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Over 1 in 2 people are expected to need urgent food assistance by early 2024

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • October 2023 - May 2024
Over 1 in 2 people are expected to need urgent food assistance by early 2024

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  • Key Messages
  • Multisectoral response needed to address high acute malnutrition and large food consumption gaps
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Area of Concern: Rubkona in North-western Nile basin cattle and maize LHZ09; Aweil East and Aweil North in North-western flood plain sorghum and cattle LHZ07; and Pariang and Renk in Northern sorghum and cattle LHZ11 (Figure 12)
  • Area of Concern: Pibor in South-eastern semi-arid Pastoral LHZ05; Nyirol, Duk and Uror in Eastern Plains Livestock and Cattle LHZ06 (Figure 13)
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Annex on the Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in South Sudan
  • Key Messages
    • South Sudan continues to face high levels of acute food insecurity despite the start of the dry harvest in October. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) persists in 11 counties in Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Eastern Equatoria, and there are pockets of people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Nyirol and Duk counties of Jonglei, Rubkona county of Unity, and among populations that fled Sudan. According to the national 2023 IPC analysis conducted in September/October, a total of 5.83 million people are currently facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes after accounting for food assistance deliveries, a figure expected to increase to over 7 million by April 2024. Funding for planned emergency food assistance will only be sufficient to reach just over 2 million people in April/May, according to WFP.
    • The sustained influx of South Sudanese returnees from Sudan and Ethiopia, many of whom arrive with no assets and extremely limited coping capacity, continues to exert heavy pressure on the host communities to share scarce resources. As of the end of October, over 350,000 returnees and refugees from Sudan and at least 78,000 from Ethiopia had fled to South Sudan due to deteriorating security conditions. This additional burden is driving Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and worse outcomes in counties hosting large shares of returnees, including in Jonglei and areas bordering Sudan and Ethiopia. 
    • The 2023 lean season assistance cycle concluded by the end of October. In Rubkona, which hosts thousands of displaced and returnee households, food assistance ended even earlier in August due to insufficient funding but is expected to resume in November. Livelihood options in Rubkona remain limited by the sustained inundation of much of the county, and these populations have low purchasing power and are expected to increasingly depend on wild foods and fish, with limited income from the sale of gathered raw materials and casual labor. 
    • Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to become more widespread after the harvesting period ends and gives way to the typical lean season by May. The number of counties in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) are expected to increase from 11 to 31 across Jonglei, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Warrap, and Eastern Equatoria. The deterioration will be driven by the high returnee burden, insufficient crop and livestock production, sporadic insecurity, limited income-earning opportunities, high and rising food prices, and persistently poor macroeconomic conditions. The number of counties with populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is also expected to expand, including Pibor in Greater Pibor Administrative Area; Nyirol, Duk, and Uror of Jonglei; Rubkona of Unity; and Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. 
    • FEWS NET has determined that the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) during this projection period (October 2023 to May 2024) is low, based on the low likelihood that flood extent will increase and/or conflict will escalate such that households would be isolated from wild foods, markets, and assistance for a prolonged time. The risk of Famine can be added or removed from a country as conditions evolve, and FEWS NET will continue to closely monitor and regularly assess the level of risk, given that flood and conflict patterns may shift after the 2024 rainy season begins, and in the lead-up to the December 2024 elections.

    Multisectoral response needed to address high acute malnutrition and large food consumption gaps

    South Sudan remains a highly complex emergency with more than 1 out of 2 people expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes by early 2024 due to the erosion of livelihoods and coping capacity over years of conflict, floods, and macroeconomic shocks. Seasonal improvements in food and income during the 2023 harvesting period are marginally better than recent years in many areas, facilitated by the relatively lower severity of conflict and flooding events. However, the influx of returnees – who have received very limited food assistance and are heavily reliant on host community support and resources – has contributed to the persistence of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Tens of thousands of households are likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Nyirol and Duk of Jonglei; Rubkona of Unity; and among the returnee population in other locations, particularly those in transit and without social networks. Planned levels of food assistance are inadequate relative to the high level of need, and an urgent scale-up of aid is necessary to prevent rising levels of acute food insecurity in 2024.

    Populations reported high levels of severe hunger at the July/August peak of the 2023 lean season in lower Jonglei, Pibor, and Aweil East (Figure 1). While the severity of food consumption gaps will be eased in the harvest period by own production and livestock products, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and worse outcomes will persist among returnees, internally displaced, and very poor households. In Rubkona, households did not report severe hunger at the peak of the lean season (Figure 1); however, the acute malnutrition rate (28.1 percent) was exceptionally high, driven in large part by a measles outbreak (Figure 2) – particularly among returnees – and poor sanitation conditions, and aggravated by poor food consumption patterns. Lean season food assistance subsequently ended atypically early in Rubkona, by the end of August, leaving households to rely on markets and wild foods, including fish, while facing very limited income-generating opportunities and high food prices. As a result, some households are expected to deteriorate to Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) before planned food assistance resumes in November. A multisectoral response that is inclusive of vaccinations and WASH and health services is urgently needed to reduce very high levels of acute malnutrition, regardless of the resumption of food aid.

    Without additional food assistance, levels of acute food insecurity are expected to remain severe in Jonglei, Pibor, Unity, and parts of Upper Nile and Northern Bahr el Ghazal through May, particularly in areas hosting high numbers of returnees. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, along with the presence of households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), are indicative of large food consumption gaps and atypically high levels of acute malnutrition and mortality, necessitating an urgent scale up of aid. 

