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Food assistance should be sustained through the 2021 harvest to reduce risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5)

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • June 2021
Food assistance should be sustained through the 2021 harvest to reduce risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5)

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  • Key Messages
  • An Elevated Risk Of Famine (Ipc Phase 5) Is Expected Through Early 2022 In South Sudan, Especially In Pibor
  • National Overview
  • Events That Could Change The Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • The severity of food insecurity in South Sudan is approaching its annual peak at the height of the lean season. FEWS NET anticipates over 60 percent of the national population will experience food consumption gaps or engage in severe coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes from June to September. In Pibor, Akobo West, Tonj North, and Tonj East, available evidence suggests the worst-off households are likely facing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).[1]

    • Although food insecurity remains severe, the scale-up of humanitarian food assistance continues to prevent Famine (IPC Phase 5) in Pibor and has likely driven a decline in the population in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in greater Tonj and Aweil South. Conversely, a drop in food assistance levels and scarcity of typical food and income sources exposed a higher share of the population in Akobo West to Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), according to household survey data collected in April. These examples demonstrate the critical role that food assistance is playing in saving lives and livelihoods. Yet conflict, insecurity, and seasonal flooding continue to place substantial constraints on humanitarian access, safety, and operations. An end to conflict and full humanitarian access is needed to ensure food and non-food assistance reaches local populations, especially in remote areas.

    • Despite the recent scale-up in food assistance, the gap remains wide between the estimated population that needs food assistance and funded, planned levels of food assistance through the end of 2021. The lean season response will reach 20-28 percent of the national population through September, while only six percent of the national population will likely receive food assistance from October to December. Based on historical crop production data, current levels of cultivation, and anticipated trends in rainfall, conflict, and seasonal floods, the 2021 harvest is expected to be similar to or lower than 2020 and the five-year average. The largest deficits are likely to occur in Jonglei and Pibor, Unity, Upper Nile, and Central Equatoria. Consequently, seasonal improvement in food security from September onward will most likely be marginal for most of the country, leaving many households exposed to food consumption gaps and atypically high acute malnutrition. 

    • FEWS NET assesses there is an elevated risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in South Sudan through early 2022, especially in Pibor. Although FEWS NET currently anticipates Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will likely be sustained in late 2021 in Pibor, the size of the population in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and the near collapse of local livestock production since 2019 in Pibor creates a greater risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in South Sudan compared to earlier years. Additionally, past trends demonstrate that extreme outcomes can occur in other conflict- and flood-affected areas during both the lean season and harvest periods when a shock prevents households from accessing food sources for a prolonged time. Food, health, WASH, and nutrition assistance remain critical. Ultimately, significant levels of food assistance must be sustained through the 2021 harvest to save lives and reduce the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5).

    • [1] The IPC classifies acute food insecurity at the household level and area level. At the household level, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) occurs when a household group has an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even after full employment of coping strategies. At the area level, Famine (IPC Phase 5) occurs when at least 20 percent of the households in a given area have an extreme lack of food; the Global Acute Malnutrition prevalence, as measured by weight-for-height z-score, exceeds 30 percent; and mortality, as measured by the Crude Death Rate (CDR), is greater than 2 per 10,000 per day.

    An elevated risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) is expected through early 2022 in South Sudan, especially in Pibor

    The severity and scale of food insecurity in South Sudan continue to render the situation among the worst humanitarian crises globally. Evidence suggests the scale-up of food, nutrition, and health assistance has been critical to alleviating the most extreme outcomes, especially in Pibor, the greater Tonj counties of Warrap, Akobo county of Jonglei, and Aweil South county of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Yet recent gains in food security remain fragile, as illustrated by the outbreak of conflict in Pibor in early May, high levels of localized conflict elsewhere, and forecast of a third year of significant flooding in the Sudd Wetland. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes persist in many areas, and it is likely that some households are still in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Pibor, Akobo West, Tonj North, and Tonj East. In this context, the gap between planned food assistance and the population in need of food assistance leaves a large proportion of the South Sudanese population exposed to food consumption gaps and high acute malnutrition during both the lean season and harvest periods (Figure 1). Past trends show that severe food insecurity can persist during the harvest period, which begins in September, in conflict- and flood-affected areas. However, planned food assistance will reach a mere six percent of the population from October to December.

