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Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) likely at the peak of the lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • February - September 2024
Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) likely at the peak of the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) is projected for the main rainfall season given elevated risks for severe flooding amid high levels of conflict and high returnee burden
  • 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
    • Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are present in 17 counties in South Sudan as of the start of the post-harvest period in February, mostly in the Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile regions, driven by protracted negative impacts of intercommunal conflict and flooding, high returnee burden, poor economic conditions, deteriorating purchasing power, and intermittent conflict-related disruptions to trade and food assistance delivery. Areas in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) are expected to nearly double (to 34 counties) in the upcoming lean season between June and September 2024 amid expectations of continued high returnee burden, severe flooding under projected La Niña conditions, elevated tensions and rising violent conflict in the lead up to December 2024 elections, and likely disruptions to livelihoods, trade, and food assistance. Rubkona of Unity, Pibor of Greater Administrative Area (GPAA), Duk of Jonglei, and areas hosting high numbers of returnees including the northern counties will remain of highest concern throughout the projection period given the large proportion of population in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and expectations of households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Pibor, Duk, Aweil East, and among returnees. 
    • The arrival of nearly 600,000 South Sudanese returnees and refugees from Sudan and 100,000 from Ethiopia by the end of February is worsening the severity of acute food insecurity in the northern and eastern counties of South Sudan. Most returnees are arriving with little to no assets and are heavily dependent on assistance and host households for food and income, which is contributing to atypically early depletion of food stocks and adoption of more severe coping strategies than normal. The arrival of displaced populations from Sudan are expected to continue at similar levels throughout the projection period given the likely continuation of conflict and anticipation of significantly below-average harvests. 
    • WFP continues to respond to the needs of returnees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and refugees, and has begun scaling-up the lean season response, with plans to reach approximately 3.0 million people per month at the peak of the lean season, representing approximately one-third of FEWS NET’s projected population in need. While additional funding has been secured, WFP and humanitarian partners continue to face major funding shortfalls that will limit their ability to respond to persistently high and rising needs. Given continued concern for food, disease, and nutrition conditions in transit and collection areas, as well as areas hosting high numbers of returnees, an urgent multisector response remains critical.
    • FEWS NET has determined that a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) exists in the upcoming lean season (between June and September 2024) in parts of north-central Unity and Upper Nile. This is driven by the increased likelihood of above-average rainfall under the forecasted La Niña conditions during the main rainy season and the potential for severe flooding in these persistently inundated parts of the Sudd wetlands. While it is not FEWS NET’s most likely scenario, if severe flooding occurs in conjunction with periods of intense conflict and impedes households’ mobility and access to humanitarian assistance for a prolonged period, particularly in areas with high burden of returnees unfamiliar with traditional coping mechanisms and already experiencing Critical levels of acute malnutrition, then Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur. 

    A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) is projected for the main rainfall season given elevated risks for severe flooding amid high levels of conflict and high returnee burden

    Food insecurity levels in the upcoming lean season are projected to be higher than recent years as South Sudan once again faces the looming prospect of severe flooding, ongoing sporadic incidences of violent conflict, and the continued influx of highly food insecure returnees and refugees who are unfamiliar with traditional coping mechanisms. The likelihood of these elements combining to prevent households from accessing food for a prolonged period remains low through May 2024, but risk increases throughout the upcoming rainy season through September 2024. In particular, areas with a high influx of returnees/refugees, poor water and sanitation conditions contributing to very high malnutrition levels, persistent inundation and high river levels, and volatile conflict dynamics, are of highest concern for a Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), such as in parts of central and northern Unity (including Rubkona) and parts of Upper Nile. However, as retrospective analysis of past severe food insecurity in South Sudan demonstrates, both conflict and flooding can occur unexpectedly, and FEWS NET will closely monitor the progress of the rainy season and evolving conflict in all hotspot areas, including Jonglei and Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA).      

    According to available forecasts, La Niña is highly likely to become the dominant El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) state by mid-2024 (>70 percent probability). In South Sudan, La Niña is strongly correlated with above-average precipitation and severe flooding, as demonstrated through the flooding events of the 2020 through 2022 summers (Figure 1). In addition, some areas of South Sudan, particularly in the Sudd wetlands, have not seen significant recession of flood waters as in past dry seasons. Despite below-average precipitation during the last rainy season (June-September 2023), above-average rainfall through October and December in southern parts of South Sudan and in neighboring Uganda have contributed to elevated river levels and persistently inundated areas. Current water levels in sentinel parts of the White Nile River and Lake Victoria are consistent with recent years of severe flooding and significantly above levels typical of dry seasons from five or more years ago. Given current conditions and expected above-average rainfall in the coming lean season, it is likely that South Sudan will experience severe flooding in the upcoming 2024 main rainy season. 

    Episodes of severe conflict, particularly when compounded by widespread flooding cutting off trade flows/humanitarian access and restricting household mobility, have long been a major driver sustaining high levels of acute food insecurity in South Sudan. While conflict in the past year has been lower than in previous periods, recent upticks in clashes point to elevated tensions in highly volatile contexts. Election-related tensions are expected to drive an increase in sporadic political violence through September 2024, which could intermittently affect economic activity and households’ livelihoods. In the most-likely scenario, conflict events will increase but remain intermittent and sporadic given the fragmentation of the opposition; however, there is a credible alternative scenario in the June to September period in which conflict occurs in conjunction with flooding at levels sufficient to isolate households from assistance and restrict household ability to migrate in search of food and income for a prolonged time. Of particular concern are overcrowded areas with high numbers of returnees who lack assets, are unfamiliar with gathering and consumption of wild foods (a key coping strategy in these areas) and are already subject to high levels of food insecurity, disease, and acute malnutrition due to poor conditions in transit centers.

    Figure 1

    Recurrence of flooding during La Niña years (2020-2022) as measured by maximum flood extent between October 21-25 of each year
    This map shpws the recurrence of flooding during La Niña years (2020-2022)

    Source: FEWS NET using data from NOAA VIIRS


    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Conflict and displacement: Available conflict data has shown an increasing trend in conflict incidents since December, with those of largest magnitude occurring in parts of Greater Bahr El Ghazal and Jonglei in January and February (Figure 2). These events have triggered new household displacements, disrupted trade flows and the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and threatened lives and livelihoods. As the elections approach, scheduled for December 2024, further conflict and political tensions are expected, potentially exacerbating communal violence and worsening the security situation across the country. 

    Greater Bahr el Ghazal: The cycle of revenge attacks between the Dinka Ngok of Abyei Administrative Area (AA) and the Dinka Twic of Twic County in Warrap State that reignited in November has continued into February. An attack in Majak County in Abyei killed 15 people, bringing the total estimated deaths since November to more than 160 people. Similarly, in disputed areas between Gogrial East of Warrap and Jur River of Western Bahr el Ghazal, intercommunal revenge attacks have continued. On February 5, armed conflict erupted in Tharkueng Payam of Jur River that led to the displacement of over 17,000 to Wau town, deaths of over 20 people including police and army officers, wounding of many more, loss of livelihood assets, and temporary interruption of trade flows between Wau and Kuajok towns. At the border between Rumbek North of Lakes and Tonj East of Warrap State, intercommunal attacks over access to contested grazing lands erupted again between armed youth in cattle camps, leading to 52 wounded, 40 dead, and an unconfirmed number displaced to Maper County in Rumbek North. 

