestock ownership across the counties of concern. As such, households will have significantly below-average access to milk and meat.
    • Fish and wild food availability will decline through April/May, before rising again during the June to September rainfall, but access to these food sources will vary depending on the levels of conflict, insecurity, and floodwaters. As a result, many households will have below-normal access to these natural food sources.
    • Market and trade functioning will recover slightly during the dry season from February through April as ground movement improves with the receding floodwaters but will again be disrupted due to both the anticipated conflict, insecurity, and floods. As result, staple food prices will remain above last year and well above the five-year averages.
    • Planting during 2023 agricultural production season will likely be similar to last year and significantly below normal given the massive household displacement and the inability of most to return to their places of origin to participate in crop production activities. In addition, in some localized areas, the continued presence of residual floodwaters will interfere with timely household participation in land preparation and eventually planting.
    • Based on available WFP general food assistance distribution plans for February through August, monthly food assistance via GFD and FFA is expected to reach over 50 percent of the county populations in Canal/Pigi and Fangak with 656 MT and 1330 MT, meeting 50-75 percent of their daily kilocalorie needs while reaching 30 to 35 percent of the county populations in Fashoda and Malakal with 184 and 511 MT respectively, meeting 40-50 percent of their daily kilocalorie needs. Analysis of past assistance trends, however, suggests it is likely delivery will be disrupted periodically by conflict/insecurity in all areas.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Food security will deteriorate in these counties between February to May and June to September due to the exhaustion of own-produced food, rising market prices and low purchasing power. Availability of wild foods will decline seasonally during the first period but will begin to improve during the rainy season, although household access will vary depending on level of renewed conflict and extent of repeat flooding during the rainy season. Conflict and flooding are also expected to interfere with households’ ability to engage in crop production activities and their access to green harvests (typically available in mid-August), leading households to becoming increasingly dependent on assistance as a source of food and income, where accessible. However, assistance delivery will likely be disrupted due to conflict and flooding. As a result, many households are expected to continue to face large to extreme food consumption gaps, indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes with some population in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Fashoda and Panyikang of Upper Nile and Fangak and Canal/Pigi of Jonglei. However, in Malakal County, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected, given that assistance delivery will likely be consistent and significant, reaching 30 percent of the county population and meeting 40 to 50 percent of their daily kilocalorie needs during this period.

    There is a credible, alternative scenario in which Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur in Fangak, Canal/Pigi, Fashoda, and Panyikang, given the scale and severity of violence and displacement that occurred from mid-August to late December and the disruption to livelihoods, on top of an already high proportion of the population that is acutely food insecure and highly vulnerable to new conflict and/or flood shocks. If armed groups renew their attacks, and/or if this occurs alongside flooding during the rainy season, and if these events isolate households from accessing food, income, and humanitarian aid for a prolonged time, then FEWS NET assesses that Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur.  

    Akobo of Jonglei State: Eastern Plains Sorghum and Cattle Livelihood Zone (SS06) and Pibor County in Greater Pibor Administrative Area in South-eastern semi-arid pastoral zone (SS05) (Figure 10)

    Current Situation

    Intercommunal conflict and displacements: Renewed ethnic violence and retaliatory attacks in Pibor and neighboring Akobo are causing extensive household displacement and asset loss, including livestock, in both areas of concern. The intercommunal conflict that flared up between armed Lou Nuer-Dinka youths and Murle communities in Lekuangole and Gumuruk of Pibor County in Greater Pibor Administration Area (GPAA) during late December 2022 to mid-January 2023 led to the displacements of more than 30,000 people to Pibor town and Verteth, destruction of health facilities and household properties, abduction of children and women, deaths of 56 people, and theft of 30,000 heads of livestock. An update from the Nutrition Cluster partners in January confirmed the destruction of four nutrition facilities in Manyabol, Vuveth, Molokthoch, and Gumuruk villages and the suspension of humanitarian deliveries in Lekuangole and Gumuruk payams at the time. According to an IRNA conducted by partners and OCHA between January 18 and 20 in Gumuruk and Lekuangole, an estimated 17,000 and 20,970 people, respectively, combined representing approximately 15-20 percent of Pibor County population, were displaced from Nanaam, Lotilla, Manyabol, Gumuruk, Wuno Gai, Kongor, Lokoromach, Kongkong, Juom, Torochoch, Tuong and Kotokman villages to Likuangole Center and Pibor Town (Figure 11). Although both key informant information and the IRNA report confirmed withdrawal of armed Jonglei youth from Pibor County and return of some displaced households to their areas of origin, most of the displaced remain in the towns as the overall security situation remains unpredictable amidst expectations of further attacks from both sides.