    In Pibor, where Famine Likely (IPC Phase 5) occurred in late 2020 through early 2021, the food security outlook is tenuous. Based on the results of a SMART survey collected by Action Against Hunger in March, sustained humanitarian assistance between January and June and the restoration of relative calm in late May have driven improvement to Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!). Although Famine (IPC Phase 5) is being prevented, household hunger remains severe, and levels of acute malnutrition remain at Critical (GAM WHZ 15-29.9 percent) levels. Furthermore, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is possible among communities in areas that are often inaccessible by humanitarians, such as Lokoromach in Lekuangole payam, where an inter-agency assessment by helicopter found visible signs of wasting among children under five-years old in May.

    Under the assumptions that planned assistance will continue to alleviate food insecurity through September and that the 2021 harvest in Pibor will be higher than 2020, FEWS NET assesses that Emergency (IPC Phase 4) will likely be sustained in Pibor from October to January. The worst-off households in inaccessible and insecure areas may experience Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Currently, planned food assistance through September, some livelihood assistance, a typical seasonal decline in conflict during the rainy season, and a normal flood forecast in the Pibor river basin all support a likely increase in crop cultivation in Pibor in 2021. Contrary to Sudd Wetland areas, the latest NOAA and NASA flood models suggest the Pibor basin will likely be spared the worst of seasonal flooding this year. However, there are no plans to deliver food assistance from October to December in Pibor. Additionally, conflict and flood patterns can be difficult to predict and may change. If an additional shock occurs that significantly reduces harvest prospects or isolates households from food and income sources, FEWS NET assesses there is an elevated risk that Famine (IPC Phase 5) would re-emerge. The large population that is already in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and the near collapse of local livestock production in Pibor since 2019 creates a greater risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) compared to earlier years.

    There is also high concern for several areas outside of Pibor. Nationally, FEWS NET estimates up to 8 million people – more than 60 percent of the population – will need food assistance at the peak of the lean season. Although humanitarian response plans indicate food assistance will likely reach up to 20-28 percent of the national population through September, a sizeable gap remains. In particular, an uptick of conflict in Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile, and parts of Lakes and the forecast of atypical seasonal flood extent in the Sudd Wetland suggest Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will persist. In Akobo West, for example, SMART survey data collected in April indicated an increase in the population in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) compared to late 2020. Past household surveys show that Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) could occur in additional areas during the lean season due to the scarcity of food and income sources. In conflict- and flood-affected areas, crop and livestock production losses and displacement will most likely prevent notable improvement in food security during the harvest period. Trends in 2020 also show that significant crop and livestock losses can result in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) during the harvest period. At worst, there is a risk that Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur in additional areas of South Sudan if an additional shock were to isolate households from food sources for a prolonged period of time. A sustained scale-up of food, nutrition, and health assistance levels remains urgently needed to save lives.


    Current Situation

    Conflict and displacement: Localized conflict continues to affect several hotspots in South Sudan, with severe impacts on local livelihoods and humanitarian operations (Figure 2). Recent progress on key milestones for the implementation of the 2018 peace agreement includes the re-formation of the national parliament, several local peace initiatives, and state-level disarmament exercises. However, the pace of graduating and equipping the unified armed forces and establishing parliamentary, court, and local government institutions remains slow. In addition to these issues, the macroeconomic crisis, political tensions among senior government officials, increased activity by the hold-out National Salvation Army (NAS) in Greater Equatoria, and inter- and intracommunal tensions over access to resources and political issues continue to drive conflict and insecurity.

    Broadly, recent violence comprises an increase in attacks against civilians and humanitarians, as well as politicians. The food security impacts of conflict include significant disruptions to sources of food, water, and income, interference with food commodity trade flows and market functioning, and substantial constraints on humanitarian access, safety, and operations. Illustrated by the death of two humanitarian workers in Lakes in June, a safe and enabling environment for humanitarian access and assistance delivery is essential.

    Pibor remains of highest concern after the escalation of inter-communal conflict in early May, which temporarily displaced an estimated 20,692 people, suspended food assistance delivery for one week, and destroyed Gumuruk market. Although relative calm was restored by late May, counter-raids and looting are common. OCHA reports that humanitarian partners face significant challenges to timely delivery of food assistance, including a reduced operational footprint, loss of infrastructure, and loss of food, medical, and health supplies.

