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Impacts of conflict and flooding continue to drive Stressed and Crisis levels of food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • January - July 2013
Impacts of conflict and flooding continue to drive Stressed and Crisis levels of food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Generally, food security outcomes have improved in South Sudan since the start of the harvest in October. 2012/13 national cereal production is about 40 percent above last year and six percent above the five-year average (2007-2011). Production from the traditional sector is estimated at 761,000 metric tons (MT), and 173,000 MT of production from the mechanized sector is expected to cover 47 percent of the national cereal deficit of 371,000 MT. 

    • While the harvest has improved food security in some areas, the impacts of border tensions, cattle raiding, civil strife, and flooding continue to drive widespread Stressed and Crisis (IPC Phase 2 and 3) levels of food insecurity. Furthermore, the benefits from the good harvest will be limited, as poor infrastructure and market development hinder the transport of food from surplus to deficit areas of the country.  

    • Cattle raiding and inter-communal conflicts in parts of Jonglei, Lakes, Unity, and Warrap states have started earlier than normal, likely causing increased internal displacement as the dry season progresses. Markets and humanitarian access will be significantly disrupted by conflicts in parts of these areas.

    • Over the course of the Outlook period, the areas of most concern include parts of Jonglei, Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Warrap, Upper Nile, and Lakes states. Crisis levels of food insecurity are already present in Jonglei, Unity, and Warrap states due to the impacts of conflict, displacement, and floods on production. Food security will begin to deteriorate around March in the areas of concern. Border areas will be particularly impacted by exceptionally high food prices, restricted access to labor in Sudan, and high levels of insecurity. 

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Generally, food security outcomes have improved in South Sudan since the start of the harvest in October 2012. According to the annual Crop Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM), 2012/13 national cereal production is about 40 percent above last year and six percent above the five-year average (2007-2011), due to favorable seasonal rainfall. Production from the traditional sector is estimated at 761,000 metric tons (MT), and 173,000 MT of production from the mechanized sector is expected to cover 47 percent of the national cereal deficit of 371,000 MT.

    Production in localized areas of Jonglei, Warrap, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Upper Nile states was impacted by heavy flooding over the course of the rainy season, affecting 45,113 households. Most of those affected by the flooding are in Jonglei state.

    In Jonglei, Lakes, Unity, and Warrap states, atypically early cattle raiding and inter-communal reprisal attacks have aggravated the impact of floods. An estimated 4,000 people were displaced in Unity state in December 2012 and about 1,000 people were displaced in Tonj East and North counties of Warrap state in January. According to UN OCHA, humanitarian organizations have delivered food and non-food items to the displaced population.

    Prices of staple foods have declined as the main harvest ends in most parts of the country. Nonetheless, prices remain very high in most markets compared to the five-year average (2007-2011). According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the annual increase in the consumer price index (which is driven mostly by food prices) in December was 25.2 percent higher than last year. However, the index declined by 10.6 percent from November to December in response to the harvest.

    Tensions along the Sudan and South Sudan border have continued. Repeated aerial attacks on Kiir Adem in November and December 2012 in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state displaced over 6,000 people. Food assistance was provided to the displaced population in January 2013. Separate attacks have also taken place in Raga County (Western Bahr el Ghazal) bordering Sudan and in Upper Nile.

    Currently most areas of the country face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels of food insecurity, while areas affected by insecurity and/or the floods face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity. These areas include parts of Jonglei state and northern parts of Unity, Warrap, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states. IDPs in Pibor County of Jonglei state face Crisis levels (IPC Phase 3) due to persistent insecurity that prevents cultivation and humanitarian assistance access.


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

    • Food prices: Food prices are expected to increase significantly, particularly during the second half the scenario period, as most poor households are expected to deplete their food stocks as early as February and begin to rely on markets in March. Formal trade flows from Sudan are not expected to resume soon, and increased transaction costs from Uganda and Kenya to the northern states of South Sudan will raise prices beyond the affordability of poor households.
    • Refugees/displaced populations: An increased influx of refugees from Sudan is expected as conflict continues in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states of Sudan. The volatile security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo could also cause refugee flows into South Sudan. Displacement due to the early start to cattle raiding is expected to increase in Jonglei, Lakes, Unity, and Warrap states as the dry season progresses.  The reasons for the early start to the cattle raiding are unclear. 
    • Sudan-South Sudan border tensions: Due to tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, migratory labor – one of the main sources of income and food for poor households in the northern states – will continue to be restricted. Although border points have not officially opened, informal trade will continue between the two countries, though the volume of trade is expected to be lower than average.
    • Humanitarian assistance: Ongoing displacement, refugees, and returnees from Sudan are likely to increase demands for humanitarian assistance during the scenario period. About 1,500 returnees arrived in Abyei on January 20, the first organized voluntary return this year.  Significantly increased returnees are expected in anticipation of the forthcoming referendum scheduled for October 2013, resulting in an increased need for assistance in the coming months.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Stressed and Crisis levels will be widespread over the course of the Outlook period, mainly due to direct and indirect impacts of conflict and insecurity in several areas of the country.  Although cereal production was good in some areas of the country, poor infrastructure and market development increase the difficulty of transporting food from surplus to deficit-production areas of the country.  The main areas of concern will be Jonglei, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, Unity, Upper Nile, and Lakes states, where mostly Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity will persist during the Outlook period due to the impacts of conflict, displacement, and flooding on production and livelihoods. The lean season is expected to start one month earlier than normal (in April versus May) for poor households in the areas of concern.