    Greater Upper Nile: In central Jonglei, sporadic cattle raids and armed robberies, purportedly by armed Murle from Greater Pibor Administrative Area, continued across Akobo, Duk, Uror, and Nyirol Counties in Jonglei State, leading to multiple casualties and limiting households’ access to hunting, wild food gathering, and fishing sites, particularly important food sources at this time of year. On February 9, a convoy of humanitarian vehicles was ambushed on the Bor-Pibor road outside of Bor town, escalating concerns for trade and humanitarian access to Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) in the coming lean season. 

    Greater Equatoria: In Western and Central Equatoria, tensions are high due to the expansion of attacks by Dinka Bor cattle keepers on farmers and their farms across Greater Mundri and Maridi counties of Western Equatoria, and the extension of their presence into parts of Yei, Lainya, and Juba Counties of Central Equatoria. On January 15, pastoralists arrived in Tore Payam of Yei River County and destroyed farms, burned houses, and looted harvests, likely to prompt the atypically early start to the 2024 lean season in parts of Greater Yei and Mundri. Elsewhere in Eastern Equatoria, revenge attacks between the Taposa and Didinga in Ngauro occurred in early February, killing at least three people and intermittently disrupting trade from Torit and Ikotos to Greater Kapoeta.

    Figure 2

    Violent events and associated fatalities November 2023 to February 23, 2024
    This map shows violent events and fatalities from November 2023 to February 23, 2024

    Source: FEWS NET using data from NOAA VIIRS

    Returnees and refugees: In January and February, the number of daily arrivals fleeing the Sudan crisis remained high (averaging 1500-2000 individuals per day), though with a slight downward trend in recent weeks. South Sudanese still constitute about 80 percent of all arrivals, but the proportion of Sudanese has increased in the last month to approximately two in five of the daily arrivals (Figure 3). Cumulatively, as of the end of February 2024, an estimated 584,773 South Sudanese returnees and refugees have arrived since mid-April. This influx from Sudan, combined with over 100,000 South Sudanese returnees who came from Ethiopia primarily between August and December 2023, are continuing to drive high humanitarian needs amidst funding shortfalls and scarcity of available resources in host communities. Most returnees are arriving with little to no assets and are heavily dependent on assistance (for those with access) as well as on host households for food and income. This heavy burden is contributing to atypically early depletion of food stocks and adoption of more severe coping strategies than normal among both host and returnee/refugee households, as confirmed by field observations by REACH and FEWS NET in December and January. In addition, the influx of people, combined with very limited access to basic health and nutrition services and poor living conditions, is contributing to high levels of morbidity and malnutrition, particularly in dangerously overcrowded transit and reception areas such as Renk, Bulukat, Malakal, and Rubkona. According to WFP bi-weekly update from the end of January, a mass screening in Renk transit center found a proxy GAM rate of 24.5 percent among children under five, indicative of Critical levels, and 15 percent among pregnant and breastfeeding women. 

    Figure 3

    Daily arrivals and cumulative total of returnees and refugees fleeing Sudan crisis, as of February 20, 2024
    This chart shows Daily arrivals and cumulative total of returnees and refugees fleeing Sudan crisis, as of February 20, 2024

    Source: FEWS NET using data from the RRC/UNHCR/IOM dashboard

    Harvest and household food stocks: Although the 2023 Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) report is not yet released, available crop production information collected in WFP’s Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System (FSNMS) round 29 in September 2023 showed mixed trends in planting around the country compared to 2022. Declines of more than 20 percent of total households were seen in 9 counties (Abiemnhom, Koch, and Guit of Unity, Juba and Budi of Greater Equatoria, Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Malakal, Renk, and Maiwut of Upper Nile) due to conflict, high residual flood waters, and farmer-cattle herder conflict. By contrast, the proportion of households engaged in crop production increased by 20 percent in 20 counties, namely in parts of Jonglei, Upper Nile, and some parts of Unity linked to lower flood coverage and conflict and improved access to land and inputs in these areas. 

    Nationally, the crop harvest in 2023 is likely to be similar to 2022. However, in localized areas with lower harvests and in areas hosting high numbers of returnees, food stocks are likely depleted or depleting atypically fast in February, as confirmed by FEWS NET rapid assessments to Rubkona, Pibor, Duk, Nasir, Fashoda, Aweil East, and Aweil North in January and February. As a result, the lean season is starting atypically early in many areas, accompanied by an increasing reliance on wild foods as a key source of food for many households. Indeed, FEWS NET’s January assessment to Rubkona found that the increased reliance has triggered local authorities to regulate access to wild food resources to avoid exploitation and conflict and to ensure equitable access for all households. In contrast, in Renk, despite hosting high returnee burden, key informants indicate that host households are still consuming their own produce, while both returnees and refugees are mostly relying on market purchases for food.

    Residual floodwaters: Flooding and associated displacement has persisted into February due to the above-average rainfall experienced between October and December 2023. Affected areas include parts of Jonglei and southern Upper Nile, as well as large areas of the Sudd wetlands (Figure 4). Historically, flood waters would recede during the dry months (December through May), but after consecutive years of severe flooding, the inundation is no longer receding as typical and is driving the near-collapse of livelihoods and erosion of households’ coping capacity.

    Figure 4

    Flood recession (shades of yellow and red) as of February 2024 (right), compared to flood recession in February 2020 (left) prior to 4 years of severe flooding
    This map compares flood recession in February 2024 to February 2020

    Source: FEWS NET using NOAA VIIRS and UN OCHA water bodies

    According to FEWS NET’s rapid assessment, riverine flooding has persisted in some areas along the Nile River and in low-lying areas of Maruwo of Verteth Payam of Pibor. Key informants also indicated that parts of Fangak and Twic East of Jonglei, Rubkona, and Mayendit of Unity, parts of Akobo, and western parts of Ageer Payam of Duk are continuing to experience high residual floodwaters which are constraining trade flows and market functionalities and impeding the delivery of humanitarian assistance in some areas. In addition, the flood waters are contributing to ongoing poor hygiene and sanitation conditions that are sustaining a high prevalence of human disease and malnutrition, particularly in crowded displacement sites such as in Rubkona. While FEWS NET’s rapid assessment in January found floodwaters had begun to recede in parts of Rubkona, facilitating household and humanitarian movement in areas of Budang, Kaljak (Nhial diu), Rubkona payam, and Rotriak and Panakuach bomas, some areas nonetheless remain inundated (including Wathjak, Ngop, Panhiang, Dhorbor, and parts of Dingding payams).