    Other conflict hotspots in 2021 include the Warrap-Lakes-Unity border region, Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Central and Eastern Equatoria. Current trends show an increase in conflict in several of these areas in 2021 compared to 2020, except in Warrap where conflict has relatively declined since March. Nevertheless, recent violence in Warrap includes clashes between armed youth from Warrap and Unity states in Gogrial East county and attacks on humanitarian workers in Tonj North county. Meanwhile, in Lakes, armed youth from Unity raided over 356 cattle in Rumbek Centre county in early June. Similarly, in Jonglei, there are numerous reports of alleged attacks by Murle youth in various payams in Nyirol, Ayod, and Duk counties. Clashes in Upper Nile within the Gaajok Nuer tribe at a food distribution point in Ulang county also caused several deaths and disrupted food assistance deliveries in late May. Finally, an attack on a trader and passenger boat in Panyijiar county in Unity in June illustrates the threat to trade.

    Conflict has also risen in Greater Equatoria, such as in Kajo-Keji, Lainya, and Yei counties in Central Equatoria and remote areas of Budi, greater Kapoeta, and Torit counties in Eastern Equatoria. The NAS has become increasingly active, especially following the assassination of a high-ranking member of the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance to which the NAS belongs. Intercommunal conflict between the Mundari and Dinka Bor in Central Equatoria is also contributing to this trend. In Lainya, for instance, field reports indicate that civilians have fled to refugee camps in Uganda while over 3,000 people have been internally displaced in Wuji Boma of Lainya. Road banditry along trade routes, including the Yei-Juba road and Yei-Kay road, persists despite the increased presence of security forces.

    First season crop production: The first-season harvest is slightly delayed, with most crops reaching maturity. Based on satellite-derived estimates, cumulative rainfall during the March to May rainfall season in bimodal areas of southern and western South Sudan ranged from about 200 to 400 mm, which is about 70-95 percent of the historical average (Figure 3). Localized areas in Central and Western Equatoria experienced mid-season crop moisture stress due to irregular rainfall distribution, resulting in localized crop losses. However, late-season rainfall has supported crop recovery and development in most southern and western areas, as exhibited by the satellite-derived Soil Moisture Index in early June (Figure 4).

    In general, security conditions permitted an increase in area planted for the first season compared to previous years. Based on key informant information, the first-season harvest is comparable to last year and estimated to be higher than the five-year average; however, final crop production estimates will be available when the annual Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission is conducted in late 2021. Key informants report maize and groundnut crops currently range from the green harvest stages in Eastern and Central Equatoria to the dry harvest stages in Western Equatoria state.

    Main season crop production: The start of the June to September rainfall season is quite mixed, with above-average rainfall observed in northern and western South Sudan and significant deficits observed in southern and eastern South Sudan (Figure 5). Main season planting and crop growth are underway and, as shown by the Soil Moisture Index, cropping conditions in rainfall-deficit areas range from satisfactory to stressed (Figure 4). According to key informants and remote sensing data, cereal crops that were planted on time are already in the vegetative growth stages. However, early-season dryness either caused early planted crops to fail or prevented seeds from germinating in some areas, including a number of counties in Unity, Eastern Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Warrap, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal. This is of low concern, given that most farmers are reportedly already replanting and gap filling to recover losses from crops that failed to germinate.

    Livestock production: Significant livestock losses due to conflict and floods have eroded livestock ownership and livestock holdings across much of South Sudan, especially in Jonglei. Nevertheless, livestock production remains a key source of food and income for many agropastoral and pastoral households. Currently, pasture and water regeneration are generally conducive to support typical livestock migration from distant dry-season grazing areas to wet-season grazing areas near homesteads in Greater Bahr El Ghazal, Lakes, most of Upper Nile, and parts of Eastern Equatoria. As a result, livestock body conditions, value, and milk production are beginning to seasonally improve. Conversely, livestock body conditions are still below normal in much of Jonglei and parts of Unity, Upper Nile, and Greater Kapoeta of Eastern Equatoria. In most of these areas, livestock production has suffered significant livestock losses, pasture loss, and slow pasture recovery since 2019. Additionally, flood extent, conflict, and localized dry spells have impeded livestock migration and access to pasture in Twic East of Jonglei; remote areas of Eastern Equatoria; greater Tonj and Gogrial East of Warrap; and Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal; and parts of Lakes. In parts of Lakes, livestock body conditions remain poor due to the impact of insecurity on access to pasture and water.

