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Emergency (IPC Phase 4) persists in Greater Upper Nile

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • October 2015 - March 2016
Emergency (IPC Phase 4) persists in Greater Upper Nile

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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 December 2015.

    Key Messages
    • The September IPC Food Security and Nutrition Analysis estimated that 2.4 million people would remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3), primarily in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei States. Similarly, FEWS NET’s own analysis finds the same areas of concern. Both analyses suggest that protracted conflict has disrupted livelihoods, led to a worse economic outlook for South Sudan, constrained functioning of markets, reduced market access, and made the delivery of humanitarian assistance very difficult. All of these factors continue to lead to very severe acute food insecurity.

    • Staple food prices have remained very high, despite slight seasonal declines from August to September. For example, the September sorghum price in Rumbek was 109 percent higher than August. Difficulty purchasing fuel, high transaction costs for trade, depreciation of the South Sudanese Pound (SSP) against the U.S. dollar (USD), and associated low food import volume are likely to continue due to a variety of macroeconomic drivers. This will lead to continued very high staple food prices that limit household food access.

    • An estimated 2.54 million people were displaced by conflict from December 2013 to the first week of November 2015. Acute food insecurity is expected to remain atypically elevated during the harvest from October through December for approximately 1.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei States.

    • Sporadic conflict has displaced households in all parts of South Sudan, even in Greater Equatoria. While Greater Equatoria is not as severely acutely food insecure as Greater Upper Nile, if sporadic conflict continues to disrupt trade and displace households, the number of households needing humanitarian assistance is likely to grow, especially as the lean season is expected to start early in March instead of May across the country.

    • Food insecurity is expected to deteriorate significantly from January through March in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei States. Early depletion of the limited harvest, lack of access to markets, lack of access to humanitarian assistance, and lack of access to typical food and income sources will continue to make a large number of people acutely food insecure.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Even as the harvest is starting, many areas remain severely food insecure, including the conflict-affected areas of the Greater Upper Nile (GUN) States of Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei. The rains mostly started on time in April in bimodal areas and in June in the rest of the country, but July and August were fairly dry in many areas. Long dry spells were common, and overall, June to September was moderately below average in some areas. Very low planted area coupled with erratic timing of rainfall has contributed to what is estimated to be an overall well below average harvest. However, in most of the country outside of GUN, with the start of green consumption and the start of the dry harvest, household food consumption has increased marginally and its quality has improved slightly.

    From December 2013 to the first week of November, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 2.54 million people had been displaced. About 1.6 million people are internally displaced within South Sudan. In addition to that, South Sudan hosts 295,000 refugees. An estimated 643,000 people have fled the country to neighboring countries since the conflict started in December 2013. The displaced populations generally have limited access to humanitarian assistance or to markets. As food prices continue to rise, particularly in Greater Upper Nile (GUN) where many of the displaced remain, the displaced have decreasing food access.

    Despite the peace deal signed in August by the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in Opposition (SPLM-IO) and renewed commitment by both parties in October to cease hostilities, protracted conflict and insecurity remain the major drivers of acute food insecurity, especially in GUN. Sporadic fighting continues in many parts of the country. Fighting has recently expanded in GUN, and sporadic, localized conflict has even occurred in Greater Equatoria, leading to some displacement. The ongoing conflict has disrupted livelihoods, market functioning, and humanitarian access in most counties in GUN and even in some areas that have not hosted active fighting, including parts of Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and localized areas in Greater Equatoria, limiting productivity while constraining household food access. 

    Insecurity and displacement have even occurred in the Greater Equatoria States. In Yambio, Mundri East, Mundri West, and Maridi Counties in Western Equatoria, thousands of people have been displaced since August. In several areas, first season crops were left unattended in the fields by the displaced, and they have only partially been harvested. Due to insecurity, some far fields were not planted, so planted area for second season crops was lower than usual. With the harvest underway, it is projected there will be far less surplus than last year in these counties. In Magwi County in Eastern Equatoria State and Wondoruba County in Central Equatoria State, insecurity and ongoing tensions have limited access to typical food and incomes sources, reducing household food access.

    South Sudan’s national economy continues not to bring in much foreign currency and not to be fully operable throughout the country due to the conflict. As a result, the value of the South Sudanese pound (SSP) is depreciating against the U.S. dollar (USD) and other foreign currencies used for trade. With fewer USD available for trade, the exchange rate in the parallel market depreciated from 16 SSP per USD in September to 17.5 SSP per USD in October. The currency depreciation and difficulties trading have also led to less fuel being imported. The difficulty acquiring fuel and its high cost increase the cost of trade. This has driven up food prices to levels even well above last year, decreasing the purchasing power of many households at a time when food availability and access typically seasonally increase across South Sudan.