    Figure 5

    Cumulative rainfall compared to the average in the period October to December 2023 (left) and vegetation conditions compared to average during the period of February 11-20, 2024
    This map shows cumulative rainfall compared to the average from OCtober to December 2023 and vegetation conditions compared to average from February 11-20, 2024

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Livestock production: The El Niño-influenced extended rainfall in the last quarter of 2023, particularly over parts of Jonglei, GPAA, and Upper Nile, sustained the availability of pasture for longer than normal, thus contributing to above-average access to livestock products for households that own animals (Figure 5). However, recent FEWS NET’s field monitoring information from Pibor, Rubkona, Nasir, Duk, Aweil East, and Aweil North in January and February indicate that livestock body conditions are now generally ranging from fair to poor. In addition, below-average pasture conditions are observed in parts of Greater Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, and Eastern Equatoria states, promoting the typical start of livestock migration to the dry season grazing areas and aggravating conflict over the rangeland resources between local communities as well as between among local herders and nomads from Sudan. Key informants further confirm that poor pasture has led to livestock migration to dry season grazing areas in Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal states, Tonj South, Tonj North, Gogrial West of Warrap, Lakes, Pibor of GPAA, parts of Greater Kapoeta, and Torit, Fashoda, and Maiwut of Upper Nile, further limiting households access to livestock products. It should be noted that ownership rates vary widely, and ownership in some areas has deteriorated significantly in recent years due to the impact of flooding and conflict. Moreover, livestock ownership is lowest among returnee and refugee households as they have arrived without livestock assets, impacting on their ability to access livestock products and incomes from livestock. Details of these trends can be seen in FEWS NET’s October 2023 Outlook.

    Market and trade: Markets and trade are functioning at varying levels across the country, ranging from normal in state capital markets, to low or very low in the rural and remote areas due to conflict, insecurity, and flood-related road inaccessibility. In most parts of Northern Jonglei State and Great Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA), the movement of heavy trucks and delivery of commercial goods to the markets is hindered by poor flood-related road conditions (Figure 6). Domestic trade flows are occurring with minimal to no disruptions along most major routes in the south and west, as well as between Renk and Malakal and via the Nile River. However, the cost of delivery remains high given proliferation of illegal check points and taxes, a cost that is then passed on to the consumer via extremely high food prices in destination markets.  

    Figure 6

    Trade routes and market functionality map, February 2024
    This map shows trade routes and markets in February 2024

    Source: FEWS NET

    Very little cross-border trade is occurring with Sudan due to the conflict and below-average harvest in Sudan. However, some trade was observed through the Gok Machar border point in Aweil North, where FEWS NET monitors recorded about 400 MT of sorghum coming from Sudan in January and February each, as well as between 1600-1800 MT of groundnuts. For sorghum, this represents a slight decline of about 15 percent compared to the average import for January/February 2023 recorded at Gok Machar. This relative stability is attributed to availability of sorghum from Darfur’s main season harvest and severe disruptions to Sudan’s domestic trade routes. Nonetheless, cumulative trade with Sudan at this time of year remains significantly below the five-year average, and key informants have reported a shift in supply sourcing to Ethiopia with flows into South Sudan’s eastern counties of Upper Nile. 

    Meanwhile, normal trading activity has resumed between Uganda and South Sudan following below-average trade between October and December 2023. In January, sorghum imports from Uganda to South Sudan via Nimule were 13.7 percent higher than in December 2023 due to the main harvest in Uganda but was 14 percent lower than the same month in 2023. There was no import of maize grain and sorghum from Uganda to South Sudan through Kaya/Vurra border crossing points in December 2023 and January 2024, respectively, due to increased availability of local cereal supply from second season harvest in Greater Yei at the household level, coupled with the high cost of transportation. However, a total of 732 MT of rice and maize flour were imported via the same crossing point in January 2024. 

    Macroeconomy: The economy has further deteriorated in January and February, characterized by accelerated depreciation of local currency, high and rising food and non-food prices, low domestic investments, high poverty level, and delayed civil servant salary payments due primarily to poor management of oil and non-oil revenues. Moreover, according to the government media briefing on February 28, oil production and exports are now being impacted negatively by prolonged flooding and ongoing conflict in Sudan that is restricting necessary access to the pipeline and associated infrastructure for necessary maintenance, and disruptions in crude oil shipment via Red Sea. As such, crude oil production and export are experiencing downward trends, leading to reduction in oil revenue and availability of foreign currency, and hence impacting the economy as the country relies heavily on oil revenue. Between January and February, the SSP depreciated sharply as a result. As of the end of February 2024, the USD/SSP daily exchange rate was 1650 SSP/USD on the parallel market and 1455 SSP/USD in official markets (Figure 7). The February 2024 exchange rate in official and parallel markets is 11 to 18 percent higher, respectively, than January 2024, and about 61 to 74 percent higher, respectively, than same month last year. The accelerated local currency depreciation and daily instability in the SSP/USD exchange rate are driving high staple food prices and limiting poor households’ access to market food.

    Figure 7

    Official and parallel exchange rates (dotted lines) and prices of white sorghum (feterita) grain (solid lines) from January 2021 to January 2024 in selected markets
    This map compares official and parallel exchange rates for sorghum in select markets from January 2021 to January 2024

    Source: FEWS NET using data from CLIMIS

    Staple food prices: The prices of staple foods have remained higher than in a typical year due to elevated market dependence and high supply costs linked to continued local currency depreciation, illicit taxes, and multiple checkpoints along the supply routes. These unofficial or illegal checkpoints are likely to have increased given ongoing economic hardship and low income-earning opportunities. The January 2024 market retail price of sorghum in key reference markets of Juba, Wau, and Aweil Centre was similar to that observed in December 2023, due to availability of local supply combined with imports from Uganda (Figure 7). Compared to the same period last year and the five-year average, sorghum prices in January 2024 were 21 to 26 percent and 130 to 230 percent higher, respectively, due to continued SSP depreciation and high import supply costs linked to high fuel prices and illicit taxation.

    While not all data for February are available yet, FEWS NET market observations conducted in Gudele and Konykonyo markets of Juba in late February 2024 found sharp increases in food prices between February 19 and 23 due to the significant increase in exchange rate from 1350 to 1450 SSP/USD on the parallel market. As a result, the retail price of sorghum per Malwa (3.5kg) in Juba markets has increased from 3500 to 4200 SSP, a 20 percent increase between the second and third weeks of February 2024. Similarly, preliminary data or February in Aweil Centre and Rumbek Centre showed increases of 18 to 24 percent compared to January 2024. This has led to a decline in effective demand for cereals, beans, and cooking oil given already low household purchasing power; many poor households have resorted to purchasing in small quantities on a daily basis. 

    Humanitarian food assistance: In January and February, WFP has continued to respond to the needs of returnees, IDPs, and refugees in various parts of the country, and has initiated the lean season response in five Priority 1 counties (Pibor, Duk, Nyirol, Rubkona, and Aweil East). Although the February 2024 general food distribution (GFD) and food for assets (FFA) distribution report is not yet available, analysis of January 2024 distribution data shows that WFP reached nearly 670,000 beneficiaries, representing about 5 percent of the national population and about 10 percent of FEWS NET’s estimated population in need (Figure 8). Food assistance distribution was significant according to the three-month rolling average (November through January) in six counties: Maban and Malakal of Upper Nile, Nyirol of Jonglei, Awerial of Lakes, and Pariang and Rubkona of Unity. In Rubkona, the scale of response resumed in November was sufficient to reach 47 percent of the county population on average. 21-day rations were distributed, which were likely shared between relatives and returnees; nonetheless if shared across the entire estimated population of Rubkona, it would still provide more than 30 percent of daily kilocalorie needs. 