    Additionally, levels of farmer-herder conflict are reportedly higher than normal in parts of Eastern and Central Equatoria. Favorable pasture availability and fear of conflict encouraged pastoralists from within the region and from neighboring areas of Jonglei to atypically migrate into farming lands, especially in parts of Lainya, Kajo-keji, Magwi, and Juba counties. Their delayed departure from these areas, especially Magwi and Juba, has impeded local crop production activities. In early June, for example, local authorities in Central Equatoria gave cattle keepers in Lobonok payam one week to relocate to their areas of origin to allow farmers to cultivate crops.

    Macroeconomic conditions: Macroeconomic conditions generally remain very poor, despite recent efforts by the government of South Sudan to stimulate economic recovery with the support of loans and grants from multi-national or bilateral donors. The crisis continues to be marked by the high cost of living, rising poverty levels, high staple food prices, and low household purchasing power. The most recent loan secured by the government in April was an economic stabilization loan of USD 174.2 million. Since April, South Sudan’s Central Bank has also auctioned up to 8 million USD weekly to commercial banks and forex bureaus to alleviate hard currency shortages. As a result, the local currency value appreciated from 620 SSP/USD in March to 480 SSP/USD in early June. While this has narrowed the gap between the parallel and official exchange rates, commercial banks are still selling USD to traders at black market rates. Given active black market currency speculation, coupled with high import dependence and other factors as detailed below, these interventions have yet to drive a decline in inflation or food prices.

    Markets and trade: Food availability in local markets and household purchasing power remain significantly constrained by the high national cereal deficit, high import dependence, the low value of the SSP, the high costs of domestic transportation, and low availability of income-generating activities. The impact on food security is particularly critical at the peak of the lean season (June to September), when rural households typically purchase an increasing share of their food from local markets, in addition to urban consumers. According to the 2020 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) conducted by FAO and WFP in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, the 2021 national cereal deficit is estimated to be 465,600 MT. The deficit is three percent below the 2020 deficit and five percent above the five-year average (Figure 6).

    Given the large domestic cereal deficit, cereal imports, trade flows, and market functioning play a pivotal role in dictating market supply and staple food prices. Based on cross-border trade data in May 2021, sorghum and maize grain imports from Uganda through Nimule border point were 26 and 35 percent, respectively, higher than April 2021 and 71 and 78 percent higher, respectively, than May 2020. Sorghum imports from Sudan to South Sudan via Warawar and Gok-Machar are typically more volatile from month to month, but imports in May 2021 rose by eight and 22 percent, respectively, compared to April 2021 and 345 to 401 percent, respectively, than May 2020. Given the aforementioned constraints regarding black market currency speculation and banditry along trade routes, the increase in imports during these periods is likely associated with prevailing, below-average food prices in Uganda and the temporary Kenyan maize ban (making the export market to South Sudan more attractive); a new tax exemption on Sudanese cereal imports implemented by the government of South Sudan; and an improved bilateral relationship between Sudan and South Sudan in recent months.

    Increased import flows and appreciation of the SSP have yet to significantly lower staple food prices (Figure 7). In addition to macroeconomic factors, the impacts of conflict, poor road infrastructure, and illicit taxation on domestic trade flows, commodity transportation costs, and market functioning continue to place pressure on food prices (Figure 8). However, there was a slightly positive effect on the labor-to-sorghum terms of trade in some urban areas. In May, the price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum ranged from 26 to 88 percent above May 2020 in Aweil Centre, Juba, Rumbek Centre, and Wau and even 88-189 percent higher than the five-year average. In Aweil, however, the amount of white sorghum that could be purchased with a day's wage rose from 18 kg to 21 kg from April to May and tripled compared to May 2020. Despite the gains in Aweil, the labor-to-sorghum terms of trade in Juba and Wau (5 kg and 11 kg, respectively) are still 30 percent lower in Wau and 42 percent lower in Juba compared to May 2020.

