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Emergency (IPC Phase 4) persists in Greater Upper Nile, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) increases in western areas

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • July - December 2015
Emergency (IPC Phase 4) persists in Greater Upper Nile, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) increases in western areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Preface
  • National Overview

  • Preface

    FEWS NET produces forward-looking food security analysis and IPC compatible mapping several times a year for 36 countries, including South Sudan. FEWS NET is a member of South Sudan’s multi-stakeholder IPC Technical Working Group and an active participant in national IPC analysis workshops in South Sudan. The map and classifications in this report use IPC standards and methods, but do not necessarily reflect a consensus view of the national IPC Technical Working Group, IPC partners or the Government of the Republic of South Sudan. The next national IPC analysis will convene in mid-September 2015.

    Key Messages
    • Acute food insecurity in South Sudan peaked in June and July. The combination of conflict, macroeconomic pressures, and market shocks contributed to the decline in access to food and income compared to typical lean season levels. Security constraints have restricted humanitarian assistance to many areas of Unity and Upper Nile states in recent months, further limiting food access in worst-off areas. 

    • Findings from two representative household surveys conducted by FEWS NET in Mayendit (Unity) and Ayod (Jonglei) counties in late April/early May reflected Emergency (IPC Phase 4) among significant portions of the population with some households likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Further deterioration of food security conditions, ongoing prevention of humanitarian assistance delivery to many areas, in addition to anecdotal evidence from areas worst-affected by conflict, suggest the number of households experiencing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) likely increased between May and July. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) remains widespread in Greater Upper Nile (GUN).

    • Record-high prices in key markets across the country continue to impact food access. Compared to last year, sorghum prices increased by 66 and 82 percent in Juba and Torit, respectively, and have more than doubled in Wau and Aweil. Maize prices doubled in Juba and are more than twice their respective 2014 levels in Wau. The dramatic spikes in staple food prices, together with expanding conflict continues to drive increased acute food insecurity outside of GUN, with  several counties in Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap states currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    • As first-season harvests continue in bimodal rainfall areas of Greater Equatoria, and green harvests begin elsewhere in the country, FEWS NET expects that the size of the population requiring urgent food assistance in South Sudan will decline to 2.8 million people by late September, and to roughly two million people by late December. However, food insecurity among the worst-affected populations in the GUN will likely remain severe during this period, given expectations of limited green harvests in most areas. In addition, these improvements are likely to be short-lived due to ongoing conflict and below-average harvests in the worst-affected areas.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Food insecurity worsened across large areas of South Sudan between May and July. Although food consumption is seasonally low this time of year during the pre-harvest period, the combination of conflict, macroeconomic pressures, and market shocks have contributed to the sharp decline in access to food and income compared to typical lean season levels.

    Conflict continues to drive food insecurity, particularly in GUN, but also elsewhere in the country. High levels of civil insecurity persist in large areas of GUN, limiting movement of civilians. Humanitarian access remains restricted, particularly in Unity and Upper Nile states. Growing intra- and inter-communal violence and resource-based conflict in Lakes, Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal; and Western and Central Equatoria states is causing displacement and disrupting livelihoods.

    The size of the displaced population—within and outside South Sudan—exceeded 2 million in July following a surge in conflict in April and May. Between April and July, 173,000 people were displaced, of which nearly 60 percent fled to neighboring countries, according to OCHA and UNHCR reports. During this period, the size of the refugee population in neighboring countries increased by nearly 20 percent. As of July 22, 2015 1.6 million people are displaced internally, the vast majority (86 percent) in Unity, Jonglei, and Upper Nile states. 

    Rainfall has been near average across most of the country with between 200 and 300 millimeters (mm) of rain from June to July. During this period, deficits of between 25 and 50 mm were observed in parts of northern Unity State and localized areas of Eastern and Western Equatoria. Below-average vegetation in parts of Warrap, Unity, Jonglei, and Eastern Equatoria, as indicated by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) (Figure 1) is likely due to a combination of dry spells between May and early July, and conflict-related reductions in cropped areas compared to normal, particularly in GUN. In bimodal areas, first-season harvests have started, and second-season activities are underway. According to FAO’s July Crop Watch and field reports from FEWS NET key informants, localized dry spells in Western and Central Equatoria caused crop loss in some areas, but were not significant enough to impact overall first-season harvest performance, which is expected to be near-normal. More significant crop losses are expected in Eastern Equatoria, particularly in Kapoeta South, Torit, Budi, and Lafon counties, where rainfall performance has been poor.

    Ongoing macroeconomic instability continues to affect food and fuel trade across South Sudan, impacting food availability and access. Depreciation of the South Sudanese Pound (SSP) slowed in June and July compared to previous months. The SSP to U.S. Dollar (USD) parallel exchange rate rose by 10.6 percent in July following a slight drop in June. Since January 2015, the parallel exchange rate has increased from 6.1 SSP/USD in January to 12.2 SSP in July 2015, representing a currency depreciation of 50 percent. FEWS NET’s cross-border trade monitoring data suggests that current maize and sorghum import levels are lower than 2013/14 averages. Increasing fuel shortages, likely due to the significant decline in fuel imports in the second quarter of 2015, continue to drive price volatility in the informal market. 