    Following the Famine Likely (IPC Phase 5) in Pibor in late 2020/early 2021, FEWS NET frequently warned that South Sudan continued to face a risk of Famine based on the moderate likelihood that a scenario could materialize in which conflict and/or flooding isolates households from all food and income sources, including food aid, for a prolonged period. For the outlook period of October 2023 to May 2024, however, FEWS NET assesses the likelihood of a scenario in which Famine emerges is comparably low (see Annex). Below-average rainfall has resulted in considerably lower flood extent in late 2023 compared to late 2021 and late 2022. Meanwhile, a relatively lower incidence of violent conflict has permitted increased physical access to food sources compared to recent years, and this is expected to continue in the medium term. Conflict in South Sudan remains highly volatile given its underlying politicized and retaliatory nature, and sporadic incidences of inter-communal attacks will continue in some areas and increase in others throughout the outlook period. However, analysis of current conflict dynamics points to continued fragmentation of the opposition, such that the likelihood of these conflicts escalating in a coordinated or widespread manner for a sustained period to isolate households from food sources, including food assistance, for a prolonged period is low.

    Figure 1

    The share of households reporting severe hunger during the 2023 lean season based on the household hunger score (HHS)
    Map of South Sudan showing the share of households reporting severe hunger during the 2023 lean season based on the household hunger score (HHS)

    Source: FEWS NET, using WFP-FAO-UNICEF Food Security & Nutrition Monitoring Survey data made available for the 2023 IPC workshop

    Figure 2

    Measles cases by week in 2023
    Bar graph showing measles cases from January through July in South Sudan

    Source: WHO/Republic of South Sudan


    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Conflict and displacement: The threat of conflict and insecurity persists in South Sudan, remaining a key driver of high levels of acute food insecurity and high food assistance needs (Figure 3). In October, sporadic incidences of sub-national attacks and road ambushes continued, displacing households and disrupting livelihood activities and trade flows; most of these incidents involved rival communities, but some involved the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) or Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) troops and armed youths. In Tonga town of Panyikang in Upper Nile State, an attack purportedly between Machar’s SPLM-IO and the SPLM-IO Kit-Gwang Faction led by General Johnson on October 22 led to the temporary flight of civilians and sustained heightened tensions. Fishing activities, trade flows, and movement of humanitarian vessels from Juba to Upper Nile State via the Nile River – which is a crucial supply route for commercial and humanitarian goods – were temporarily disrupted. No subsequent attacks have been reported, however, an investigation is underway to determine who was involved.

    In Jonglei state and Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA), several cattle raid incidents and sporadic retaliatory attacks were reported in October, to the detriment of local livelihoods. On October 7, suspected Murle armed youth killed three Lou Nuer women and abducted seven children from Uror; and on October 10, a Murle herder was killed, another injured, and over 300 heads of cattle were raided in Verteth Payam of Pibor County by armed youth from Kapoeta East. In Pochalla County, fighting between SSPDF and armed Anyuak youth on September 19 caused thousands to flee to surrounding remote areas and to neighboring Ethiopia. Tensions remain high, given the additional arrival of SSPDF troops in Pochalla town on October 11, which led to further sporadic skirmishes between the SSPDF and the Anyuak youth. WFP nutrition program activities in Pochalla remain suspended. In Twic East County, fighting between two rival groups in a fishing site on October 15 resulted in deaths of three people and the closure of the fishing site, while armed youths raided over 83 cattle at Baidit Payam in Bor South. 

    In Greater Bahr el Ghazal, the border areas between Twic County of Warrap and the Abyei Administrative Area (AAA) remain a conflict hotspot, with continued tensions between Twic Dinka and Ngok Dinka and the mobilization of their respective youths. On October 1 at Nyinkuec market in Abyei, 10 civilians were killed and 14 people were wounded from sporadic intercommunal attacks by youth from Twic County of Warrap State. Furthermore, on October 9, threats of an attack by Twic Dinka into Abyei led to the temporary suspension of assistance delivery. Two inter-communal revenge attacks resulting in several deaths were also reported in October – one in Tonj East of Warrap and one in Mayom of Unity. In both, local police intervened swiftly, with arrests made in Tonj East; the police are actively seeking those involved. 

    In parts of Yei, Lainya, and Morobo counties of Central Equatoria, persistent insecurity causing displacement, plus looting of household food stocks and assets, are threatening household food security. On October 23, a local chief in Udabi Payam of Morobo was killed, while most recently (on October 24, 2023) in Ombaci Boma and Otogo Payam of Yei County, over 400 people were forcefully relocated to Yei town by SSPDF due to continued tensions between SSPDF and National Salvation Front (NAS).

    In Eastern Equatoria, several road ambushes were reported along the Kapoeta-Torit Road and one at Nadapal near the border with Kenya in Eastern Equatoria on October 4. The persistent insecurity along critical routes continues to periodically disrupt trade flow and movement of humanitarian actors.

    Figure 3

    Violent events and associated fatalities by region, 2019 to present
    Chart showing violent events and associated fatalities by region, 2019 to present

    Source: FEWS NET using Armed Conflict and Location Event Data (ACLED)

    Returnees: The return of hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese fleeing conflict and insecurity in Sudan and Ethiopia remains a major driver of high needs in the country during the harvest period. As of the end of October, over 350,000 South Sudanese returnees and refugees were officially recorded arriving in South Sudan, although likely to be an underestimation (Figure 4). Most of them are arriving via major entry points in Renk of Upper Nile, Rubkona and Pariang of Unity, and in Aweil East and North. Additionally, due to the deteriorating security conditions in Gambella at least 78,000 South Sudanese have arrived from Ethiopia, also likely to be an underestimation.