    As part of the programming for support to newly arrived returnees and refugees, WFP assisted more than 419,000 people with fortified biscuits, in-kind food, or cash assistance. Of these, 102,000 returnees received food assistance at their final destination and 22,000 refugees received a second round of cash distributions in Renk. Pre-positioning of assistance and commodities for the scale-up of the lean season response is underway, and as of early February, WFP had dispatched a total 57,595 MT of assorted commodities (32 percent of the operation plan for 2024) to WFP field offices and warehouses across the country via air, river, and road. However, the agency continues to face numerous challenges including insecurity, significant funding shortfalls, limited air assets, and road inaccessibility, especially in much of Northern Jonglei State and GPAA

    Figure 8

    Figure 8. Population reached with humanitarian food assistance (General Food Distributions and Food for Assets programs) compared to FEWS NET’s estimated population in need, January 2021–January 2024
    This chart shows the population reached with food assistance versus FEWS NET's estimated population in need for January 2021–January 2024

    Note: FEWS NET produces population in need estimates using a range; a point estimate is used here for data visualization purposes; additionally, the gradient shading between the population reached (green bars) and the remaining population in need (grey bars) is intended to reflect the inherent uncertainty in establishing if those most in need were reached with assistance.

    Source: FEWS NET with WFP distribution data

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    In February, typically the start of the post-harvest period, evidence suggests an atypical deterioration in household food consumption, particularly in northern and eastern parts of the country. This is driven by protracted negative impacts of intercommunal conflict and flooding, high returnee burden from Sudan and Ethiopia, prolonged dry spells leading to localized poor harvests, persistent economic crisis, very poor purchasing power, and intermittent conflict-related disruptions to trade and food assistance delivery. As a result, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are present in 17 counties, mostly in Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile, with a few in Greater Equatoria. Food assistance has mitigated the severity of acute food insecurity to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes in Awerial, Maban, Malakal, Nyirol, Pariang, and Rubkona. 

    FEWS NET’s recent rapid food security assessments in January indicates that conditions have remained severe in Pibor of Greater Administrative Area (GPAA) and Duk of Jonglei, with high proportions expected to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and some households likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) given disruptions to ongoing humanitarian assistance. Some returnees, particularly those stuck in transit, are also likely facing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) given lack of assets, severely limited coping capacity, and high dependence on assistance. In Pibor, some households are likely facing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes, especially households in remote, insecure, and inaccessible areas of Lokoramach and Thorothoch of Lekuangole Payam, Vuveth of Gumuruk Payam, and Maruwo of Verteth Payam, that are receiving limited to no food assistance, have limited livestock assets, and are reliant on wild foods and hunting. In parts of Duk County, particularly flood- and conflict-affected areas in Ageer and Payuel payams, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to be widespread with some population likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), due to the lingering flood/conflict impacts on household ability to produce or access food, coupled with the recurrent cattle raids, waterlogged roads, and disruptions to assistance delivery. Other counties of central Jonglei, namely Nyirol, Uror, and Akobo, also remain of high concern with many households likely facing large food consumption gap given elevated insecurity and cattle raiding that is interfering with livelihood activities and food assistance deliveries; Nyirol is also experiencing a high returnee burden.

    In northern bordering counties and eastern Upper Nile, the heavy influx of returnees and refugees, poor health and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) conditions, sporadic violent clashes, and rising insecurity are contributing to worsening nutrition outcomes and large to extreme food consumption gaps. Counties of highest concern include those hosting high proportions of returnees and suffering from protracted years of asset and livelihood erosion, including Renk, Rubkona, Aweil East, and Luakpiny/Nasir. While large scale assistance in recent months is expected to have mitigated the severity of food consumption gaps in Rubkona in the current period, it remains of high concern given the persistent floodwater inundation that severely constrains livelihood activities and perpetuates a heavy dependence on this assistance and on wild foods. In addition, the implementation of restrictions on wild food consumption by local authorities, intended to regulate and ensure equitable access and prevent overharvesting, is nonetheless indicative of the ongoing and very high levels of dependence on wild foods as a primary coping strategy. Newly arrived returnee and refugee households in Rubkona and other areas of transit and destination are expected to continue to face large to extreme food consumption gaps.


    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal calendar for a typical year in South Sudan