    Figure 10

    Area of concern reference map: Greater Pibor Administrative Area and Akobo of Jonglei state
    Area of concern reference map of Akobo and Pibor of Jonglei

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 11

    Sites of conflict and displacement in Pibor between December 2022 and January 2023
    Map of Pibor County in Greater Pibor Administrative Area showing sites of conflict and displacement in Pibor between December 2022 and January 2023

    Source: IRNA January 20, 2023

    Similarly in Akobo, as reported by two IRNAs conducted in January 2023, several retaliatory attacks by Murle youth displaced an estimated 22,589 people (760 households from the East and 3,013 from the West), representing about 10 percent of county population, to areas within the county and to the neighboring Waat of Nyirol county, Ulang county of Upper Nile, and to Ethiopia. Persistent insecurity and fear of further attacks continues to disrupt both trade flow and humanitarian operations in the areas, as well as limiting household movements. The combined impact of the current violence with past shocks of intercommunal violence, flood events and repeated displacements of households in both areas, has significantly eroded household assets and coping capacity and is driving increased vulnerability to shocks in both areas of concern.

    Livestock production: Livestock production in both areas of concern has been decimated by years of inter-communal violence and flooding, with ongoing insecurity making it difficult for many households to rebuild their livestock asset and weakening their ability to cope with persistent acute food insecurity. As previously analyzed and highlighted in the October Food Security Outlook, evidence from multiple years of FSNMS data shows livestock ownership declined dramatically between 2018/2019 (years without flooding or significant conflict) and 2020/2022 (flood and conflict years), with only about 20 percent of households in each area of concern reporting owning any livestock in September 2022. The recent incidences of cattle raiding that involved about 30,000 heads of cattle raided by Jonglei youth from Lekuangole and Gumuruk payams and at least 3,344 cattle raided in recent retaliatory attacks in Akobo by Murle youth from Pibor also highlight the potential volatility in cattle ownership in the area. Moreover, while satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and key informant reports continue to show good pasture in Pibor and Akobo, access to this resource for those who still own some livestock is often restricted by the ongoing conflict. In western Pibor, key informant reports some households from the conflict-affected areas have opted to relocate their remaining livestock to Vertheth payam for safety, while in Akobo, herds have migrated to Ulang of Upper Nile and Ethiopia. These herd movements are further reducing households’ access to important livestock products such as milk and income, as corroborated by FEWS NET rapid field assessment to Akobo in early February.

    Crop production and stocks: While many households in both areas typically maintain small plots for cultivation of sorghum and vegetables, the extent of production is limited by unpredictable weather patterns (frequent flooding, dry spells, and occasional drought), poor agricultural practices, and insecurity. Trend analysis of the number of households who have been planting reveals a steady decline between 2018 and 2022 in both areas, although less dramatic than the deterioration seen in livestock production. Nonetheless, even with favorable conditions for cropping in 2022, just over half of households planted in the two areas of concern, according to FSNMS data. Although the 2022 CFSAM report is not yet available to confirm the final status of 2022 harvest and cereal deficit in both areas, key informant reports and FEWS NET rapid field assessments in February indicate many households, especially in western Pibor and Akobo West, have already exhausted their own stock, some as early as December in flood-affected areas of Akobo West where planting was particularly limited, as well as in Gumuruk and Leuangole. As a result, many of these households are currently reducing consumption and relying on gathering and some humanitarian food assistance, indicative of a likely early start to the lean season. In Akobo East, by contrast, field information indicates local supplies are still available and are contributing to stabilizing the staple food prices in the market.