    Returnee households are arriving with few if any assets, limited livelihood options, and low coping capacity. In an effort to not oversaturate border areas or establish displacement camps, returnees are being encouraged to continue on and integrate back into their home communities. Since the crisis began mid-April, assistance has primarily consisted of emergency rations in the form of hot meals and nutritional biscuits at the entry points, as well as support in securing transportation from point of arrival. Available nutrition assessments in July and August showed elevated levels of acute malnutrition from these transit sites, with deteriorating conditions along riverine transportation routes. Returnees then arrived in local communities during the lean season, facing substantial barriers to accessing income and food, and contributing to rising pressure on host communities already struggling to share limited resources. This was further corroborated by WFP during the FSNMS round 29 sub-sample of returnee households that indicated extremely low coping capacity and heavy dependence on community support among returnee households. While WFP has subsequently announced plans to deliver 3‑months of assistance to returnees at their final destination, with registration of beneficiaries underway in September and October, the lack of comprehensive tracking of returnee movements across the country will likely hinder implementation and coverage. 

    Figure 4

    Daily arrivals and cumulative total of returnees and refugees fleeing Sudan crisis, as of October 31, 2023
    Daily arrivals and cumulative total of returnees and refugees fleeing Sudan crisis, as of October 31, 2023

    Source: FEWS NET using data from the RRC/UNHCR/IOM dashboard

    Main season crop production: The national crop assessment mission is currently underway with results expected by early 2024. In lieu of those results, interim data collected in the latest round of FSNMS indicates a similar number of households who planted this year compared to 2022 across most parts of the bimodal Greater Equatoria region, the country’s most productive area. Nonetheless, challenges including below average and unevenly distributed rainfall, insecurity limiting access to farmland in some areas, pests, and lack of farming tools are expected to impact crop production, likely resulting in harvests similar or lower than last year. In Tambura and Ezo counties of Western Equatoria, the number of households who planted increased due to a lull in conflict events permitting households to access farmland. By contrast, the number of households who planted in 2023 was lower in Kapoeta South and Budi of Eastern Equatoria; Maridi and Ibba of Western Equatoria; and Juba and Morobo of Central Equatoria due to the aforementioned reasons. In Lafon of Eastern Equatoria, a prolonged dry spell led to a total crop failure such that some households migrated to other areas in search of food and income (Figure 5). 

    Second season crops (e.g. ground nuts, maize, and beans) as well as the ratoon crops in Greater Kapoeta Counties of Eastern Equatoria, are at weeding to vegetative stages in most parts of Western Equatoria counties; Yei and Lainya of Central Equatoria; and Magwi of Eastern Equatoria. However, long maturing sorghum crops in Magwi, the southern payam of Torit, Isohe and Budi of Eastern Equatoria, and rural areas of Juba in Central Equatoria are at late vegetative to flowering stage. In localized areas, second season harvest prospects are likely to be better than the first season harvest due to improved rainfall performance later in the season.

    In most parts of the unimodal Greater Upper Nile and Bahr-el-Ghazal regions, the proportion of households that planted out of total households improved in many areas compared to last year due to reduced flooding in 2023 cropping season that facilitated increased access to land (Figure 6). However, production is expected to vary considerably across the country due to localized impacts of rainfall patterns (late onset in some areas, prolonged dry spells in others, and below-average cumulative rainfall throughout the region), levels of insecurity, and persistence of residual flood waters. Overall, for the deficit producing unimodal areas, harvests are expected to be similar to or slightly below average, but with some localized areas experiencing significantly below average harvests. 

    At present, harvests of main season crops are complete in Greater Pibor; Bor South, Fangak, Canal/Pigi, Duk and Akobo County of Jonglei State; Leer and Mayendit of Unity; all counties of Lakes state; all counties in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap, and Maiwut of Upper Nile. Long maturing sorghum crops are currently at flowering to maturity stage mainly in Rumbek center, Awerial and Greater Yirol of Lakes; Raja and Wau of Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Bor South of Jonglei state and are expected to be harvested in December 2023. 

    Figure 5

    Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI)* anomaly as of the end of October 2023
    Map of South Sudan showing Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) anomaly as of the end of October 2023

    *WRSI is a measure of potential crop performance based on availability of water to the crop during growing season and does not take into account other non-meteorological factors on crop performance during the season. 

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 6

    Difference in share of total households that planted this year compared to last year
    Map of South Sudan showing the difference in share of total households that planted this year compared to last year

    Source: FEWS NET, using WFP-FAO-UNICEF Food Security & Nutrition Monitoring Survey data made available for the 2023 IPC workshop

    Figure 7

    Flood water extent as of October 31, 2023, compared to the same period in 2022
    Map of northern South Sudan showing the flood water extent as of October 31, 2023, compared to the same period in 2022

    Source: FEWS NET, using NOAA VIIRS satellite imagery

    Residual floodwaters: The floodwaters that previously inundated much of the Sudd region and expanded beyond into areas of Jonglei, Lakes, Unity, Upper Nile, Warrap, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal have significantly receded compared to last year, facilitating household movements in the previously flood affected areas (Figure 7). A notable exception is in parts of Mayom and Rubkona of Unity and Twic East of Jonglei where floodwaters have remained atypically high through October due to saturated and compacted soils. While some rising riverine water level in the Nile River basin associated with above average rainfall upstream in Lake Victoria region and parts of Western Ethiopian highlands has been noted, it is not contributing significantly to expansion of flood water extents. In Rubkona in particular, five of its eight areas are still inundated, which has severely limited household ability to engage in crop and livestock production and increased prevalence of human disease outbreaks in displacement sites.

    Livestock production: Given above average rainfall in October due to strong El Niño conditions, livestock body and rangeland conditions have further improved and are generally between fair to good across the pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihoods. The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) similarly confirms pasture and grazing conditions near-normal to above normal, except in parts of northern Jonglei and north-central Unity where pastures remain submerged by residual floodwaters (Figure 8).  