    Source: FEWS NET

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario from February to September 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Conflict: Amid slow implementation of the 2018 September peace deal and volatile relations between the involved parties, election-related tensions are likely to fuel an increase in sporadic political violence through September 2024, which could intermittently affect economic activity and households’ livelihoods. The deteriorating macroeconomic conditions are likely to fuel additional violence and criminal activities. Warrap, Abyei AA, central-northern Unity, northern-central Jonglei, Pibor of GPAA, and parts of Central and Eastern Equatoria will remain conflict and insecurity hotspots through the projection period. 
    • Due to ongoing conflict in Sudan, there is a high likelihood for an increase in the activity of armed Misseriya militia along the Sudan border with northern Bahr el Ghazal region, causing insecurity and disrupting trade flows and movement of people across the border in Aweil North and Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Additionally, the heightened presence of nomads in parts of Northern Bahr el Ghazal is likely to fuel tensions over grazing resources. 
    • In the northern Jonglei-Upper Nile border region, clashes between Nuer and Shilluk communities are likely to increase through September 2024, driven by increasing South Sudanese returnees, continued presence of Nuer White Army members around Tonga in Panyikang county, and tensions amid preparations for the 2024 elections. Sporadic outbreaks of intercommunal violence are expected to periodically disrupt trade flows and the delivery of food assistance.
    • In north central Jonglei and Pibor County of GPAA areas, retaliatory intercommunal violence, cattle raiding, road ambushes, and abductions are expected to continue, particularly given recent attacks between Murle, Lou Nuer, and Dinka Bor. The potential for an increase in conflict incidences through the projection period is high, and likely to intermittently disrupt assistance delivery, trade flows, and access to wild foods. 
    • In Abyei, Warrap, Lakes, and Unity, particularly with historic disputes over resources, levels of violence and cattle raiding are expected to remain at elevated intensity through May 2024 as livestock migrate to the dry season grazing areas. Tensions are likely to continue through September 2024 as the Sudan conflict exacerbates local conflict. 
    • In Greater Equatoria, violent activity by cattle ranchers is expected to continue through September 2024, disrupting food security and livelihoods. In Kapoeta South in Eastern Equatoria, cattle raiding by Turkana herders from Kenya is likely to persist at current levels through May 2024. Armed clashes and cattle raiding among the Pari, Lopit, and Tennet communities are also expected to continue in coming months. Poor macroeconomic conditions and rising living costs, particularly in Eastern Equatoria, are likely to increase banditry and road ambushes during this period.
    • South Sudanese returnees and refugees: The daily flows from Sudan will likely continue at similar levels through the projection period, with spikes expected following anticipated expansion of fighting in heavily populated areas in central and southeast Sudan. The increased flows will likely drive high returnee burden and assistance needs within Upper Nile (in Renk and Malakal), Unity (in Rubkona), and parts of Central Equatoria, as they return to their places of origin. Returnee flows from Ethiopia are likely to be low following resumption of assistance in Gambella. The spontaneous return of South Sudanese refugees from Uganda and the DRC is expected to continue during the projection period due to the harsh living conditions and cuts in rations in refugee camps and settlements in neighboring countries, although likely at lower levels given fears of election-related tensions and violence in South Sudan. 
    • Internal displacement: Displacement is expected to increase given the anticipated election-related tensions, intercommunal conflict, cattle-raiding events, and high probability of flood-induced displacements from La Niña-driven above-average rainfall during the main rainy season from June to September. These new or secondary displacements will reduce household ability to engage in livelihood activities, limit access to income and food sources, and drive high assistance needs.
    • Rainfall: Based on the ensemble forecasts, the March to May 2024 first season rains in bimodal South Sudan, and the start of the June to September rainy season in unimodal parts of the country, are both likely to be above average. 
    • Flooding: There is an increased likelihood of severe flooding in the main rainy season (June to September) based on multiple factors including current persistent flood extents, river levels that are projected to remain above-normal over the coming months, and the forecast of above-average rainfall. Extensive flooding will cause additional displacement and disrupt households’ livelihoods, trade flows, and assistance delivery. 
    • Trade: Trade flow with Sudan will remain significantly disrupted, driving low market supply and high commodity prices in northern states. Trade flows from Uganda via Nimule and Kaya/Vura border crossing points are expected to continue at current high levels through May before declining alongside stocks depletion in Uganda from June. Due to good regional maize production, maize imports into South Sudan are expected to be higher. However, any downward pressure on prices from higher supply will be tempered by the rising costs of transport and customs payments. 
    • Macroeconomy: Given the current poor macroeconomic situation, overall conditions will likely deteriorate further, particularly given reduced oil production and export coupled with poor management of both oil and non-revenues. This will drive low availability and access to hard currency, continued local currency depreciation against the USD, and further increases in commodity prices, high cost of living, and limited ability to purchase food.
    • Staple food prices: The price of a malwa (3.5 kg/SSP) of white sorghum (feterita) is expected to vary based on levels of market integration and supply across the key reference markets of Aweil Centre, Wau, Juba, and Bor South. Highest prices (3,140-4,930 SSP/malwa) are likely in Bor South and the lowest (2100-2,920 SSP/malwa) in Aweil Centre. The retail price is likely to trend 30 percent higher than last year during February-April post-harvest period to similar level in 2023 during May-July period, but 100 to 184 percent above the five-year average in Aweil, Wau, Juba and Bor South due to continued SSP depreciation, trade disruption with Sudan, and high fuel and supply costs. The price per malwa is projected to rise with stock depletion, low import supply, and high market dependency, ranging from 2,100 to 4,447 SSP during the February to May 2024 projection period. Prices are expected to increase further as the lean season progresses during June to September, ranging from 2,460 to 4,930 SSP across the reference markets.
    • Livestock: The above-average pasture and water availability will sustain good to fair animal body conditions and delay livestock migrations in some parts of the country through March, facilitating better-than-normal access to livestock products for households with access to livestock. However, in some localized areas, such as in semi-pastoral areas of Pibor and Greater Kapoeta, where available surface water may more rapidly evaporate, rangeland conditions will deteriorate earlier, leading to poorer livestock body conditions and atypically early livestock movement to grazing areas near the Ethiopian border. Once the rains restart in June, livestock will return to their homesteads and improve household access to livestock products. 
    • Crop production: Land preparation activities for the first season 2024 agricultural production will commence on-time given the forecast for timely and above-average March to May rainfall. While many of the new arrivals from Sudan and Ethiopia will lack access to land, productive assets, and agricultural inputs to participate in crop production, their influx combined with the relative calm in some areas of the bimodal zone will nonetheless likely contribute to a rising number of households planting in 2024. As a result, the first season planting and harvest from the bimodal rainfall greater Equatoria in 2024 will be similar to or slightly above 2023 levels. 
    • Preparations for the main season crop production in the unimodal Greater Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal areas will likely begin on-time, but land preparations activities will be impacted by flooding given persistent inundation and expectations of La Niña-driven above-average rainfall in unimodal areas, disruptions to the agricultural input supply chain from Sudan (particularly important in parts of Upper Nile), as well as armed clashes and insecurity in some  localized areas (such as Twic County, Abyei AA, and Duk). As a result, area under planting in unimodal areas is expected to be lower than in 2023.
    • Fish and wild foods: The overall availability of fish and wild foods will decline from February towards March/April, though remaining slightly higher than typical given the above-average rainfall at the end of the 2023, which has likely facilitated fish breeding and propagation of wild foods such as water lilies. However, the risk of over-harvesting due to heavy reliance on wild foods in some locations such as Rubkona may lead to atypically early declines. Additionally, fishing and wild food gathering will remain dangerous to some households, especially in Rubkona of Unity, due to snake bites and threats to personal safety. In other locations, such as Twic of Warrap, Abyei AA, Pibor County of GPAA, and Duk of Jonglei, insecurity and threat of revenge killings will impact this activity. As such, overall household access to fish and wild foods will be near- to below-normal at least through April/May, before increasing with the main rainy season from June to September. 
    • Disease outbreaks:  Areas receiving high inflows of new arrivals or already hosting high numbers of returnees, such Rubkona and Renk, are likely to see periodic outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and measles due to the associated congestion and low- or poor-quality WASH services. Disease outbreaks may further drive a high prevalence of acute malnutrition amongst under-five children and increased risks for child mortalities. Disease outbreaks may be further worsened by the forecasted La Niña-driven above-average rainfall June through September and the elevated risk of extensive flooding in South Sudan.
    • Humanitarian food assistance: According to updated WFP operational plans, distribution is expected to gradually scale-up from February through the peak lean season months, reaching approximately 3.0 million beneficiaries per month in-kind and cash-based food assistance under GFD and FFA programs at the peak (July/August), before winding down in September 2024. However, delivery will periodically be disrupted by conflict and insecurity and seasonal floods during the main rainy season from June to September, in line with past trends. Given continued funding constraints, WFP will prioritize the delivery of food assistance during the 2024 lean season to areas classified in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse and areas hosting a high influx of South Sudanese returnees. Food assistance needs will likely rise further as more returnees and refugees arrive to South Sudan during the projection period, putting additional pressure on available funds, despite additional provisions from some sources such as the United Nation’s ERC, which has allocated $10 million from the CERF to support people from Sudan fleeing to South Sudan. Given the large scale of needs, the government of South Sudan is also seeking for 1.8 billion USD to support returnees and refugees.

    Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes

    Food security conditions are expected to deteriorate further from February through May 2024 due to the atypical depletion of own-produced food stocks, seasonal declines in the availability of wild foods, fish, and livestock products, limited income-earning opportunities, and high rising staple food prices amid the deteriorating macroeconomic conditions. Additionally, the rising returnee burden, disruption to cross-border trade with Sudan, conflict, and insecurity will continue to aggravate conditions, particularly in parts of Unity, Warrap, Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Lakes. As such, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to expand from 17 to 26 counties, mostly in Jonglei, Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, parts of Unity, Upper Nile, and Eastern Equatoria states. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are expected to continue in Pibor County in GPAA and Duk county of Jonglei, as well as among returnee and refugee households, including those in transit and arriving in areas such as Rubkona of Unity, Renk of Upper Nile, and Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, who have limited social connections and minimal to no assets. Significant amounts of humanitarian food assistance is planned in 25 counties through May, though FEWS NET assesses that it will only be sufficient to mitigate Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes or worse in 17 counties, mainly in Koch, Leer, Mayendit, Panyijiar, and Pariang of Unity; Longochuk, Luakpiny/Nasir, Maban, Maiwut, and Ulang of Upper Nile; Abyei of Warrap; Rumbek North of Lakes; and Kapoeta North of Eastern Equatoria.

    During the peak of the lean season (June through September), Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will be widespread in 34 counties, mainly in parts of Jonglei, Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, parts of Unity, Upper Nile, and Eastern Equatoria states, due to complete depletion of food stocks, high staple food prices linked to deteriorating economic conditions, low income earning opportunities, high returnee burden, and anticipated flood- and conflict-related disruptions to humanitarian assistance, trade flows, markets, and livelihood activities. WFP lean season response plans and food assistance through September 2024 are expected to mitigate the severity of acute food insecurity in only nine of the 24 counties receiving significant assistance, leading to the Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes mainly in Longochuk, Luakpiny/Nasir, Maban, Maiwut and Ulang of Upper Nile; Nyirol and Uror of Jonglei; Pariang of Unity; and Abyei of Warrap. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are expected to persist through the peak of the lean season in Pibor County of GPAA and Duk county of Jonglei, as well as among returnee households with limited social connections and minimal to no assets, despite assistance plans due to expected disruptions amid likely conflict and rainfall shocks. These returnee households are likely to be concentrated in transit sites and in parts of Rubkona of Unity, Renk of Upper Nile, and Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Given the high proportion of populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in some of the counties of concern, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) may emerge at the peak of lean season in additional areas as above-normal rainfall and severe flooding, as well as conflict, may disrupt household access to food and income sources, leading to some households facing extreme food consumption gaps. 

    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
    NationalElection-related tensions and violence leading to a complete breakdown of the September 2018 peace implementationGiven the volatile security context and significant challenges in preparing for the December 2024 elections (including funding and the lack of a permanent constitution, combined with undefined geographic boundaries for various constituencies), it is possible that political tensions and violence could escalate or expand, leading to more incidences of sporadic violence than currently anticipated in the most likely scenario. While the number and intensity of conflict events would vary between counties, a sharper uptick in violence would displace additional populations and lead to further disruptions of livelihood activities, trade and market functioning, and humanitarian access; the proportion of the South Sudan population facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would expand, with small amounts of households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) likely to emerge.
    A more extreme deterioration in macroeconomic conditions, including further reduction in oil production and export, depreciation of the SSP, increase in prices of both food and non-food commodities amid persistent low income-earning opportunitiesA more extreme deterioration in macroeconomic conditions would be characterized by further sustained drop in oil revenue, even more rapid depreciation in SSP, steep escalation of staple food prices amidst already low-income earning opportunities, and would cause further serious decline in purchasing power, significant limiting many households’ ability to purchase adequate amounts of food. This would lead to an increase in the proportion of the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. A more severe deterioration or expansion in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) would likely be mitigated by availability of other sources of food and income.
    North-central Unity and parts of Upper NileConflict occurs in conjunction with severe flooding in areas with high returnee burdenIf conflict occurs in conjunction with flooding at levels sufficient to isolate households from assistance and restrict household ability to migrate in search of food and income for a prolonged time, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would become more widespread, and Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur. Of particular concern are overcrowded areas with high numbers or returnees who lack assets, are unfamiliar with gathering and consumption of wild foods (a key coping strategy in these areas) and are already subject to high levels of food insecurity, disease, and acute malnutrition due to poor conditions in transit centers
    Aweil North and Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal; Renk of Upper Nile; and Rubkona and Pariang of Unity

    Humanitarian funding mobilized beyond what is planned and likely

     

     

    Increased funding of humanitarian operations would enable humanitarian partners to scale-up provision of assistance in all areas of concern and address the needs of both host and returnee communities, including areas under Crisis (IPC Phase 3). This would improve food security outcomes in all areas of concern from February through September 2024, causing some populations to shift into lower food insecurity classifications to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!). However, the potential for improvement from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) would be contingent on humanitarian access, the number of people reached, the timing of assistance delivery, the ration size, and whether targeting is effective enough to reach those most in need.
    Reduction in the level of conflict or a peaceful resolution to the Sudan conflictIn the event that the conflict intensity in Sudan significantly declines, an effective ceasefire is reached allowing at minimum unfettered humanitarian access within Sudan, or a peaceful resolution between the warring parties is achieved, the rate of influx of returnees and refugees to areas of concern would reduce significantly, and cross-border trade activities would also recover. This would revive economic activities in northern counties, improve import flows from Sudan (although likely to still be limited by below-average production in Sudan), and stabilize prices for staple and non-food items. Improved access to food and income opportunities would mitigate the severity and scale of acute food security leading to a lower proportion of the population facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes.
    Pibor County in GPAA; Nyirol, Duk and Uror of JongleiAn increase in the frequency and scale of conflict between groups, including Murle, Dinka, and Lou Nuer communities, beyond what is already expected. An increase in the frequency and scale of conflict between rival groups would lead to significant disruptions in livelihoods activities, trade, markets, and the delivery of humanitarian assistance, leading to some households being cut-off from accessing food and income. Many households would face large to extreme food consumption gaps. However, it is unlikely that levels of conflict between the groups would escalate to the point of isolating communities for prolonged periods. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would likely be sustained in Duk, Nyirol, Uror, and Pibor, but with higher proportions of households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) than currently projected in Pibor and Duk.

    Areas of Concern

    Many areas of South Sudan are expected to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes during the October 2023 to May 2024 outlook period. While there are numerous areas of high concern in South Sudan, FEWS NET has selected one selection of counties where there is a high burden of returnee populations to illustrate the drivers leading to the classification of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) with households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). 

    Rubkona of Unity in northwestern Nile Basin cattle and maize livelihood zone (LHZ SS09); Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal in Northwestern flood plain sorghum and cattle zone (LHZ SS07); Renk of Upper Nile in Northern sorghum and cattle livelihood zone (SS11) and Luakpiny/Nasir in Northeastern maize, cattle, and fishing livelihood zone (SS10) (Figure 9).

    Figure 9

    Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal; Rubkona of Unity; Nasir and Renk of Upper Nile
    This is a reference map for the areas of concern Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal; Rubkona of Unity; Nasir and Renk of Upper Nile

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    Returnee/refugee burden: The continued influx of thousands of South Sudanese returnees and refugees are a primary driver of elevated humanitarian needs during the post-harvest period. A large proportion of the returnees and refugees fleeing from Sudan are located in Renk of Upper Nile, Rubkona of Unity, and Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, while a large proportion of the returnees that left Gambella between August and December 2023 are returning to Laukpiny/Nasir. According to OCHA’s situation report as of  January 2024, about 43,000 refugees and 58,000 returnees, are currently hosted in Renk. A FEWS NET rapid assessment in late January 2024 confirmed with regional authorities that 28,879 returnees are present in Rubkona. This influx is on top of an estimated 200,000 protracted flood-displaced persons living in the area since past years of severe flooding. UNHCR and IOM estimated that Luakpiny/Nasir had received about 51,730 South Sudanese returnees, about half of the estimated returnees that left Gambella due to insecurity and the pause of assistance in refugee camps.    