    Wild foods: Households’ access to wild food such as fish, game and wild leaves is key in mitigating food consumption gaps in both livelihood zones, especially during the lean season when own stocks are low or depleted and staple food prices are higher in the markets. Although availability of these food sources varies across the areas of concern, household access typically declines seasonally from February to the lowest level in the May-June period. Available information from the most recent IRNA and field monitoring reports indicates many poor households in conflict-affected areas of Pibor and Akobo West are relying heavily on wild foods and game to cope with widening food consumption gaps. In Lekuangole of Pibor, key informant reports indicate that household access to game and fish in February was already limited given that many wild animals have migrated out of the areas and fishing gear has reportedly been stolen or destroyed in the recent conflict. In Akobo, key informants reported that only households residing in secure areas in Dengjok and Billkey payams of Akobo East, which are closer to fishing grounds along Akobo River, are able to access fish and game for consumption and sale. In areas of Akobo East bordering Lekuangole payam of Pibor, such as in Nyendit payam, insecurity is restricting access to both fishing and hunting, while in Boung and Walgak payams of Akobo West, the prevailing insecurity is driving some households to migrate to Ulang of Upper Nile and Ethiopia in search of food.

    Income sources: Income opportunities are generally limited in Pibor and Akobo affecting household purchasing power. Available field assessments and key informant reports indicate poor households in Pibor are currently selling charcoal, firewood, bush meat, wild fruits, and fish to purchase cereal in the market or are bartering livestock for cereal, especially in areas close to Jebel Boma payam, where crop production is generally better, and more cereal is available for bartering/exchange. In Akobo East, evidence from FEWS NET rapid field assessment in February indicates poor households are currently selling fish, game meat, some harvest, and wild foods to access cereal and other basic needs.

    Trade and markets: Typically, at this time of year, market access plays an increasingly important role in ensuring food availability and access in both areas of concern, dependence that increases in March and April through July. However, market availability and supply vary considerably across the area of concern given variations in market integration and functioning. In general, both counties are affected by limited road networks and poor feeder road conditions attributable in part to past and current insecurity and flooding. In Akobo East, however, markets are operational with good supplies of both local and imported sorghum grain from Ethiopia. By contrast, supply in Akobo West is low as the route from Akobo East to Akobo West is cut off by persistent floodwaters and the supply from Uganda through Juba-Bor-Waat-Lankien to Akobo West remains seasonally low due to insecurity and poor feeder road conditions, compelling traders in Akobo West to rely on commercial flights for cereal supply. In Pibor, trade flows and market supply via Juba-Bor-Pibor route also remain significantly disrupted due to insecurity, with field reports indicating that the market is only operational in Pibor town with very limited cereal supply.

    Staple food price and terms of trade: The variations in market supply described above were reflected in price comparisons across key markets. Based on the available market price monitoring data in CLiMIS, the price per kilogram of red sorghum in Pibor was 1,143 SSP in January which was similar to the observed price in December 2022 but nearly 160 percent higher than that of the same time last year. In Akobo East, a rapid market assessment in January 2023 found that a kilogram of red sorghum sold for 571 SSP, which was similar to December 2022 but 186 percent higher than that of the same time last year. Meanwhile, in Akobo West, rapid market observation indicates the price of a kilogram of sorghum rose from 600 SSP in December 2022 to 1,400 SSP in January 2023 and was 536 percent higher than the same time last year. Despite the high cereal price, the terms of trade, measured as the kilograms of sorghum that can be purchased with the sale of one medium-sized goat, improved compared to the same time last year. Based on available prices for red sorghum and medium-sized goat in CLiMIS, in January 2023, a livestock-dependent household in Pibor could purchase nearly 31 kgs of sorghum with the sale of medium-sized goat as compared to 23 kgs the same time last year, an increase of 33 percent.

    Humanitarian food assistance: Food assistance remains critical in both areas of concern given the persistence of large food consumption gaps and significant disruption to local production, trade, and market systems. Analysis of October through January WFP distribution reports for Akobo and Pibor indicate there was no GFD or FFA distributions in Akobo during those months, and none in Pibor between October and December 2022. In January, food aid was distributed to 17,000 people in Pibor, although reports from a field monitor confirmed that food assistance was only provided to displaced households with valid registration cards, leaving some un-registered households without food assistance. According to the latest available information, distribution resumed in Akobo in February, reaching an estimated 10,500 beneficiaries in Akobo West. Though WFP planned to reach 43 and 49 percent of the population monthly in Akobo and Pibor, respectively, with 43 and 68 percent of their kilocalorie needs on average, beginning from January, food assistance did not resume in most locations till mid to late February due to safety concerns and access constraints. In Pibor, a key informant reports that CRS started distributing general food assistance to the in-need populations within Pibor Town and surrounding villages on February 3, and in Gumuruk in late February. In late February, airdrops began in Lokomarch, Verthut, and Lekuangole.