    Nonetheless, past and ongoing flood and conflict events have caused a drop in household ownership of livestock, constraining livestock production and its contribution to food and income. According to WFP’s FSNMS round 29, the largest decline in share of households owning livestock this year compared to last year was reported in Guit, Koch, and Rubkona of Unity; and Renk of Upper Nile (20-45 percent declines). However, stability or less significant increases or decreases in the share of households reporting owning any livestock when compared only to last year can mask severe deterioration that occurred in prior years and/or more steady but consistent erosion of livestock assets over the years. A trend analysis of FSNMS data on livestock ownership over the past five years shows comparatively low levels in Canal/Pigi, Fangak, and Twic East of Jonglei, and Fashoda of Upper Nile for the fourth consecutive year, indicative of the challenges to recovery following flood and conflict shocks. In other parts of Jonglei (Nyirol, Uror, Duk), Upper Nile (Melut, Nasir, Ulang), and Northern Bahr el Ghazal (Aweil North and East), there has been a slower but steady decline in ownership observable over the past five years. On the other hand, other areas with reduced shocks this year observed increases in livestock ownership, up to levels similar to 4-5 years ago, which allowed for improved access to livestock products and income from livestock sales. These areas include Tonj South, Tonj East, Gogrial East and West of Warrap; Leer, Mayendit and Panyijiar of Unity; Ayod, Akobo, Twic East and Bor South of Jonglei; and Terekeka and Kapoeta South of Eastern and Central Equatoria and Baliet of Upper Nile. Although there was no report of major livestock disease outbreak in the country, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Livestock has launched a second phase of livestock vaccination campaign against Peste des Petis Ruminants (PPR)—targeting 4 million shoats, in Eastern Equatoria, Central Equation, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Renk and Melut in Upper Nile state in late October to early November 2023. 

    Figure 8

    Vegetation conditions compared to average during the period of October 21-31, 2023
    Map of South Sudan showing the vegetation conditions compared to average during the period of October 21-31, 2023

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Macroeconomy: While crude oil exports via Port Sudan continue and anticipated increases in domestic oil production and higher global oil prices are expected to contribute to modest gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2023/2024 (by 2-5 percent according to different sources), protracted impacts of past and ongoing conflicts, years of severe flood events, the slow pace of peace implementation, and poor local revenue mobilization and management continue to undermine the country’s economic reform efforts and growth-enhancing public spending. The high dependence on oil with simultaneous underdeveloped industrial capacity alongside inadequate infrastructure (paved roads and reliable electricity) further impedes financial progress. As a result, the economy remains characterized by low domestic production, high unemployment, and widespread poverty. The local currency continues to lose its purchasing value against the US dollar (USD) and drive high import costs and commodity prices across the country. As of the end of October 2023, the parallel market was trading at 1,125 SSP per USD while official markets traded at 1,033 SSP per USD. Compared to September 2023, the exchange rate has further depreciated by 8.7 and 2 percent in October 2023, respectively, and by 79 and 68 percent, respectively, compared to same time last year (Figure 9).

    Figure 9

    Weekly rolling average of the official and parallel exchange rates (SSP per USD), January 2022 to present
    Weekly rolling average of the official and parallel exchange rates (SSP per USD), January 2022 to present

    Source: FEWS NET

    Trade flows: While cross-border trade activity with Sudan remained disrupted due to the conflict, large volumes continue to flow into South Sudan from within the East African region. Based on the third quarter East Africa cross-border bulletin summarizing trade flows in the July-September period prior to South Sudan’s main dry harvest, imports from Uganda more than doubled for sorghum and tripled for maize since the second quarter (April-June), with the low maize levels in the second quarter linked to high levels of aflatoxin. However, both quantities are considerably lower than last year’s imports at the same time, with decreases of 74 percent for sorghum and 38 percent for maize. Similar decreases of 84 percent and 61 percent, respectively, were seen compared to the five-year average due to trade policy changes at the border (e.g. the inclusion of aflatoxin-related surveillance), persistent demonstrations by truck drivers, ad hoc insecurity between the border and Juba, and continued SSP depreciation. Sorghum imports from Sudan to South Sudan during the third quarter was 89 percent lower than second quarter this year and 36 percent lower than same quarter last year. Domestically, sporadic intercommunal banditries and related insecurity alongside poor road conditions from residual floodwater in Greater Upper Nile and parts of Bahr el Ghazal continue to disrupt trade flows and limit market supplies. 

    Markets and staple food prices: Markets are currently operational in all the state capitals and most rural areas. However, in locations with high residual floodwaters, persisting insecurity, and spill-over effects of the Sudan conflict, the normal functioning of markets is limited, especially in northern-central Jonglei, Western Upper Nile, Unity, Tonj counties and parts of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. At the household level, physical and financial access to markets as captured by WFP’s FSNMS round 29 survey varies widely by county. The main reported physical access constraints include insecurity, high floodwaters, and lack of a means of transportation. Financially, most households (87 percent) lack the economic capacity to meet the cost of essential needs. Survey data further shows nearly half the population (49 percent) reported experiencing unusually high staple food prices, creating a significant barrier to adequate financial access to food across the country.  

    Based on September price data available in CLiMIS, the retail price of a malwa (3.5 kgs) of white sorghum (in key reference markets of Juba, Wau, Aweil, Rumbek center) and red sorghum (in Torit) remained stable in Juba and declined by 5-30 percent in the others when compared to August due to increased availability of local supply (Figure 8). However, compared to same period last year and the five-year average, sorghum was generally 5–35 percent and 85-205 percent higher, respectively, due to continued local currency depreciation and high supply costs linked to fuel price and illicit tax along trade routes. While trend data is not available for Rubkona, periodic monitoring data available from WFP biweekly reports indicated that food prices had declined in October due to increased supply from the harvests, with costs further eased by government’s suspension of local taxes on food.

