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Emergency (IPC Phase 4) persists as the lean season peaks

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • June 2016 - January 2017
Emergency (IPC Phase 4) persists as the lean season peaks

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Food security has significantly deteriorated in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, a cereal deficit area where most households are market-dependent. Market supplies are severely limited, contributing to extremely high staple food prices. Since January 2016, over 77,000 people have migrated to Sudan, the majority from Aweil East and Aweil North due to food shortages. A rapid food security assessment found that a small number of households have exhausted their coping strategies, are experiencing an extreme lack of food, and are likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).*

    • Poor households in parts of Unity, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Western Bahr el Ghazal States are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and face an increased risk of high levels of acute malnutrition and elevated mortality. Significant food shortages exist and market functioning remains disrupted. Food availability and access have declined significantly below what is normal for a lean season.

    • Recent conflict in Wau has disrupted livelihood activities and displaced over 60,000 people. Many displaced were forced to flee without their belongings and are likely facing extreme difficulty meeting their basic food needs. The conflict is also disrupting trade routes that pass through Wau, further reducing trade flows to Greater Bahr el Ghazal.


    Current Situation

    In April 2016, the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) was formed, eight months after the peace agreement was signed in August 2015. Since its formation, conflict has subsided considerably in most of Greater Upper Nile (GUN). No major clash between the Government of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) has been reported in Jonglei, Upper Nile, or Unity States in May or June. The relative calm has improved humanitarian access and supported slight improvements in trade flows to the region. However, increased levels of conflict have since been reported in Western Equatoria State, where insecurity along major trade routes is limiting trade flows to Greater Bahr el Ghazal. Additionally, fighting has significantly increased in Wau of Western Bahr el Ghazal State. Clashes that began on June 24 have interrupted livelihood activities and displaced households. An estimated 27,000 people have been displaced within Wau town to a Catholic Church and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). An additional 35,000-50,000 people are believed to be displaced in the Greater Baggari area. The displaced were forced to flee without their belongings and likely lack adequate access to food or water. The conflict is also disrupting Wau market, impacting trade flows to Greater Bahr el Ghazal.

    Since the conflict started in December 2013, about 1.61 million people have been internally displaced and over 721,000 have fled to neighboring countries. Relative improvements in security have encouraged some movement back to places of origin; however, food shortages and deteriorating macroeconomic conditions have also prompted movement towards Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites within Unity State and to Sudan from Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap States.

    Macroeconomic conditions in South Sudan remain very poor. The South Sudanese Government relies predominantly on revenue from oil production, but the reduced extraction of oil and low global oil prices have cut oil earnings and, consequently, the availability of foreign currency. The country currently exports approximately 160,000 barrels a day, down from 350,000 pre-crisis. There has been a slight increase in oil revenue as the global oil price rose from 31 USD per barrel in early 2016 to 48.74 USD per barrel in late-June. However, total revenue from oil exports remains low, in part because South Sudan pays Sudan 24.50 USD per barrel in transit and financial agreement fees according to the terms of agreement between the two countries. In May, South Sudan and Sudan renewed their commitment to implement the Cooperation Agreement, previously signed in September 2012. This is a preliminary step towards improving trade and relations between the two countries, although no changes to the transit and financial agreement fees have been made.

    As of June 14, the official exchange rate was 36.5 SSP/USD, whereas the rate on the unofficial market was 43.0 SSP/USD. This represents 91 percent depreciation of South Sudan’s currency on the official market and 83 percent depreciation on the unofficial market since the Government implemented a floating exchange rate policy in December 2015.

    The depreciation of the SSP and scarcity of foreign reserves are limiting the capacity of South Sudan to import staple foods and contributing to the high prices of imported commodities. Sorghum imports from Sudan and Uganda were both three times lower in the first quarter of 2016 than the same quarter in 2015. Sorghum imports from both countries also remain below pre-crisis levels. 