    Humanitarian food assistance: Food assistance under the 2021 lean season response shows a scale-up across the country but remains far below the level of need. Nationally, WFP and partners reached an average of 1.6 million people from March to May, with assistance levels peaking in April at 2.4 million. The monthly average is equivalent to about 15 percent of the national population, which is well below the estimated population in need of food assistance (60 percent) published by the 2020 South Sudan IPC for the April to July 2021 period. Nutrition assistance was also provided to 193,400 children under five and pregnant and lactating women and girls. Food assistance levels continue to be prioritized to populations in areas where households were previously confirmed to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), including Pibor, Tonj East, Tonj North, Tonj South, Akobo, and Aweil South. In these areas, 20-45 of the county populations received a 21-day ration from March to May, with the highest level of distributions reported in Aweil South (45 percent) and Pibor (35 percent).

    Additionally, the aforementioned security and logistic constraints caused by conflict, looting, flooding, and deliberate attacks on humanitarian workers periodically delay or suspends food assistance and increases operating costs. In June, WFP confirmed the loss of some 550 metric tons of food and nutrition items, enough to feed 33,000 people for one month, during the spike in conflict in Pibor in May. Violence against humanitarian workers in May and mid-June also occurred in Panyijiar of Unity; Yirol West of Lakes; and Torit and Budi of Eastern Equatoria. Conflict and difficult access to flooded areas increase the costs of food assistance delivery, particularly in locations where pre-positioning or ground delivery is not viable.

    Current outcomes

    Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes are widespread as the July/August peak of the lean season approaches. In rural areas, most households have few to no food stocks left over from the harvest, below-normal food and income from livestock production, and limited sources of other food and income. Household purchasing power remains low in urban areas, exacerbated by reduced economic activity since the start of the pandemic and high food prices. Sporadic conflict and insecurity continue to present threats to lives and livelihoods in much of Greater Upper Nile, the Warrap-Lakes region, and Central and Eastern Equatoria, preventing sustainable investment in livelihood recovery. Although significant levels of humanitarian food assistance and the provision of nutrition and health services is preventing worse outcomes in some areas, levels of food assistance remain too low to prevent food consumption gaps for a majority of the population.

    FEWS NET assesses that Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely in 18 counties, and recent SMART survey data (March and April 2021) and field assessments suggest some households are likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Pibor, Tonj North and Tonj East of Warrap, and Akobo of Jonglei. In these counties, household hunger remains severe and Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) is within ‘Critical’ levels (GAM Weight-for-Height Z-score (WHZ) 15-29.9 percent), which is associated with Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Although household survey data has not been collected in Tonj South of Warrap since October, and although the results of the recent SMART survey in Aweil South of Northern Bahr el Ghazal of yet to be validated, it is highly likely that a drop in conflict in Tonj South and significant food assistance distributions in both Tonj South and Aweil South have driven improvement from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!). Other areas of high or increasing concern due to the food security impacts of episodic conflict and insecurity or lingering flood extent in May include Ayod, Duk, Twic East, and Uror of Jonglei; Mayom of Unity; Cueibet and Rumbek East of Lakes; and Lainya, Kajo-Keji, Terekeka, and Maridi of Greater Equatoria.

    Pibor remains the area of highest concern in South Sudan. Significant levels of food, nutrition, and health assistance and lower levels of conflict in early 2021 have been the main mitigating factors that drove improvement from Famine Likely (IPC Phase 5) in late 2020 to Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) by March/April 2021. However, the outbreak of conflict in May, which displaced thousands, suspended food assistance delivery for one week, and destroyed market and humanitarian infrastructure and supplies, demonstrate that the relative improvement is fragile. Although most displaced households have already returned to their area of origin and food assistance delivery has resumed, which has stabilized the food security situation, humanitarian access to inaccessible and/or insecure areas remains extremely challenging. An inter-agency assessment by helicopter in late May found visible signs of wasting among children under five in remote areas of Lekuangole in Pibor. More information is available on pages 10-12 of this report.