    Figure 10

    Price of white sorghum (feterita) from January 2021 to September 2023 in selected markets
    Graph showing the price of white sorghum (feterita) from January 2021 to September 2023 (SSP/3.5 kg)

    Source: FEWS NET using data from CLIMIS

    Measles outbreaks: Repeated measles outbreak that started in early 2022 have continued through 2023, spiking again in July of this year amid the large influx of returnees and poor water and sanitation conditions in arrival areas and along transit routes. In total, an estimated 5,725 suspected cases of measles have been reported, mostly affecting children under five. A nationwide vaccination campaign was undertaken between April and May targeting 2.7 million children, with reactive campaigns conducted subsequently in five counties with reporting of high cases among returnees from Sudan: Rubkona, Renk, Aweil East, Aweil North, and Aweil West. The very high prevalence of measles in many of the counties of high concern was a key driver of high acute malnutrition (.e.g. 28.1 percent in Rubkona) given the well-established negative interaction between nutritional status and measles, on top of chronically high child morbidity levels and poor water and sanitation conditions. However, according to WHO Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response data, the number of deaths due to measles is gradually declining.  

    Humanitarian food assistance: According to WFP’s biweekly distribution reports for October, WFP has completed lean season distributions of food assistance in most counties. In a few priority counties, however, insecurity and/or low river water levels hindered transport and disrupted the timeliness of distributions. These counties include areas of high concern such as Pibor, Fangak, Akobo East, and Akobo West, where the assistance cycle will conclude instead by early November. Overall, levels of food assistance reached a sufficient portion of the population with adequate rations to mitigate the severity of acute food insecurity in 10 counties – Akobo, Fangak, and Bor South of Jonglei; GPAA; Mayom and Pariang of Unity; Maban and Ulang of Upper Nile; Abyei Administrative Area; and Awerial of Lakes. 

    In addition to the regular lean season assistance cycle, food assistance distributions are still ongoing for refugees, IDPs in Malakal Protection of Civilian sites, and for some South Sudanese returnees identified at their final destinations. These populations will receive three months of aid consisting of 50 percent rations under the Phase II assistance response plan. As of October 31, nearly 40,000 South Sudanese returnees had received assistance across Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, Jonglei, and Unity states, according to WFP. However, difficulty in tracking returnee movements is expected to complicate effective targeting of deliveries. Finally, in Rubkona, WFP is working to resume food assistance deliveries within the coming month.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    October marks the start of dry harvest, but high levels of acute food insecurity persist due to the steady influx of returnees and refugees throughout the lean season, continued insecurity, and localized poor harvests. In Rubkona, the atypically early end of lean season food assistance also removed an emergency source of food that populations previously relied upon. According to the recent national IPC analysis conducted in September/October, 5.83 million people are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity, of whom 1.64 million people face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes and an estimated 35,000 people are in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). These estimates reflect observed outcomes amid the lean season food assistance cycle, meaning that 5.83 million people were still experiencing food consumption gaps or engaging in negative coping strategies while food assistance deliveries were ongoing. In 11 counties across Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Eastern Equatoria, over 20 percent of each county’s population faces Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. 

    However, the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse has notably declined compared to last year’s IPC estimates during the harvest period, when the IPC estimated 6.6 million people were in need of assistance, of which 61,000 people were assessed to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). The reduction from 2022 to 2023 is due in large part to the observed decline in flood extent, lulls in conflict, and marginal improvements to food security in parts of Warrap and Lakes. Nonetheless, over 45 percent of the country’s population needs food assistance during the 2023 harvest period, and the persistence of severe outcomes reflects the long-term erosion of livelihoods and low coping capacity of populations across much of South Sudan.

    In the month of October, the areas of greatest concern include Nyirol, Duk, and Rubkona counties, while a population of greatest concern includes returnees and refugees that fled Sudan and Ethiopia. Many among the returnee population were experiencing large food consumption gaps and acute malnutrition at the peak of the lean season, and the severity of household kilocalorie deficits have likely remained similar or worsened as of October since these households did not benefit from the harvest. The most severe food consumption gaps are assessed among those who spent prolonged periods in transit areas awaiting onward transportation, have limited social capital, and/or have exceptionally limited assets. Moreover, the influx of these populations with high needs is exacerbating conditions in counties with already scarce resources.

    In Rubkona, the populations of concern include not only returnees, but also households that have experienced protracted displacement. In the absence of food assistance in September and October, populations in Rubkona have resorted to expanding their reliance on markets and wild foods, including fish, while facing very limited income-generating opportunities and high food prices. Fishing and gathering wild foods is time-intensive and physically challenging, but these sources are nonetheless available – in August, nearly one-third of surveyed households reported that their level of dependence on wild foods was normal for the lean season, while about 15 percent said it was less than normal, indicative of room for expandability in wild food access, especially in comparison to other areas of high concern where wild food consumption is already being maximized (Figure 11). Nevertheless, the removal of food aid cannot be fully compensated as other sources of food remain inadequate, and some households are likely experiencing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes before planned food assistance resumes in November. 