    Staple food prices continue to rise atypically in many markets, and remain well above last year and the five-year average. Sorghum prices increased by 66 and 82 percent in Juba and Torit, respectively; and have increased more than twofold in Wau and Aweil compared to last year (Figure 2). Maize prices doubled in Juba and are more than double their respective 2014 levels in Torit and Wau (Figure 3). Wheat flour prices are two to three times higher than last year (Figure 4).

    Growing market pressures and price shocks have occurred at the time of year when household market dependence is highest, causing a sharp decline in access to food. Seasonally, July marks the peak of the lean season when households rely on market purchase to meet food needs. However, income earnings among poor households have declined due to reduced demand for wage labor, declining remittance transfers from urban to rural areas, and declining livestock prices.  Reduced income among poor households has weakened purchasing power and the ability of households to absorb increasing food costs. Impacts on food security are highest in Greater Bahr el Ghazal region.

    Humanitarian assistance remains limited in worst-off areas with most food aid deliveries occurring in areas with large, camp-based, IDP and refugee populations. Food aid deliveries declined significantly in Unity and Upper Nile states during the April to June period compared to January to March as a result of increased conflict and insecurity. Food assistance was considerably better in Jonglei with large distributions in Ayod, Twic East, Bor South, and Akobo, counties. Assistance to Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, and Lakes states was limited in April and May, but improved in June.

    The nutrition situation in conflict-affected areas of GUN remains critical, with levels of acute malnutrition similar to those observed in 2014 (Figure 5).  Seven of the thirteen SMART surveys carried out in GUN between April and June reported GAM prevalences above 20 percent.  In Mayom and Abiemnhom, the level of GAM was greater than 25 percent. However, levels of GAM have not exceeded 30 percent as it did in Leer, Panyijiar, and Akobo counties during the same period last year. Most of these surveys reported Crude Death Rates (CDR) below 1 per 10,000 per day.  However, in Mayom and Panyijiar, the CDR was 1.65 and 2.6 per 10,000 per day, respectively. SMART surveys conducted in Aweil Center and Aweil South counties, Northern Bahr el Ghazal; and Gogrial West County, Warrap State also found levels of GAM between 23 and 29 percent.  

    Findings from a household survey conducted by FEWS NET in Ayod County, Jonglei State in late April/early May reflect Emergency (IPC Phase 4) among significant portions of the population, with some households likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5)[1]. Food security outcomes have likely worsened in conflict-affected areas of GUN between May and July following the heavy fighting in Unity and Upper Nile states that caused large-scale displacement, prevented humanitarian assistance delivery to worst-off areas, and disrupted market activities. Large portions of the population in GUN are currently in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), mainly in southern Unity, northwestern Jonglei, and southern Upper Nile. Anecdotal evidence from areas worst-affected by conflict suggests that the number of households experiencing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) likely increased between May and July.

    Several counties in Lakes, Warrap and Northern Bahr el Ghazal are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to the combined impact of market shocks, macroeconomic pressures, and civil insecurity on access to food and income.  Poor households typically depend on market purchase for food this time of year. Although markets are functioning in these states, high prices and reduced income have limited food access to poor households. Households in the worst-affected counties in Lakes (Cueibet, Rumbek North, Rumbek East, Yirol East), Warrap (Tonj South, Tonj East, Tonj North, Gorgrial East), and Northern Bahr el Ghazal (Aweil West, Aweil South) are marginally meeting minimum food needs, but only with high levels of coping and are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).     

    National Assumptions

    From July to December, projected food security outcomes are based on the following national assumptions:  

    Conflict in GUN is expected to continue despite a new round of peace talks scheduled to begin in early August and the August 17 deadline given to the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in Opposition (SPLA-IO) to negotiate a peace deal. Conflict intensity is expected to decline in the coming months as inaccessibility increases during the flood season. Levels of violence are expected to remain below those observed in April and May. However, high levels of civil insecurity are expected to persist in Unity and Upper Nile states and parts of Northern Jonglei. The following counties are considered hot spot areas:  Malakal, Melut (Upper Nile); Leer, Guit, Rubkona (Unity); and Ayod and Duk (Jonglei). Intra- and inter-communal violence and resource-based conflict is expected to continue in localized areas of Lakes, Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, and Western and Central Equatoria states.

    Based on regional and international medium-range precipitation forecasts (GHACOF and USGS/FEWS NET), FEWS NET assumes average to above-average rains in southern parts of the country, and average to below-average rains in northern areas. Rainfall in the coming two months is expected to be average to above-average across Central and Western Equatoria, with an increased likelihood of flooding during this period. Average to below-average rains are likely in Eastern Equatoria (Kapoeta), Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Unity, and Lakes states with slightly reduced probabilities for severe floods in August and September.