    Current food security outcomes: Based on the current deterioration in food security conditions in the two counties, household food consumption gaps have likely widened driven by high staple food prices, earlier-than-usual stock depletion, underlying and ongoing asset erosion linked to multiple years of conflict and flooding, limited income opportunities, disrupted trade flows and humanitarian deliveries, and restrictions to household movement. With already high proportions of poor food consumption and severe hunger in both areas during the harvesting period in September 2022, as reported by the FSNMS round 28, it is likely that these consumption patterns have only worsened in the current context. As a result, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely with Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes among households in remote conflict-affected locations, including in Lekuangole and Gumuruk payams of Pibor and in Akobo West, who lack livestock assets and faced restricted access to food sources including humanitarian food assistance.


    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to these areas of concern:

    • Given the likelihood of continued cattle raiding, widespread insecurity, and underscored by a declining trend of livestock ownership and expected seasonal migration of livestock herds, livestock production and access to both livestock products and income are likely to remain low and limited during the February to May period. However, access to livestock products and income are expected to increase for households owning livestock with the onset and progress of the rainy season from June through September as pasture availability increases and some livestock herds return closer to homesteads.
    • Availability of wild foods including fish and game are expected to reduce seasonally from February through April during the dry season but will likely increase with the onset of rains from late May through September. Household access to these food sources is expected to be generally below average but will vary depending on security restrictions and distance to sites with available wild products. Households in Lekuangole and Gumuruk payams of Pibor, and Akobo West of Akobo County are expected to have limited access to these food sources due to anticipated security-related access restrictions.
    • Based on current disruptions to the trade and market system, as well as high supply costs and low local production levels in both areas of concern, staple food prices are expected to trend higher than last year’s level and far above the five-year average. This is expected to significantly limit access to food during the February-June projection period in both Akobo and Pibor markets. Similarly, income sources and opportunities are expected to remain limited given significant conflict and insecurity restrictions to livelihoods in both areas. As such, household purchasing power and access to markets are likely to be low or very limited throughout the projection period.
    • Based on available WFP general food assistance distribution plans, food assistance is expected to reach 40-50 percent of county populations in Akobo and Pibor, respectively, with 40 and 70 percent of kilocalorie needs monthly during February - May period. Plans suggest assistance will scale down to meeting 35 and 55 percent of kilocalorie needs among 40 and 50 percent of the county populations in Akobo and Pibor, respectively, during the June to September lean period. However, based on an analysis of past trends, assistance delivery is likely to be disrupted periodically by conflict/insecurity in both areas.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    During the February to May projection period which marks the peak of the pastoral lean season in Pibor, and through the June to September projection period, which coincides with the main rainy season in both areas and the typical start of the main lean period in Akobo, the severity of acute food insecurity is expected to increase due to complete stock depletion and limited financial access to markets due to high and rising food prices and limited household purchasing power. While availability of wild food sources including fish, wild leaves, and fruits will seasonally decline through the first projection period, it will improve in the second projection period, although access will be limited by insecurity and intercommunal conflict. Similarly, livestock typically is expected to return closer to the homestead during the second projection period, but access to livestock products will be affected by prevailing insecurity. Although planned assistance is significant, deliveries of food assistance are likely to remain periodically disrupted by insecurity and seasonal rains, and as such, many households are expected to continue facing large to extreme lack of food indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in Pibor and Akobo with the persistence of pocket of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) among the displaced households in remote areas of Lekuangole, Gumuruk, and Akobo West who have no livestock assets and restricted access to food sources including food aid and markets.

    Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. South Sudan Food Security Outlook February to September 2023: Sustained delivery of food assistance needed to prevent widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4).


    Years with similar climate included in historical analysis include 1985, 1989, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012,2013, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, and 2022.  

    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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