    The large influx of South Sudanese returnees (both from Sudan and Ethiopia) into the areas of concern is placing significant pressure on already limited resources and over-strained services in host communities, as most of these arrivals have little to no assets and are heavily dependent on host households for food and income. An assessment conducted by REACH in Rubkona in December 2023 found that the high returnee burden has contributed to early depletion of food stocks and adoption of atypical and severe coping strategies (risky migration, continued liquidation of assets, heavy dependence on wild foods) among returnee and host communities due to extremely limited livelihood opportunities. The FEWS NET rapid assessment in Rubkona confirmed the persistence of severe acute food insecurity among returnees and protracted displaced persons who missed assistance deliveries due to a lack of or loss of ration cards and were relying heavily on water lilies and fish for income and food. Field assessments conducted in Luakpiny/Nasir by MedAir in late November reported similarly worsening conditions in returnee households and the heavy burden exerted on host communities. In Renk, the situation remains precarious and unpredictable given the surging number of new arrivals from the recent intense fighting between the Sudanese army and Rapid Support force in White Nile State, close to the South Sudan border, and severe overcrowding in reception and transit areas. Combined with limited access to basic health and nutrition services and overall very poor living conditions, levels of morbidity and malnutrition are high. In addition, high levels of criminality are being exacerbated by the influx of people from the Sudan conflict.

    Protracted impact of conflict and flood shocks: Some of these areas have been subject to consecutive years of conflict and/or flood shocks. The protracted impacts of these shocks have decimated households’ productive assets, undermined traditional livelihoods, and eroded coping capacity. Rubkona of Unity in particular has experienced the highest impact of both conflict and flood shocks. Hundreds and thousands of households have been displaced from across Unity to Rubkona and are still encamped in displacement sites living in very poor conditions. The persistence of high residual floodwaters in Rubkona continues to restrict households’ movement, trade flows, and delivery of humanitarian assistance in some affected areas. Moreover, the flooding has compounded poor hygiene and sanitation conditions with the arrival of thousands of newly displaced people, contributed to the high prevalence of human disease in the displacement camp, and further aggravating the already severe acute malnutrition and food security situations in this area. Although FEWS NET’s rapid assessment in Rubkona in January found floodwaters have receded and are facilitating household and humanitarian movement in some parts of Rubkona, particularly in Budang, Kaljak of Nhial diu of Rubkona Payam, and Rotriak and Panakuach Boma, some areas including Wathjak, Ngop, Panhiang, Dhorbor, and parts of Dingding Payams are still inundated, limiting household engagement in livelihood activities and sustaining dependency on food assistance dependence. This is further aggravated by continued tension and sporadic clashes, most recently between the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) in Barkuol Ngol of Rubkona in late January 2024 that displaced civilians and disrupted humanitarian assistance deliveries, trade flows, and market activities. 

    Household food stocks: Own production, which was once an important source of both food and income for households in all areas of concern, has been deeply undermined by years of conflict and flooding. Many households in all areas have low production that often depletes within a few months. However, with the added burden on households to share with returnees, stocks deplete even earlier, as corroborated by FEWS NET and REACH assessments in January and February 2023. In Renk, key informants report that as of February some host households are still consuming their own produce, while both returnees and refugees are relying on market purchases for food while being supported via cash distributions from WFP and other agencies while awaiting onward transport from Renk. In Rubkona, recent field assessment conducted by FEWS NET in late January 2024 confirmed crop production was limited to highland areas of Barkuor boma due to high floodwaters, and most of the maize was consumed pre-maturely as green during peak hunger period in August/October. As such there is no carry-over stock from 2023 production season. Meanwhile in Aweil East preliminary findings from rapid assessment conducted by FEWS NET in early February 2024 also confirmed production was low to due dry spells, pests and disease and depleted in many households as early as in December 2023 and January 2024. 

    Livestock production: In all areas of concern, livestock is traditionally the second most important source of food and income and a crucial means of meeting the consumption deficit during the lean period when own stocks are depleted. However, as with crop production, consecutive years of conflict, cattle raiding, and/or flooding have eroded this asset, although the extent varies considerably across counties. In Aweil East and Nasir, livestock ownership remains higher and more stable than in Renk and Rubkona, preserving relatively better access to this important source of income and food. In Rubkona, where ownership rates are particularly low, recent findings from a FEWS NET focus group discussion found that nearly 60 percent of the households had lost their livestock during the 2020 floods and have not been able to restock.  

    For those who do own livestock, available field and satellite-based monitoring information indicates livestock and rangeland conditions are generally ranging from fair (Renk, Nasir, Rubkona) to poor (Aweil East). Field reports confirm livestock herds are currently in dry season grazing areas in Renk, Aweil East, and Rubkona due to poor availability of pasture in the homestead. In Nasir, livestock are reportedly grazing in toic (grasslands) along the Sobat River. The seasonal migration of livestock to dry season grazing areas is likely limiting household access to milk and other livestock products. 

    Wild foods: Access to wild foods is limited as of late January and early February in Rubkona (due to floodwaters) and Aweil East (insecurity). In Renk and Nasir, key informants report a relatively calm security environment that is permitting household access to wild gathering and fishing that is complementing household food and income sources. In Rubkona, FEWS NET observed relatively high availability of fish and water lily but also high dependence among poor households and returnees. As a result, the local authority had commenced regulating access to wild food collection to avoid over-exploitation and to ensure every household has access. In Nasir, key informants indicate that there is adequate access to both wild gathering and fishing, but the high dependency on these food sources is likely to lead to over-exploitation and depletion. The field report further indicates lack of fishing gear and canoes are constraining households’ adequate access to fish in Nasir and Rubkona. FEWS NET’s February 2024 assessment in Aweil East also found returnees and IDPs are engaging in sale of forest products including grasses, local poles, firewood, charcoal, and engaging in petty business to earn some income.

    Markets and trade: Market purchases play a significant role in filling the cereal deficit in all areas of concern. According to field monitoring information, domestic trade flows are occurring along the Renk-Melut, Maban-Renk-Malakal; Juba-Rumbek-Wau-Aweil; Juba-Rumbek-Wau–Kuajok-Rubkona via Mayom; and the Juba-Bor-Adok-Manga of Rubkona via Nile River trade routes. In addition, key markets in the area are reportedly functional and have local supplies (sorghum, fish) available with a few imported commodities. However, retail prices remain very high given the trade disruptions with Sudan, high transport costs domestically (driven by high fuel costs, illegal checkpoints along routes, and SSP deterioration), poor feeder roads, persistent insecurity, and/or floodwaters along the trade routes.