    Figure 11

    Dependence on wild foods during the lean season (share of households) in 5 counties
    Dependence on wild foods during the lean season (share of households) in 5 counties (Rubkona, Aweil East, Pibor, Nyirol, and Duk)

    Source: FEWS NET, using WFP-FAO-UNICEF Food Security & Nutrition Monitoring Survey data made available for the 2023 IPC workshop


    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal calendar for a typical year in South Sudan

    Source:

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario from October 2023 to May 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Conflict: Amid slow implementation of the 2018 September peace deal and volatile relations between the parties to the agreement, election-related tensions are likely to fuel an increase in sporadic political violence through May 2024, which could affect economic activity and households’ livelihoods. Tensions and intimidations between and amongst different political parties or rivals are likely to remain heated given that the leader of SPLA-IO still maintains that without the full implementation of the security arrangement, there will be no election. As such, there are potential for tensions between the political parties regarding the conduct of the election, and specifically, northern Jonglei-Upper Nile border region, Warrap, and parts of Unity and Central and Equatoria states are likely to be conflict and violence hotspots during the projection period. 
    • Due to ongoing conflict in Sudan, there is a high likelihood for an increase in the activity of armed Misseriya militia along the Sudan border with northern Bahr el Ghazal region, causing insecurity and disrupting trade flows and movement of people across the border in Aweil North and East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. 
    • In the northern Jonglei-Upper Nile border region, clashes between Nuer and Shilluk communities are likely to increase through May 2024, driven by rising South Sudanese returnees, continued presence of Nuer White Army members around Tonga in Panyikang county, and amid preparations for the 2024 elections. Sporadic outbreaks of communal violence between these communities are expected to periodically disrupt trade flows and the delivery of food assistance.
    • In southern Jonglei and Pibor County of GPAA areas, retaliatory inter-communal violence, cattle raiding, and child abductions will occur periodically, similarly disrupting assistance delivery and trade flows. Further disruptions are expected in access to typical food and income sources, such as gathering wild foods and fishing during their peak periods. 
    • In Warrap and Unity, inter-communal conflict, cattle raiding, and revenge attacks are expected to continue at the levels similar to 2022 and 2023. Clashes and cattle raiding are likely to temporarily increase from November 2023 through May 2024 with the dry seasonal livestock migration.
    • In Greater Equatoria, violent activity by cattle ranchers is expected to continue through May 2024, disrupting food security and livelihoods. In Kapoeta South in Eastern Equatoria, cattle raiding by Turkana herders from Kenya is likely to persist at current levels through May 2024. Armed clashes and cattle raiding among the Pari, Lopit, and Tennet communities are also expected to continue in coming months. Poor macro-economic conditions and rising living costs, particularly in Eastern Equatoria, are likely to increase banditry and road ambushes during this period.
    • Internal displacement: Based on the conflict assumptions above, coupled with anticipated election-related tensions and violence, it is expected that episodic internal displacement and re-displacement will continue. 
    • South Sudanese returnees and refugees: Arrivals of South Sudanese returnees and refugees are expected to continue, although in declining numbers compared to between mid-April 2023 and August 2023. The spontaneous return of South Sudanese refugees from Uganda, the DRC, and Gambella in Ethiopia are expected to continue during the projection period due to the harsh living conditions and cuts in rations in refugee camps and settlements in neighboring countries. Conversely, fears of election-related tensions and violence may discourage some refugees from returning. 
    • Rainfall: According to USGS models and under strong El Niño conditions, there is an increased likelihood of above-average rainfall across the bimodal zone of South Sudan from the second half of October through December, which could lead to localized flooding, particularly in parts of Greater Equatoria. Based on expectations of above-average rainfall in parts of Uganda, there is an increased risk of riverine flooding in north central South Sudan, although the risk of severe flooding beyond typical floodplain extents remains low. The March to May 2024 first season rains in bimodal South Sudan are likely to be average with localized areas of below average to above average, though there is uncertainty given the long-range nature of the forecast. 
    • Main season harvest: The combination of average production in the western half and average to below-average harvests in the eastern half will result in 2023 national crop production near or slightly below last year and the five-year average. Significantly below-average harvests are also expected in parts of the southeast, particularly in Lafon and Kapoeta of Eastern Equatoria and southeastern parts of Pibor in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, given significant rainfall deficits and high temperatures. Parts of northern Jonglei and Unity will also likely experience below-average production. The forecast for above-average November to December rainfall in the southern bimodal areas and in the southeast of the country could cause additional localized flooding and could negatively affect dry harvesting, resulting in increased post-harvest losses. 
    • Livestock: In most pastoral and agropastoral areas of the country, livestock body conditions will remain moderate to good in the immediate months following the rainy season, particularly with the forecast above average rain in late 2023 due to El Niño conditions. This will support improved access to livestock products and related income for those who own livestock. During the typical dry season from January through May 2024, livestock will migrate to seasonal pastures and access for households at the homestead will seasonally decline.
    • Given the current tribal division among the Rizeigat communities in South Darfur, an atypically high presence of Sudanese herders for grazing and water is likely to contribute to overgrazing and increased risk of conflict in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. A prolonged stay in northern Barh el Ghazal is likely to increase the pressure on available grazing resources and lead to high tensions among pastoral communities and farmers. 
    • Fish and wild foods: Although fish and wild foods will be seasonally available from October 2023 through March/April 2024, access will vary across the country depending on the performance of the main rainy season, flooding, and insecurity. Given the below average rainfall in south-east areas, such as Lafon and GPAA, and in areas where conflict and insecurity may persist, household access and availability is expected to be lower. High water levels in rivers will likely encourage households to participate in fishing given the good breeding through the rainy season, resulting in greater competition. Many host and return households, especially in the north, might face tensions at fishing grounds over these resources. To supplement food access, wild foods will be gathered through March/April. However, an increased presence of different armed Sudanese militia that are allied to the SAF and the RSF along border areas is likely to create fears and insecurity, potentially limiting household access to wild food gathering in nearby forests and access to labor markets across the borders.
    • Macroeconomy: Investment, which is already constrained by high lending rates and subject to the country’s macroeconomic constraints, is likely to further slow down amid election fears. Further pressure on the economy will come from diminishing humanitarian funding, reduced hard currency inflows, rise in needs linked to the large influx of South Sudanese returnees, and the likely rise in government spending on election-related expenses. Inflation, while reduced from previous years, is expected to remain high as the local currency continues to depreciate and remains above 1000 SSP per USD, contributing to the persistently high cost of living, high food prices, and limited financial access to food.
    • Trade: Although October through January is typically a period of higher imports from neighboring Uganda and Sudan, lower than normal import volumes are expected during the fourth quarter of 2023 and during the first and second quarters of 2024. Importers/traders will face persistently poor macroeconomic conditions, a rise in transportation costs associated with high fuel prices, and continued competition for the available tradeable grains within the East Africa region. Imports from Sudan will remain lower, due to the conflict-related disruption to production and insecurity along the border regions. Within the country, domestic trade flows are likely to be lower than normal due to below average harvests and localized road ambushes that may periodically disrupt trade flows. As such, low market supply levels and high staple prices are expected to persist in key rural markets during the projection period. Conflict in Sudan will continue to disrupt trade flows amid high demand from host communities and South Sudanese returnees and refugees, affecting markets in the northernmost counties of South Sudan. Very high staple food prices will be observed in these areas, even during the harvesting period from October through January 2024 when supply is typically high. 
    • Staple food prices:Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price analysis, in key reference markets of Aweil Centre, Wau, Juba, and Bor South, the retail price per malwa (3.5 kgs) of white sorghum is expected to seasonally decline during the October 2023 to January 2024 harvesting period, ranging from 2,000 to 4,759 SSP. Similarly, prices will follow seasonal rising trends during the February to May 2024 post-harvest period and at the start of the lean season in April/May, ranging from 2,474 to 4,541 SSP. Despite localized differences in prices across key reference markets during the projection period, overall, the retail price of white sorghum is likely to be 26 to 138 percent higher than last year, and 171 to 360 percent above the five-year average. Persistent above average prices are due to continued local currency depreciation, disrupted trade with Sudan, high fuel and supply cost, and tighter competition for available grains within the East Africa region. 
    • Humanitarian food assistance: Based on WFP’s presentation of total assistance plans provided during the South Sudan National IPC analysis held in September/October, WFP will scale-down its operations in 2024 due to funding shortfalls, likely targeting a total of 2.9 million beneficiaries monthly with in-kind and cash-based assistance under food and nutrition programs, compared to 5.4 million people in 2023, reflecting a 46 percent reduction in beneficiaries. The emergency food assistance lean season response, inclusive of General Food Distribution and Food for Assets programs, is expected to start in some areas in February and March, Distribution levels are expected to gradually scale up and will reach, on average, 2.1 million people monthly or 16 percent of the total population of South Sudan from February/March through May. However, delivery will periodically be disrupted by conflict and insecurity in line with past trends. Due to funding restrictions, WFP will prioritize the delivery of food assistance during the 2024 lean season to areas classified in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse and areas hosting a high influx of South Sudanese returnees. While three months of assistance is currently planned for returnees, more long-term plans remain unclear. 

    Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes

    Levels of acute food insecurity will remain high in South Sudan from October to January due to the below-average harvest, high returnee burden, high food prices, and ongoing macroeconomic challenges characterized by SSP depreciation and limited income-earning opportunities. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected across 53 counties, inclusive of 18 counties in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) across Jonglei, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Warrap, and Eastern Equatoria. Given the planned resumption of assistance in Rubkona, the population in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is expected to decline; however, pockets of households will persist among returnees, conflict-affected households, and communities hosting returnees in Nyirol and Duk. Additionally, some households in Pibor County are expected to face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes due to conflict and low asset ownership, particularly of livestock. Thus, the areas of greatest concern will include Pibor County in GPAA; Nyirol, Duk, and Uror of Jonglei; Rubkona of Unity; Renk of Upper Nile; and Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal.

    Food security will deteriorate further from February to May, which coincides with the post-harvest period and the start of the lean season period. The deteriorating trend will be driven by the depletion of own-produced food stocks, seasonal declines in the availability of wild foods, fish, and livestock products, limited income-earning opportunities, and above-average staple food prices, amid the persistence of macroeconomic challenges. Declines in food availability and access will be further aggravated by the increased returnee burden, particularly in Jonglei and areas bordering Sudan and Ethiopia. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to expand from 18 to 29 counties, mostly in Jonglei, Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, parts of Unity, Upper Nile and Eastern Equatoria states. Furthermore, an increase in the population facing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is expected in Pibor County in GPAA; Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal; and among South Sudanese returnees who lack basic needs (those who have little to no livestock) to restart their livelihoods. The planned start of the 2024 lean season food assistance distribution cycle in February and March 2024 is expected to mitigate the severity of acute food insecurity in 12 counties through May. In these counties, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected, mainly in the Greater Upper Nile region.

    In Rubkona, specifically, the anticipated high burden of returnees is also expected to exacerbate non-food drivers of acute malnutrition. The area has long hosted a large, displaced population, and the additional influx of returnees is exacerbating already crowded living conditions, which are situated in an inundated floodplain. The resumption of food assistance, coupled with some market functionality and access to wild foods, is expected to prevent a sharp increase in the population facing extreme hunger that is indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). However, poor health, nutrition, and sanitation services are conducive to likely repeated outbreaks of measles and other diseases in the absence of multisectoral interventions, leading to sustained, elevated morbidity levels and high levels of acute malnutrition. According to the IPC’s analysis, acute malnutrition levels among children under five are expected to surpass the Extremely Critical (GAM WHZ ≥30 percent) threshold, even though severe hunger is expected to remain low. 