    Markets will start to play a key role as a major food source in March as food stocks are depleted about one month earlier than normal, and prices are expected to increase significantly during the second half of the scenario period. In response, poor households will increase collection of wild foods and sales of grass, firewood, and charcoal for income. Distress sales of livestock are expected to increase beginning in April. Poor households will increasingly face Stressed levels of food insecurity, with Crisis levels more prevalent during the second half of the scenario period. Crisis levels will persist in areas that experienced low production and market disruptions due to insecurity, including parts of Jonglei, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, and Abyei. 

    Areas of Concern

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

    Current Situation

    2012/2013 harvest: The harvest was mixed in the Western Flood Plain livelihood zone. Yields were substantially reduced in low-lying areas where floods inundated crops. In Lakes states, uneven rainfall distribution was reported, with some dry spells and excessive flooding that resulted in reduced yields. In Aweil East county (Northern Bahr el Ghazal), and Gogrial West and Twic counties (Warrap), good yields were attained, although they will not be sufficient to meet demand until the next harvest.

    Food prices: Although well above average, food prices are at their seasonally low point. Since the border closure with Sudan, traders have turned to alternative supply chains to provide food to the northern states that traditionally relied on Sudanese imports. Despite the current stalemate in implementation modalities of the cooperation agreement signed by both countries in Addis Ababa, formal trade is not expected to resume in the near future, though informal cross border trade will continue to trickle into Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, and Warrap states.

    Displacements: Internal conflicts among cattle herders have displaced thousands in Unity, Lakes, and Warrap. Conflicts related to cattle rustling and reprisal attacks have started earlier than anticipated in Panyijiar county of Unity state, and Tonj East and North counties of Warrap state and Cueibet county of Lakes state.

    Food security outcomes: Populations affected by floods in Unity, Warrap, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Lakes states, and IDPs in the livelihood zone, are meeting minimally adequate food consumption at the expense of other essential non food expenditures. Food consumption gaps exist among IDPs displaced from recent border tensions and cattle raids, which have caused losses to household assets and disruption of livelihood activities. High prices coupled with lack of alternative income sources  limit poor households’ access to food. According to the WFP food security monitoring system, 70-80 percent of the population has reported high food prices as a major shock. Overall, the Western Flood Plain zone faces Stressed levels of food insecurity with Crisis levels of food insecurity concentrated along the northern areas bordering the Sudan, including most of the returning IDPs in Abyei.


    Market access and prices: High food prices are expected to continue during the scenario period. Households’ food stocks are expected to be depleted by February. During this time, prices will be seasonally lower though still above average. Prices will be highest during the April – June period, which coincides with the lean season.

    Conflict-related displacement: Displacement resulting from cattle raids and inter-ethnic reprisal attacks are expected during the dry season, particularly the March to May period.  Typically, cattle raids and reprisal attacks start when most livestock move to the dry season grazing areas. This year, the atypically early cattle raiding might be motivated by the high prices and reduced harvest in some areas that are impacting household-level resources and livelihood options. Increased tension along the border could also lead to population displacement along the Sudan-South Sudan border, particularly around Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal and Unity states, where tensions are high.

    Displacement in Abyei: More than 11,000 IDPs from Abyei are now located in Abyei since the voluntary return process began in June 2012. Most of the remaining IDPs are expected to return during the scenario period ahead of the forthcoming Abyei referendum scheduled to take place in October 2013. Mass movement into Abyei in a fairly short period will aggravate the current situation and increase food and non-food needs. The Messeriya nomads have also expressed intent to move into the area. Movement of the Messerya into Abyei for settlement rather than grazing is likely to create tension that will result in fresh conflict between the two communities.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Significant food consumption gaps are expected to prevail among poor households due to a decline in wage labor opportunities, the reduced harvest in flood and conflict-affected areas, high staple food prices, and persistent disruption of livelihoods due to conflict. The situation will deteriorate in March when reliance on markets increases. Given the effects of floods, conflicts and high prices, the lean season is expected to start in April instead of May. The second half of the scenario period is therefore critical as a significant proportion of poor and middle groups will experience substantial food consumption gaps.

    Continuous disruption of livelihoods and displacement of the population resulting from internal conflicts and intermittent external incursions will continue to undermine food security. Limited food diversity for poor households is also a major factor significantly affecting nutritional status of household members in the Western Flood Plains, in addition to disease and sanitation. The situation is expected to worsen during the lean season.