     The most likely scenario from February to September 2021 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Although recent milestones in the implementation of the 2018 peace agreement have placated some political grievances, other key requirements of the agreement remain unmet, including the unification of the armed forces and the Council of States. Banditry and intercommunal attacks remain common amid inadequate governance and the rule of law and the interrelated economic and food security crises. Based on recent trends and local conflict dynamics, levels of conflict and insecurity will continue to vary by state and significantly limit livelihood activities, periodically disrupt market and trade flow functioning, and threaten humanitarian operations and assistance delivery.  
      • Despite a seasonal decline during the June to September rainy season, generalized conflict and insecurity in Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity are still expected to be higher in 2021 than 2020.
      • In Western and Central Equatoria, attacks by the National Salvation Army (NAS) are expected to rise as new leadership asserts itself after the assassination of a high-ranking member of the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (to which NAS belongs) in April. Separately, banditry along main roads in and out of Juba is likely to remain similar to 2020 despite increased security presence in the area.
      • Conflict between the Murle, Dinka, and Lou Nuer in Pibor is expected to seasonally decline through the rainy season and increase during the dry season, meeting levels observed in 2020.
      • In Warrap and Lakes, conflict is expected to follow a similar pattern to 2020, declining during the main rainy season and increasing again from October. However, there is potential for lower levels of violence during the dry season, assuming the full implementation of local peace agreements signed in Tonj North and Tonj East of Warrap in April 2021 and in Cueibet of Lakes in May 2021.
    • Conflict and insecurity are expected to drive refugee outflows to Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya, especially from Upper Nile, Unity, Warrap, and Jonglei. Levels are likely to be higher than 2020 but lower than during the 2013-2018 conflict. Based on trends in 2020 and early 2021, spontaneous refugee returns to South Sudan are likely to be relatively low.
    • Despite a below-average start of season in southeastern South Sudan, the NOAA/CPC NMME and WMO ensemble model forecasts indicate cumulative rainfall during the main June to September rainfall season is most likely to be above average locally and in upstream river catchments of the Nile in the East Africa region. Experimental streamflow and flood models developed by NOAA/CPC and NASA suggest the combination of above-average rainfall, current flood and wetland extent, high water levels in upper catchments of the White Nile River, and low drainage capacity will result in a third consecutive year of significant flooding in low-lying areas of the Sudd Wetland. Less severe, seasonal flooding is anticipated in the Sobat-Pibor-Akobo basin. Peak flood extent will likely occur between September and November.
    • Based on trends observed in 2019 and 2020, conflict is expected to limit main season crop cultivation and impede harvesting activities in localized areas of Jonglei and Pibor, Warrap, Lakes, Unity, Upper Nile, and Central and Eastern Equatoria. Anticipated flooding is also expected to cause crop losses in low-lying riverine and wetland areas, especially in Jonglei. As a result, the net harvest in September/October is expected to be similar to or lower than 2020 and the five-year average. The largest deficits are likely to occur in Jonglei and Pibor, Unity, Upper Nile, and Central Equatoria.
    • Based on anticipated levels of conflict and flooding in 2021 and the trends observed in 2019 and 2020, livestock holdings and productivity are expected to remain significantly below normal and may further decline in Jonglei and Pibor, as well as parts of Warrap, Lakes, Unity, and Upper Nile. Seasonally, household access to milk and other livestock products will peak from June to September during the rainfall season and begin to decline during the subsequent dry season.
    • A projected economic contraction of -3.4 percent in FY2020/21, anemic economic growth in FY 2021/22, and underlying macroeconomic challenges – including low government revenue, low hard currency reserves, and black market currency speculation – will continue to drive inflation. The South Sudan Central Bank signals it will continue to auction 8 million USD weekly to commercial banks and forex bureaus in the near term, which is driving appreciation of the SSP. However, the impact on consumer prices will likely lag at best or remain minimal at worst due to persistent black market currency speculation. The IMF projects annual inflation will reach 40 percent in 2021, which is similar to 2020 (38 percent).
    • Based on the declining trend in daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 restrictions within South Sudan, the government of South Sudan is unlikely to reinstate COVID-19 restrictions for a prolonged period. In the absence of restrictions, daily casual labor demand in urban areas is likely to rise and be higher in 2021 than 2020. However, due to the high supply of labor, wage rates are expected to lag behind the recovery in labor opportunities.