    From August to October, staple food prices remained much higher and did not seasonally decline in many parts of GUN, a period when normally prices decline as households start green consumption and the dry harvest starts to enter markets. However, prices of staple food commodities have declined seasonally in some markets between August and September. Even in those markets, staple food prices in September remained higher than last year and the five-year average. From August to September, the sorghum price fell 10 percent in Juba and five percent in Aweil. However, September sorghum prices in these markets were 160 and 140 percent higher than their five-year averages, respectively (Figure 2). September sorghum prices in Rumbek and Kuajok were 109 and 31 percent higher than August, respectively. Continued high staple food prices are driven by low agricultural production, depreciation of the South Sudanese pound (SSP), low supply of foreign currency for trade, the high cost of fuel and transportation, continued high marketing costs due to difficult roads and insecurity, and lower effective demand from households for food purchases.

    However, in Greater Bahr El Ghazal, food consumption has improved seasonally for poor households. In Lakes, Warrap, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, the recent green harvest was accompanied by increased access to fish and wild foods at the end of the rainy season and just after that. As food consumption has seasonally improved, many poor households have moved from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Poor households are typically getting most of their food from their own production at this time of year. However, very low agricultural production, higher-than-average food prices and prices of essential non-food goods, insecurity, and currency depreciation have limited poor households’ food access.

    Insecurity remains a major impediment to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to much of Unity and parts of Upper Nile and Jonglei States. There has been little or no humanitarian access to several locations where IDPs and their hosts have clustered in Adok, Bill, Boaw, Dablual, Jaguar, Kedat, Rubkuai, and Rieri Payams in Unity State, Wau-Shilluk in Upper Nile, and Canal in Jonglei. In the absence of food assistance or health and nutrition services, widening food consumption gaps and rising prevalence of acute malnutrition are likely. Food assistance has been more regularly delivered over the past several months to refugee camps and the Protection of Civilians (POC) sites. 

    The prevalence of acute malnutrition remains very high in GUN. 35 Standard Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transition (SMART) nutrition surveys were conducted by the Ministry of Health and partners between March and August 2015. They found an overall global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence using weight for height z-scores (WHZ) of 15 to 20 percent and a severe acute malnutrition (SAM) prevalence of between three and eight percent. However, GAM prevalence in conflict-affected counties in Unity, Jonglei, and Upper Nile States recorded extremely high GAM prevalence of between 20 and 34 percent.

    The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis conducted in September by the South Sudan Technical Working Group (TWG) estimated that about 30,000 people were likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5)1 in September in Guit, Koch, Mayendit, and Leer Counties in Unity State. Insecurity and continued fighting has prevented humanitarian assistance delivery to these areas, yet livelihoods remain severely disrupted since the conflict started two years ago. A multi-agency assessment conducted in these locations found the majority of households were primarily getting food by gathering wild foods and fishing and had little or no agricultural production. Markets remained non-functional with minimal or no trade in most areas. Food insecurity is likely to expand further and deepen in the absence of increased humanitarian access.

    From October to December, it was estimated that 2.4 million people would be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The substantial portion of this population are IDPs and their hosts in Unity in Guit, Koch, Leer, Mayendit, and Panyijiar Counties, in Upper Nile in Fashoda, Malakal, and Melut Counties, and in Jonglei in Ayod, Duk, and Fangak Counties. Despite the green harvest and the start of the dry harvest in many places, most IDPs and many in the host community were unable to plant this year due to conflict and displacement. In areas of the country less directly affected by the conflict, food insecurity has lessened with the green harvest and the start of the dry harvest. However, many households in Lakes, Northern Bahr el-Ghazal, Warrap, and the Greater Equatoria States are Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    National Assumptions

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

    • Despite a peace deal signed in August and consolidation of the process in October which culminated in the signing of a more detailed security agreement on November 4, conflict in GUN is expected to continue. Conflict is expected to persist through at least March, based on previous violations of a series of permanent ceasefire agreements by the warring parties. Civil insecurity is expected to continue in Unity and Upper Nile States and central and northern Jonglei. The counties of Malakal, Fashoda, Manyo, and Melut in Upper Nile, Rubkona, Guit, Koch, Mayendit, and Leer in Unity, and Fangak, Canal, Ayod, and Duk in Jonglei will continue to remain insecure.
    • Inter-communal conflict and cattle-raiding is expected to continue in parts of Lakes State. More localized tensions are also likely to continue in Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, and Eastern, Central, and Western Equatoria States that are likely to disrupt livelihoods and prevent markets from functioning normally.
    • Despite continued heavier than usual rains being forecast both upriver in the Ethiopian highlands and in northern South Sudan from October to December due to  El Niño, a near average area is likely to flood in low-lying areas in Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei States.
    • Above-average rainfall is likely over Greater Equatoria and Jonglei State in November and December. Parts of the GUN states are also likely to have above-average rainfall in November. As October through December is the main harvest, unusual late season crop damage and post-harvest damage during storage, processing, or due to high moisture content of grain is likely. Greater Equatoria is also expected to receive unseasonal rains from January through March.
    • The national harvest is expected to be below average in volume. Production is likely to be the furthest below average in GUN and Lakes State, due to below-average area planted, disruptions in land preparation, planting, weeding, harvesting, and other tasks due to insecurity, and erratic rainfall distribution, especially the lack of steady rainfall in July and August. However, late rains in parts of Greater Equatoria are likely to improve crop performance. More growth will lead to higher yields than were earlier anticipated for second season crops. Similarly, long-cycle sorghum in Greater Bahr el Ghazal has had recently increased chances for higher yields due to late rainfall.