    Given the most likely scenario, most of the livelihood zone will continue to face Stressed levels of food insecurity while Crisis levels (IPC Phase 3) of food insecurity will persist in Abyei from January to March. During the second half of the scenario period, Stressed levels will persist in some parts while areas including Twic, Aweil North and East, Abiemnhom, Mayom, Rumbek North, Cueibet and Abyei that experienced various shocks will face Crisis levels during the second half of the scenario period.

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

    Current Situation

    The eastern flood plains livelihood zone was significantly affected by last year’s floods, with reduced yields in some areas including Longechuk, Ulang, Maiwut, Nasir and Maban counties (Upper Nile); Uror, Nyirol, Ayod, and Akobo counties (Jonglei), and Pariang County (Unity). Most of those displaced by the floods were unable to cultivate. The impact of the floods has been compounded by the persistent insecurity resulting from cattle rustling and inter-ethnic reprisal attacks, which caused displaced households to miss cultivation or abandon crops. Poor households in most areas face Stressed levels of food insecurity, while Crisis levels are present in areas heavily affected by conflict and flooding in Pibor, Uror and Nyirol.


    Fishing: Pool fishing will decrease as the flood waters recede. From January to May, fishing activity will be confined in the rivers (Sobat, Nile and Pibor), and the number of households involved in fishing increases. Although fishing is carried out mostly by poor households, all socio-economic groups are involved in years of stress. This year, all socio-economic groups are expected to engage in fishing for food and income sources because of the impacts of conflict and flooding.

    Income sources: Poor households will increase reliance on fish and sale of natural resources for income throughout the scenario period. While sale of firewood and charcoal increase during this period, grass sales reduce. Poor households, particularly those that traditionally migrate to Sudan for labor, are also expected to migrate to urban centers for construction-related labor from January to April. Sale of livestock is expected to start in March, but distressed sales will take place mostly in May and June preceding the peak of the lean season.

    Seasonal livestock migration: Livestock are expected to seasonally migrate towards better pasture and water sources by the end of January and early February, which will reduce access to milk for poor households who remain at homesteads. Favorable rainfall replenished water supply and considerably improved pasture conditions, resulting in delayed livestock movement to dry season grazing areas by at least one month. Competition over resources in the dry season is expected to trigger fierce rivalry over grazing areas given the early onset of conflict related to cattle raids and communal fighting.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Food consumption is expected to decline from February to June due to reduced income and migration of livestock to water and pasture points. Since labor opportunities are expected to decline beginning in April, income from labor will be reduced among poor households.

    Flood-affected and poor households are likely to exhaust their own food stocks in February. Market purchase, wild foods and fish will be the primary food sources. With limited income sources, households will be unable to fully meet their staple food demands resulting in a significant reduction in consumption of these foods during the lean season. Distress livestock sales will increase from April to June in order to reduce the household food consumption gap.

    Almost all the areas in the Eastern Flood Plain livelihood zone will be at Stressed levels of food insecurity during the January to March period. During April to June, food security will deteriorate and parts of Jonglei most affected by the floods and insecurity will face Crisis levels while the rest of the Upper Nile will be at Stressed levels.

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

    The total number of refugees in Unity state (Yida, Pariang, Nyeel) stands at 58,628, and 111,904 in Upper Nile (Doro, Jamman, Batil, Gendrassa) as of early January 2013. About 917 refugees arrived in Yida during the last week of December. Insecurity, lack of food, and lack of basic services are the major reasons for fleeing. Refugees report increased aerial attacks in recent weeks in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, implying that more refugees will be expected in the coming months. Currently refugees are dependent on food assistance as the main food source. New arrivals are often in dire need of assistance. With an increased influx, the food security situation in the camps is expected to deteriorate unless mitigation measures, such as contingency plans or food prepositioning, are put in place. Concentration of refugees in large numbers could trigger disease outbreaks. Increased refugee households arrived in South Sudan with livestock, which is expected to increase competition for resources among resident and refugee communities who keep livestock. For example, livestock owned by refugees in Maban County of Upper Nile now outnumber those of the resident community.

    In Maban County of Upper Nile state, food assistance maintains the food insecurity at Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels, but Crisis levels are expected over the latter part of the scenario period. Crisis levels are expected to persist throughout the scenario period in Pariang country due to increasing numbers of refugees in dire conditions. 

    Events that Might Change the Outlook



    Impact on food security outcomes

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

    Resolution of the outstanding issues in the CPA, implementation of cooperation agreement and resumption of oil flow.

    The food security situation in South Sudan will deteriorate over the scenario period. However, the situation would likely be positively impacted if the governments in Juba and Khartoum reached a deal on implementation modalities of the agreement signed in September 2012 including resumption of oil production and resolution of outstanding issues, most importantly the border demarcation and the Abyei referendum.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, January 2013

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, January 2013

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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