    • Based on the size of the national cereal deficit, sustained domestic demand for cereals, and FEWS NET’s monitoring data on cross-border trade flows in 2021, cereal import volumes from Uganda through Nimule and Kaya border points are expected to be similar to higher than 2020. On the other hand, quarterly trends suggest cereal import volumes from Sudan in mid-to-late 2021 will likely be similar to lower than 2020. The impact of fuel shortages and heavy rain on the cost of transporting commodities from Sudan will likely offset the positive effects of an improved bilateral relationship between the two countries and the state-level tax exemption on Sudanese cereal imports in Northern Bahr el Ghazal.
    • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated analysis of price data in Bor South, Wau, Aweil, and Juba markets, staple food prices are expected to remain high and above average, peaking between August and October. The retail price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum is projected to range from 80 to 280 percent above the five-year average. In comparison to the previous year, the price is projected to rise by as much as 110 percent through the end of the lean season in September. Moderation is more likely in the harvest period, when the price is projected to range from 10 percent below to 35 percent above the preceding year, with the highest prices expected in Wau. High food prices will mainly be driven by the record-high cereal deficit, high import dependence, inflation, and the high costs of transporting commodities. The impacts of these negative drivers are expected to outweigh positive improvements, including appreciation of the SSP, rehabilitation of some main supply routes, increased import volumes from Uganda, a prospective increase in imports sourced from Tanzania and Malawi, and an increase of highway patrols along the main supply routes to Juba.
    • The seasonal availability of fish, game, and wild fruits and vegetables typically peaks between October and February. However, based on anticipated levels of conflict and flooding in 2021 and the trends observed in 2019 and 2020, some communities will likely be periodically cut off from accessing gathering, fishing, and hunting grounds in Jonglei, Pibor, Warrap, Lakes, and Upper Nile. In localized areas, the above-average rainfall season may enhance fish availability from June to September, but typically the ability to fish is limited by dangerously high water levels during this time.
    • Based on information from WFP, humanitarians plan to reach an average of 2.4 million people monthly with food assistance in June and July and an average of 3.4 million people monthly in August and September (equivalent to 20-28 percent of the national population). During the October to December harvest period, food assistance will scale down across the country, reaching less than 740,000 people (6 percent of the population). Logistic and financial constraints related to current and anticipated flood extent, heavy rainfall, conflict and insecurity, and COVID-19 preventative measures are anticipated to limit pre-positioning and periodically delay or suspend assistance delivery.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are projected to become increasingly widespread to 28 counties during the June to September period, which overlaps the peak of the lean season. At the same time, significant levels of planned food assistance are expected to prevent more severe food insecurity in 24 counties, resulting in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!). Household food availability and access generally reach their lowest point during this period, despite some increase in livestock milk availability at homesteads. Staple food prices are likely to reach their annual peak, while heavy rainfall and flooding in the Sudd Wetland and other river basins and low-lying areas will periodically limit trade flows and market access, disrupt and cause losses to crop and livestock production, and pose logistic challenges to food assistance delivery. Although conflict and insecurity tend to decline during the rainy season relatively, episodes of armed activity are still expected to occur, further disrupting livelihood activities and the delivery of food, nutrition, and health assistance. The areas of high concern will most likely be concentrated in conflict- and flood-affected areas of Jonglei, Pibor, Warrap, Lakes, Upper Nile, Unity, and Eastern Equatoria, where a high share of the population will be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Past trends suggest it is possible some households may experience Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in additional areas besides Pibor, Akobo (West), Tonj North, and Tonj East, mainly in inaccessible or insecure payams where the poorest households have little to no productive assets and are vulnerable to conflict or flood shocks that worsen their ability to access food and income. Levels of acute malnutrition are also expected to be elevated within ‘Serious’ (GAM WHZ 10.0-14.9 percent) or ‘Critical’ (GAM WHZ 15-29.9 percent) levels, driven by reduced food intake, minimal dietary diversity, gaps in health, WASH, and nutrition services, and seasonal increases in disease incidence according to historical trends.