    On the national level, production is expected to be average. Production deficits are expected in GUN and Lakes State due to reduced area planted, expectations of ongoing disruptions to agricultural activities related to insecurity and displacement, and poor rainfall distribution.

    Market functioning and staple food prices:

    • The parallel exchange rate is expected to rise further in the coming six months due to expectations of ongoing macroeconomic instability and continued conflict. As a result, import levels are likely to remain lower than 2013/14 averages.  
    • Staple food prices are expected to remain significantly higher than last year and the five-year average in most key markets across the country. October to December harvests are expected to improve domestic food availability and market supply levels, but other factors such as conflict-related risks, increasing transport costs, and depreciation of the SSP will likely continue to constrain staple food marketing in South Sudan.
    • Market activity will remain limited in GUN. Expectations of poor production and limited trade due to conflict and inaccessibility during the rainy season will continue to restrict market supply, keeping cereal prices high, even during the harvest period. Most households will remain unable to afford market purchase of food, and will instead increase reliance on non-market food sources.

    Food and income sources: Food and income sources will remain limited in GUN from July to September given expectations of reduced green harvests this season. Gradual improvements in food access are expected during the October to December harvest period, but will remain significantly below normal. Outside of GUN, food access is expected to improve following the start of green consumption in August and main harvests in October. Most households are expected to rely on livestock sales their main source of income through September, shifting to crop sales during the October to December harvest period.

    Livestock: Although conflict has disrupted livestock migration patterns in many areas, most households are expected to maintain access to milking cows and shoats for consumption during the entire scenario period. Livestock conditions will be normal from July to December given the availability of water and pastures.

    Humanitarian assistance: Insecurity, restrictions to humanitarian access, and poor road conditions will continue to limit humanitarian assistance delivery in worst-off areas of GUN, although food assistance to IDP and refugee camp-based populations will likely remain consistent. Access constraints are also expected to impact assistance in Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Warrap states.

    Nutrition and mortality: Levels of GAM are expected to remain above 15 percent in most counties of Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity states for the next 2 to 3 months as the ongoing conflict and rainy season continue to limit access to health and nutrition services, elevate the burden of infectious disease, and hinder the delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations.  Gradual improvements in the health and nutrition situation are expected in most counties between November and December as the rains subside, accessibility increases, and food availability improves with the start of the harvest.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    July to September 2015: Food security is expected to improve as first-season harvests become available in the bimodal areas of Greater Equatoria, and green harvesting begins in Greater Bahr el Ghazal. In GUN, green harvests, although limited, in addition to increased availability of other seasonal food sources will ease food deficits. These improvements are expected to lead to a decline in the overall size of the food insecure population to 2.8 million people, as projected by the April 2015 National IPC analysis. However, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) will persist in GUN and food insecurity is expected to be most severe in the following counties: Nasir, Ulang, Baliet, Panyikang (Upper Nile); Canal, Fangak, Duk, Ayod (Jonglei); Panyijiar, Mayendit, and Koch (Unity).  

    October to December 2015: Continued improvements in food availability and access are expected country-wide during the October to December harvest period when food security in many areas outside of GUN will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1). In Warrap, Lakes, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, many households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to the cumulative effects of market shocks, poor seasonal performance, and localized conflict. Gradual improvements in food consumption are expected in GUN, but most households will remain reliant on humanitarian assistance, wild foods, and fish for food due to limited production, and many poor and IDP households will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Although overall food security is expected to improve in South Sudan from October to December, FEWS NET estimates that roughly 2 million people will remain in Crisis (IPC Phases 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) during this period, mainly in GUN. The size of the food insecurity population is expected to rise again in 2016.

    [1] Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, or IPC, describes acute food insecurity at the household level and area level.  At the household level, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is described as: “Even with any humanitarian assistance, household group has an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even with full employment of coping strategies.”  Famine (IPC Phase 5) applies to the area level and is declared when more than 20 percent of households are classified in Catastrophe, the prevalence of GAM exceeds 30 percent, and the Crude Death Rate exceeds 2/10,000/day.


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, July, 2015

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, July, 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) anomaly from 2001-2010 mean, July 21-31, 2015

    Figure 3

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 2. Retail sorghum prices in selected markets in June 2015 compared to June 2014

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: WFP, FEWS NET

    Figure 3. Retail maize prices in selected markets in June 2015 compared to June 2014

    Figure 5

    Figure 3

    Source: WFP, FEWS NET

    Figure 4. Retail wheat flour prices in selected markets in June 2015 compared to June 2014

    Figure 6

    Figure 4

    Source: WFP, FEWS NET

    Figure 5.  Estimated  prevalence of global acute malnutrition April-June, 2015

    Figure 7

    Figure 5

    Source: FEWS NET/ South Sudan Nutrition Cluster

    Figure 8


    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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