    In markets across the country, staple food prices remain considerably higher than both last year and the five-year average (Figures 1 and 2). Prices remain high due to reduced imports, reduced national production, the impact of the depreciating SSP, and insecurity along trade routes that restricts trade flows within the country. In Juba, the price of sorghum in May was 222 percent higher than last year and 384 percent above the five-year average. Similarly, the price of sorghum is 246 percent above last year and 461 percent above the five-year average in Wau. In Aweil, it was 151 percent above last year and 356 percent above the five-year average. Maize prices followed similar trends.

    The high price of fuel and frequent fuel shortages continue to negatively impact traders, limiting market supplies and contributing to high staple food prices. While the official fuel price has remained 22 SSP per liter, the parallel market price in Juba ranged between 80 and 100 SSP in June. A liter was slightly cheaper in Aweil town, between 35 and 40 SSP, as Northern Bahr el Ghazal receives some fuel supply from Sudan through informal trade. Fuel remains largely unavailable in the conflict-affected parts of the Greater Upper Nile: In Yida, a market in Unity State where it is available, fuel cost 120 SSP per liter.

    The protracted conflict has significantly impacted livelihoods and income-earning opportunities. Poor households and displaced populations largely lack access to typical income sources. In some areas, conflict continues to limit access to fields and markets. Households have few income-earning opportunities and staple food prices are increasing faster than livestock prices or labor wages. As a result, both the livestock-to-sorghum and labor-to-sorghum terms of trade (ToT) have deteriorated considerably, reducing household purchasing capacity. 

    Similarly, urban food security is deteriorating alongside the economic situation. Poor urban households typically rely on construction labor, the sale of natural resources, and petty trade. Currently, these income-earning opportunities are low. The sale of gravel and stones reduced by approximately 57 percent from last year, as there is reduced demand for construction amongst the poor economic climate. Similarly, the sale of firewood/charcoal is low as most households lack the income to purchase and are now engaged in the collection of firewood for personal use. When opportunities are available, wage rates are not keeping pace with food price increases. The casual labor wage rate increased by only 43 percent, from SSP 70 in June 2015 to SSP 100 currently. With significantly below-average income and rising staple food prices, urban households have reduced purchasing capacity. Many poor urban households have fewer meals per day and consume less preferred foods.

    April to June rainfall in bimodal areas started on time and has been largely above average. However, in parts of Central and Eastern Equatoria States and southern Jonglei, rainfall was slightly delayed and erratically distributed in April and early May. Above-average rainfall in late May and early June has compensated for early season rainfall deficits, although below-average vegetation conditions remain in Eastern Equatoria. The consumption of green maize has started in these areas.

    In the unimodal areas of northern Jonglei, Greater Upper Nile, and Greater Bahr el Ghazal, the May to September rainy season generally started on time. However, a slight delay in rainfall was observed in Rubkona, Mayom, Pariang, and Abiemnhom counties of northern Unity. The distribution of rainfall has been somewhat erratic in all states, but not significant enough to negatively impact planting. However, the lack of seeds and tools in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal States is restricting households’ ability to cultivate a typical plot size. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, it is reported that the majority of households consumed seed stock, limiting their ability to cultivate.

    In Greater Upper Nile, the delivery of humanitarian assistance has increased in previously hard-to-reach areas following relative improvements in security and better road conditions during the dry season. In Jonglei State, significant levels of humanitarian aid were delivered to poor households and IDPs between January and May in all counties but Canal. Humanitarian assistance also reached Ulang, Nasir, Panyikang, Malakal, Fashoda, Melut, and Manyo counties in Upper Nile State and Rubkona, Mayendit, Koch, Guit, Leer, and Panyijiar in Unity State. Regular deliveries continued in PoC sites, IDP concentrations such as those in Awerial County in Lakes State, and refugee settlements in Unity and Upper Nile States. Humanitarian agencies have also supplied seeds, agricultural tools, and fishing kits to about 26,000 IDPs and poor farming households in Mayendit, Leer, and Panyijiar counties in May and June. However, many households displaced to swamps have not received significant humanitarian assistance.