    Although a relative decline in the severity of food insecurity is expected from October to January, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will persist based on the likelihood of above-normal flood extent in the Sudd Wetland, an uptick of conflict and insecurity during the dry season, deficit cereal production, and above-average food prices. The availability of the main season harvest, supplemented by some livestock production and peak fish, game, and wild vegetable and fruit availability, is expected to support marginal improvement in food security outcomes nationwide. However, these food sources will likely be inadequate to prevent either food consumption gaps or severe livelihoods coping, especially in conflict- and flood-affected areas. Furthermore, planned food assistance is only anticipated to reach six percent of the population, mainly in parts of Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile. Areas of high concern during the harvest period include Jonglei, Upper Nile, and northern Lakes, which are the most vulnerable to conflict and floods. Trends in 2020 suggest Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) could be possible even during the harvest period due to these types of shocks. However, the decline of conflict in Warrap and improved crop and livestock production prospects in Warrap and Northern Bahr el Ghazal are anticipated to drive improvement to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in areas such as greater Tonj and Aweil South.

    Pibor will remain of greatest concern. During the lean season, significant levels of planned food assistance are expected to continue to prevent Famine (IPC Phase 5), indicative of Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!). Still, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) will be possible in areas that are inaccessible to humanitarians, particularly in remote and insecure locations without functioning markets or food distribution points. Subsequently, a more favorable harvest in 2021 is expected compared to 2020, based on reports of ongoing planting, the forecast of normal flood extent in the Pibor river basin, and the seasonal decline in conflict during the remainder of the rainy season. The combination of sustained humanitarian assistance for nine months in 2021 and the harvest in September is anticipated to prevent extreme food consumption gaps for most of the population from October to January, even though there are no plans for food assistance from October to December. Nevertheless, given the unpredictable nature of conflict in Pibor, the collapse of livestock production since 2019, and the scale of the population that will likely remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will be elevated compared to earlier years.

    Events That Could Change the Outlook
    AreaEventImpact on Food Security
    NationalMonetary and trade interventions and regulation of the black market lead to lower food pricesAn improved enabling environment for trade that leads to a decline in staple food prices would be expected to relatively increase household purchasing power and food access. While this type of economic stimulation could also improve the availability of income-earning opportunities, the effect within the timeframe of the outlook period would likely be modest. A decline in the population in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) would be likely.
    NationalNon-adherence to peace deal implementation, increasing conflictIncreased conflict would restrict household livelihood activities, cause displacement, and impede assistance delivery. An increase in the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), more widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, and an increase in households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) would be likely. Based on past trends, the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) would rise.
    Pibor (GPAA)An increase in conflict or above-normal floodingHeightened intercommunal conflict and/or worse-than-anticipated seasonal flooding in 2021 would likely cause significant crop and livestock losses, restrict already-low market supply flows, and suspend food and non-food assistance. Given prevailing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes with households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely.
    Greater Tonj of Warrap A resurgence of intercommunal conflict and livestock raidsIn the event that the local peace initiatives do not hold and the level of conflict escalates, household livelihood activities and the delivery of food and non-food assistance would be significantly disrupted, accompanied by significant displacement. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would be likely in the harvest period with households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).
    JongleiA decline in conflict or normal flooding A decline in conflict and/or a lower-than-anticipated scale of flooding in the Sudd Wetland would likely drive marginal improvement from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in some areas. Households would have increased freedom of movement to participate in livelihood activities, while trade flows, market functioning, and humanitarian access would improve.


    Figures Map of South Sudan showing current food security outcomes, June 2021

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, June 2021

    Source: FEWS NET

    Stacked bar chart showing estimated proportion of the South Sudanese population in need of food assistance compared to the mo

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Stacked bar chart showing conflict events in 7 hotspot regions between January 2019 and May 2021

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: data from Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project

    Map showing total first season rainfall from March 1 to May 31 2021 as a percent of the 1981-2010 average

    Figure 4

    Figure 3

    Source: FEWS NET

    Map showing adequacy of soil moisture levels to support cereal crop development based on Soil Moisture Index as of June 10, 2

    Figure 5

    Figure 4

    Source: FEWS NET

    Map showing total main season rainfall from June 1 to June 25, 2021, as a percent of the 1981-2010 average

    Figure 6

    Figure 5

    Source: FEWS NET

    Chart showing National cereal deficit by consumption year in metric tons, 2015-2021

    Figure 7

    Figure 6

    Source: data from annual Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission

    Map showing Market functioning and trade route activity, May 2021

    Figure 8

    Figure 7

    Source: FEWS NET

    Chart showing price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum compared to the parallel and official exchange rates, January 2017 –

    Figure 9

    Figure 8

    Source: data from South Sudan Crop and Livestock Market Information System

    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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