    Market functioning and staple food prices:

    • Staple food prices are expected to remain significantly higher than last year and the five-year average from October to December. Elevated prices will continue to be due to a combination of expected below-average harvests, increased marketing costs, and depreciation of the South Sudanese pound (SSP) against the U.S. dollar (USD), which increases the cost of imports.
    • There may be a slight, modest reduction in prices following the October-to-January harvest, as supplies from surplus-producing areas in Western Equatoria and continued imports from Uganda lead to higher supply. Also, at this time, there will be slightly less demand from households, as some households consume their harvest. However, prices may start to rise as early as January due to below-average production, the high costs of imports, and high marketing costs.
    • Staple food prices are expected to remain the highest in areas affected by the conflict. Food prices will begin to rise more sharply, as early as December, in these areas due to less local supply from below-average green and dry harvests and continued high costs of bringing in supplies from other parts of the country.
    • Market activity will remain most constrained in GUN where some areas lack functional markets. Low production and limited trade due to insecurity and the local population’s lack of purchasing power will continue to limit market supply and sustain the highest food prices in the country, even during the harvest.

    Livestock: Insecurity resulting from the ongoing conflict, inter-communal clashes, and localized tensions have disrupted livestock migration patterns in Jonglei, Unity, and Lakes States. However, improvements in rangeland quality and increase in the quantity of forage and water available at the end of the rainy season will increase many households’ access to livestock products such as milk and meat from October through December. However, flooding and heavy rainfall may delay livestock migration to dry-season grazing areas until later in early 2016.

    Humanitarian assistance: Although food assistance to IDPs and refugees will continue, insecurity will continue to limit humanitarian access to many areas of GUN, especially rural areas hosting IDPs. Humanitarian access is also likely to be constrained in Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Warrap States. While road access is expected to increase from January to March during the dry season, continued insecurity and inter-communal conflicts will prevent delivery of humanitarian assistance to many people.

    Nutrition and mortality: The prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) is expected to remain above 15 percent in most of Unity, Upper Nile, and Jonglei States. Ongoing conflict will continue to limit access to health and nutrition services, increasing the incidence of infectious diseases, while hindering delivery of humanitarian assistance to the displaced and their hosts. While crude mortality rates are expected to remain below the emergency threshold of one per 10,000 per day, continued conflict will likely increase mortality rates. Increased food access during the harvest from October through December coupled with the expected decline in water-borne diseases and disease spread by mosquitoes are expected to decrease GAM prevalence from above 15 percent in some areas outside of GUN to the 10-to-15 percent range.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From October to December, some households will move from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) including in Warrap, Lakes, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, as more food is consumed from the green and dry harvests and their incomes increase from harvest labor. While there will be similar improvements in some areas, a large number of households in GUN will remain severely acutely food insecure. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) will persist for IDPs and their hosts in Guit, Koch, Leer, Mayendit, Panyijiar, and Rubkona Counties in Unity State. These households will continue to consume wild foods, fish, and humanitarian assistance. However, in other areas of GUN, including Baliet, Fashoda, Malakal, Manyo, Nasir, Panyikang, and Ulang Counties in Upper Nile, and Ayod, Duk, Canal, and Fangak Counties in Jonglei, many households will move from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis (IPC 3) as they gain food and income during the harvest.  

    From January to March 2016, household stocks from the harvest are likely to be exhausted earlier than usual due to below-average production and higher than usual post-harvest losses. However, food security is likely to deteriorate most rapidly in GUN due to the limited green and dry harvests, continued difficulty in delivering humanitarian assistance, and continued inability to access areas normally accessible to earn income or gain access to food. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) will persist in parts of Unity State. In conflict-affected areas of Upper Nile and Jonglei, many households will move from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) back into Emergency (IPC Phase 4) from January to March, as they draw down stocks and lose various forms of income. Other areas in GUN will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    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 in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, October 2015

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, October 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. July to September 2015 rainfall anomalies in millimeters (mm)

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. July to September 2015 rainfall anomalies in millimeters (mm)

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Nominal retail white sorghum prices in Konyokonyo Market in Juba

    Source: WFP

    Figure 3. Market functioning as of October 30, 2015

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. Market functioning as of October 30, 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    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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