    Available sorghum market price data for January 2024 shows the retail price of a malwa (3.5kgs) of white sorghum remained similar to prices observed in December 2023 in Renk market, due to availability of local supply. The retail price of a malwa of red sorghum in Rubkona in January 2024 was 50 percent and 14.3 percent lower than observed in December and January 2023, respectively, due to availability of food aid and increased market supply linked to improvement in feeder road conditions that permit trade flow to Rubkona. In Aweil East, the retail price of red sorghum was 19.5 percent lower than observed in December 2023, but 12.3 percent higher than the same month last year, due to high market dependence linked to the presence of returnees and refugees in the county. Key informants report that in Nasir the cost of 50 kgs of sorghum has doubled in one month (between December 2023 to January 2024). The persistently high staple food prices and low household purchasing power linked to poor macroeconomic conditions are limiting adequate access to purchase market food in all areas. 

    Humanitarian food assistance: Humanitarian assistance is a crucial source of food for many households in all areas of concern given the significant erosion of household assets and coping capacities, high staple food prices, and the negative impacts of floods and/or conflict on households’ ability to produce their own food. WFP distribution reports for the November 2023 to January 2024 period shows humanitarian food assistance (HFA) taken as a three-month average was only significant in Rubkona, reaching 47 percent of the county population monthly with 37 percent of kilocalorie needs. While reach is high in Renk given the large numbers of returnees, it is provided in a mix of hot meals, fortified biscuits, and cash distributions, and thus is not meeting kilocalorie thresholds. FEWS NET found that WFP also distributed food assistance to about 175,769 internally displaced persons in Nhaldiu, Dingding, Rubkona town, Bentiu town and PoC, and 26,556 returnees during the November to December 2023 period. In Renk, OCHA reports that 55,000 people received food assistance and about 5,000 people were treated for moderate acute malnutrition. In Nasir, key informant reports cash assistance was provided by World Vision to 1,400 households in Kuetrenge, Nasir town, Jikmir, and Maker Payams. In Aweil East, a FEWS NET assessment in early February 2024 found food assistance had not been provided to vulnerable households since July 2023, but GFD was expected to start in February 2024. 

    Current food security outcomes 

    Most of these areas of concern remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in February 2024 except in Rubkona where the large scale-up of assistance since November is expected to have mitigated Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) and some of the Emergency (IPC Phase 4), with the area currently assessed in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!). Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are being driven by the continued influx of South Sudanese returnees, atypical stock depletion, high staple food prices, limited purchasing power, significant productive asset erosion, and limited household ability to engage in productive livelihoods. 

    Assumptions

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

    • Given the increasing presence of Arab nomads in Aweil East and Rubkona, and continued activities of South Sudan rebels led by General Stephen Buay in northern Unity and armed Misseriya militia along the Sudan-Darfur-Northern Bahr el Ghazal border region, acts of lawlessness and insecurity are likely to persist in Aweil East and Northern Rubkona. These will restrict household movement and disrupt both humanitarian deliveries and trade flows in these areas during the projection period. 
    • Owing to prolonged impacts of conflict and floods in all areas and the poor macroeconomic conditions characterized by low domestic investments, income-earning opportunities are likely to remain very limited in all areas of concern. This is likely to be worsened by ongoing conflict in Sudan as this further limits an opportunity for seasonal migrant labor; high competition for available labor opportunities will likely drive low daily wage rates amid rising cost of living in all areas of concern throughout the projection period.
    • Trade flows to all areas of concern from Juba through Nile River, and land and other supply areas, including Uganda and Ethiopia, are expected to continue with less interruption through May but are likely to remain limited with Sudan due to ongoing conflict and insecurity in the border region. The overall level of market supply is likely to be low in all areas of concern due to high supply costs linked to insecurity and high taxes along the trade routes. As a result, staple food prices are expected to increase and be higher than last year throughout the projection period and limit food access in all markets in areas of concern due to high market dependency linked to the presence of high inflows of South Sudanese returnees and refugees. 
    • Based on WFP updated operational plans shared in December 2023, food assistance distribution is expected to gradually scale-up from February through the peak of the lean season in August/September, and reach 45 and 69 percent of county populations in Aweil East and Rubkona, respectively, during the February to May 2024 period, and scale-down to 32 and 62 percent during the June to September 2024 period, covering 70 percent of kilocalorie needs. In Nasir, WFP planned to reach 25 percent of county population during the February to May and June to September period, covering 50 percent of the kilocalorie needs. There is no plan for the host population in Renk as part of the lean season response during projection periods, however, over 80 percent of arrivals from the Sudan crisis come through Joda, and it remains the primary site for the Sudan crisis response. This is expected to continue though increasingly strained by a sustained high rate of arrivals. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Food consumption is likely to deteriorate in all areas of concern from February through May (post-harvest and the typical start to the lean season) due to atypical depletion of household stocks, high and rising staple food prices, and below-average household access to income and food. As such, many households in all areas are likely to experience large food consumption gaps indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. However, during this period, significant humanitarian food assistance with 21 days’ ration in Rubkona and Aweil East, in addition to some availability of fish and wild foods, are expected to mitigate extreme deterioration among households and sustain Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in Rubkona and Aweil East. In Renk and Nasir, high numbers of returnees will blunt the effect of planned humanitarian food assistance and drive Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes with some returnee households likely to face extreme consumption gaps, reflective of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) among returnee populations, many of whom are likely located in Renk, Rubkona, and Aweil East. 

    During the June through September 2024 lean season, household food consumption will further deteriorate in all areas of concern due to below-average access to food and income sources combined with complete household stock exhaustion and high staple food prices amid low purchasing power. Although availability of wild foods and milk are likely to mitigate consumption deficits, large food consumption gaps, reflective of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in all areas. Some households will likely be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), particularly among returnee populations across these areas of concern given lack of assets such as livestock and limited access to humanitarian assistance and wild gathering. In Rubkona, a significant planned HFA with 21 days’ ration is expected to mitigate the severity but Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will remain high among ongoing influx of new returnees. Moreover, FEWS NET has determined that arisk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) exists in the upcoming lean season (between June and September 2024) in parts of north-central Unity and Upper Nile, driven by the increased likelihood of above-average rainfall under the forecasted La Niña conditions during the main rainy season and the potential for severe flooding in these persistently inundation parts of the Sudd wetlands. While it is not FEWS NET’s most likely scenario, if severe flooding occurs in conjunction with periods of intense conflict and impedes household mobility and access to humanitarian assistance for a prolonged period, particularly in areas with high burden of returnees unfamiliar with traditional coping mechanisms and already experiencing Critical levels of acute malnutrition, then Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur. 


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

    Each of these maps adheres to IPC v3.1 humanitarian assistance mapping protocols and flags where significant levels of humanitarian assistance are being/are expected to be provided.  indicates that at least 25 percent of households receive on average 25–50 percent of caloric needs from humanitarian food assistance (HFA).  indicates that at least 25 percent of households receive on average over 50 percent of caloric needs through HFA. This mapping protocol differs from the (!) protocol used in the maps at the top of the report. The use of (!) indicates areas that would likely be at least one phase worse in the absence of current or programmed humanitarian assistance.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. South Sudan Food Security Outlook February - September 2024: Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) likely at the peak of the lean season, 2024.

    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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