    Although trade flows to Greater Upper Nile have improved slightly since April, trade routes through Western Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal remain significantly restricted by ongoing insecurity (Figure 3). Additionally, the seasonal deterioration in road conditions is beginning to slow down trade flows through Juba-Yirol-Rumbek.

    Levels of acute malnutrition and mortality remain at ‘Emergency’ levels in areas of Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr el Ghazal. Malnutrition levels are typically highest during the May to July lean season when food stocks are low and there are increased occurrences of diarrhea and malaria. However, this year malnutrition has deteriorated earlier than usual given the impact of protracted conflict. Nutrition surveys conducted in March and April found Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence already at levels typically observed during the lean season. In Aweil South of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, a SMART survey conducted by BRAC in March found a GAM prevalence of 27.3 percent (95 percent C.I. 22.6 – 32.5). In Koch of Unity State, a SMART survey conducted by World Relief International in April found a GAM prevalence of 21.0 percent (95 percent C.I. 18.2-24.1). In northern Mayendit of Unity State, a SMART survey conducted in March found a GAM prevalence of 24.2 percent (95 percent C.I. 20.4-28.5).

    Several counties within Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, and Upper Nile States are facing severe food shortages during the May to July lean season and are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Households in Aweil North, Aweil East, and Aweil South of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State rely heavily on market purchases to access food, but poor households’ purchasing power has significantly deteriorated as prices are exorbitantly high and income remains significantly below average. Households are experiencing severe food consumption gaps and some are migrating due to lack of food. A small number of households have exhausted their coping strategies and are likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). In Unity State, relative security improvements have supported better humanitarian access, but markets have not fully recovered and staple cereals remain scarce in the central and southern parts of the state. Poor households rely on fish and wild foods, but these foods are seasonally low through June and it is therefore likely households still face large food consumption gaps. In Upper Nile State, markets in Panyikang, Baliet, Nasir and Ulang remain significantly disrupted. Some trade flows have resumed from Renk to Malakal, although supplies remain limited and households have significantly below-average income, limiting food access. In Jonglei State, poor households in Duk, Ayod, Fangak, Canal, Uror, and Nyirol continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and experience food consumption gaps due to low production in 2015, low market supplies, and high prices. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) also persist in Lakes, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Eastern Equatoria, and Warrap States, largely due to low market functioning, depleted household stocks, and high food prices. In Western Bahr el Ghazal and Western Equatoria, displacement and disruption of trade flows are further limiting access to food.

    National Assumptions

    From June 2016 to January 2017, projected food security outcomes are based on the following national assumptions:

    • Conflict and insecurity between the Government and SPLA-IO is expected to remain at current low levels in Greater Upper Nile. However, it is likely conflict in Western Bahr el Ghazal State will continue, as well as localized fighting between the Government and other armed groups not affiliated with the peace agreement, including intermittent clashes in Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Equatoria over cantonment areas. Intra- and inter-communal violence and resource-based conflict is expected to continue in Lakes, Warrap, and parts of Unity and Jonglei States. In areas where conflict is expected, lower levels of conflict are likely from June to September when the rainy season restricts movement along roads and relatively higher levels are expected from November to January as road conditions allow for greater movement. 
    • The first season harvest in the bimodal areas of Greater Equatoria will begin on time in July and is expected to be near average. However, some yield reductions are likely in Eastern Equatoria State where rainfall was erratic and below average. 
    • The remainder of the May to September rainy season in the unimodal areas of Greater Upper Nile, Greater Bahr el Ghazal, and northern Jonglei is expected to be average. A normal risk of flooding is expected in flood-prone areas.
    • The harvest in unimodal areas is expected to be on time with green harvest starting in August/September. The harvest is expected to be below average due to reduced area planted and conflict-related disruptions to cultivation. Specifically, recent displacement and insecurity in Western Bahr el Ghazal is expected to negatively impact production as many households are displaced or otherwise unable to access their farms. However, production throughout unimodal areas is still expected to be higher than last year, as it is likely more households are cultivating this year than last year. 
    • The June to September second rainy season in bimodal areas is forecast to be slightly above average, except in Eastern Equatoria State where average rainfall is forecast. Given the expectation that conflict in these areas will be low, little disruption to agricultural activities is expected and the November second season harvest is likely to be near average. The exception to this is Western Bahr el Ghazal where increased insecurity could impact the cultivation season.
    • The rate of returnees to their places of origin is expected to slow slightly through September as many will need to rebuild their homes and this is more difficult during the rainy season.
    • Both food and income sources are expected to improve seasonally with the increased availability of fish, wild foods, and livestock products during the rainy season, and the arrival of the main harvest in August/September. However, food and income sources are still expected to remain below normal given poor macroeconomic conditions and continued sporadic clashes and localized insecurity that restrict normal livelihood activities.
    • The macroeconomic situation is likely to remain unstable. Oil exportation is expected to continue around 160,000 barrels per day as the repair of destroyed wells and increased production will take significant time. Revenue from oil exports is likely to remain near current levels. The shortage of foreign reserve and low global oil prices will contribute to the continued depreciation of the SSP.
    • Staple cereal prices are expected to reduce seasonally from October through January following the main harvest, but remain significantly above both last year and the five-year average.
    • Trade routes are likely to be seasonally disrupted due to average June to September rainfall, disrupting trade flows and humanitarian access. Since trucks are likely to frequent safer routes through Juba-Yirol-Rumbek, road conditions there are expected to be worse than usual. Continued insecurity in Wau is likely to reduce trade flows to Greater Bahr el Ghazal.  
    • The delivery of humanitarian assistance to PoC camps and areas of concern is expected to continue throughout the outlook period. However, it is expected humanitarian aid levels in most areas will be lower in the coming months than they have been during the dry season, as access will be restricted by the rainy season.
    • GAM prevalence is expected to remain above 20 percent for the remainder of the May to July lean season, particularly in Unity, Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal States as a result of infectious waterborne diseases, limited access to food, and few health and nutrition services in most conflict-affected areas. GAM levels are expected to fall to between 10 and 15 percent with the start of the harvest in August/September. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From June to September, many households will continue to experience food consumption gaps given the early depletion of stocks in January/February and significantly above-average food prices. The relative improvements in security in Greater Upper Nile are expected to lead to improvements in movement, allowing greater access to normal livelihood activities and increased trade flows. However, give low incomes, households here are expected to continue selling atypically high numbers of livestock. As the demand for livestock is low, households will earn below-average income from sales, reducing purchasing power. With limited income to purchase food, poor households in the worst-affected counties of Unity and Upper Nile States are likely to continue facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) levels of acute food security during the remainder of the lean season. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, although 2015 agricultural production was near average, high commodity prices and low income among market-dependent households will continue to limit food access. Many households are expected to experience significant food consumption gaps and face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through the remainder of the lean season. A small number of households who are exhausting their capacity to cope may face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) without urgent humanitarian assistance. In Wau of Western Bahr el Ghazal, it is likely many newly displaced households will face extreme difficulty accessing adequate food, as they are unlikely to be able to harvest their fields and have lost access to typical income-earning sources. Many will remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) during this time. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected to persist in Lakes, Warrap, and parts of Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal States given low food supply, below-average income, and high prices. In Greater Equatoria, food security is expected to improve in many areas with the arrival of the first season harvest and most areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    From October to January, food security is expected to improve in Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile with the harvest. However, it is still expected that high commodity prices and limited income will limit households from purchasing sufficient levels of food. Sporadic insecurity and poor road conditions will continue to reduce trade supplies to Lakes, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal States. Most households are likely to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, although worst-affect areas in Unity, Upper Nile, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal States, and Wau in Western Bahr el Ghazal State are expected to continue to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through January 2017. In Greater Equatoria, the second season harvest is likely to improve food access, and food security is expected to improve substantially from October through January. Most households in these regions will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 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.


    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, June 2016

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Nominal retail prices for sorghum in Aweil

    Source: WFP

    Figure 4

    Nominal retail prices for maize in Juba

    Source: WFP

    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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