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1
    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario
    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    NationalElection-related tensions and violence leading to a total breakdown in the September 2018 peace implementation

    Given the volatile conflict context, it is possible that political tensions and violence as the elections planned for December 2024 draw closer (towards the end of this projection period) could lead to more incidences of sporadic violence than currently anticipated in the most likely scenario. While the number and intensity of conflict events would vary between counties, a sharper uptick in such violence would displace additional populations and lead to further disruptions of trade and market functioning. Given the long lead time until the elections, it is unlikely that violence will reach an intensity that isolates populations from food sources for prolonged periods. However, the impacts of such violence would likely lead to an increase in the share of the total South Sudan population facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes and, to a lesser extent, additional pockets of households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5).

    A further significant deterioration in macroeconomic conditions, including continued rise in prices of both food and non-food commodities amid persistent low income-earning opportunities

    A greater deterioration in macroeconomic conditions than currently projected – due to for example, a global price shock or disruption to oil exports via Sudan – would cause further serious decline in purchasing capacity, resulting in significant restriction in many households’ ability to purchase adequate amounts of food. This would lead to an increase in the share of the population facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes although a severe deterioration would likely still be mitigated by availability of other sources of food and income. 

    Aweil North and Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal; Renk of Upper Nile; and Rubkona and Pariang of Unity

     

    Humanitarian funding mobilized beyond what is planned and likelyIncreased funds would permit humanitarian operations to scale-up in all areas of concern and address the needs of both host and returnee communities. This would likely improve food security outcomes in all areas of concern from February through May 2024, causing some populations to shift into lower food insecurity classifications to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!). However, the potential for improvement from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) would be contingent on the number of people reached by assistance, whether targeting is effective enough to reach those most in need, the timing of assistance delivery, and the ration size.
    Peaceful resolution of the Sudan conflictIn the event of a ceasefire and the initiation of talks for resolution by the parties involved in the Sudan conflict, the rate of influx of returnees and refugees to areas of concern would reduce, while cross-border trade activities would recover. This would revive economic activities in northern counties, improve import flows from Sudan, and drive lower prices for staple and non-food items than anticipated. Improved access to food and income opportunities would mitigate the severity and scale of acute food security leading to a lower share of the population facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes.
    Pibor County in GPAA; Nyirol, Duk and Uror of JongleiEscalation in intercommunal conflict among Murle, Dinka, and Lou Nuer communities An escalation in clashes and violence in these communities would lead to significant disruptions in livelihoods activities, trade, markets, and the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Many households would face large to extreme food consumption gaps. However, it is unlikely that levels of conflict would escalate to the point of isolating communities for prolonged periods (see annex). Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would likely be sustained in Duk, Nyirol, Uror, and Pibor, but with higher proportions of households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) than currently projected.

    Many areas of South Sudan are expected to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes during the October 2023 to May 2024 outlook period. While there are numerous areas of high concern in South Sudan, FEWS NET has selected two groups of counties where there is a high burden of returnee populations to illustrate the drivers leading to the classification of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) with households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). The first area of concern focuses on counties bordering Sudan, and the second area of concern focuses on counties in Jonglei and Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA). 


    Area of Concern: Rubkona in North-western Nile basin cattle and maize LHZ09; Aweil East and Aweil North in North-western flood plain sorghum and cattle LHZ07; and Pariang and Renk in Northern sorghum and cattle LHZ11 (Figure 12)

    Figure 12

    Aweil East and North of Northern Bahr el Ghazal; Pariang and Rubkona of Unity; and Renk of Upper Nile
    Area of concern map: Aweil East and North of Northern Bahr el Ghazal; Pariang and Rubkona of Unity; and Renk of Upper Nile

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    Returnee burden: The ongoing conflict in Sudan has caused a large-scale influx into the northern counties of South Sudan, surpassing 350,000 total (returnees and refugees) as of the end of October, although likely an underestimation. While data on onward movements is limited, triangulation of available data with field information and media reporting suggests that Aweil East and North of Northern Bahr el Ghazal; Pariang of Ruweng Administrative Area (AA); Renk of Upper Nile; and Rubkona of Unity are among the most impacted by the influx. Returnees have been encouraged to continue to their points of destination and to integrate into local communities. Evidence of deteriorating conditions in transit centers suggest that many returnees arrived in these locations throughout the lean season with large food consumption gaps, high rates of malnutrition, and heavily dependent on host community resources with little humanitarian support. This added burden in contexts of already limited resources raises the host counties’ vulnerability to acute food security and malnutrition.

    Persistent economic and climatic shocks: Many of these communities continue to face protracted impacts of past conflict and flood events that were exacerbated this year by the returnee burden, on top of additional economic and new climatic shocks. Household economic capacity is being strained by limited economic opportunities, local currency depreciation, and high food prices. According to WFP’s FSNMS round 29, between 44 and 72 percent reported unusually high staple food prices as a shock that has limited their financial access to food. Dry spells were reported by 30 percent of households in Aweil North, while flooding was reported by 30 percent in Rubkona. Indeed, five out of eight payams in Rubkona are still inundated in residual floodwater, limiting household engagement in traditional livelihood activities, increasing exposure to human disease outbreaks, and increasing dependency on food assistance amid shrinking humanitarian funding. As a result of prolonged asset depletion, household coping capacity has significantly been weakened, leaving households increasingly more vulnerable to acute food insecurity and malnutrition.  

    Seasonal performance and harvest: According to WFP’s FSNMS round 29 data, nearly all the households with access to land reported planting in Aweil North and Pariang this season, compared to about 70 percent in Aweil East, and nearly 30 percent in Renk. In Aweil East and Renk, this represents a deterioration in households with access to land who planted compared to last year. In Renk, the low proportion of planting was influenced in part by the late onset of rain. In Rubkhona, the extremely low reporting of planting (just 3 percent of total households interviewed) was similar to last year, given the lack of arable land and persistently high floodwaters. 

    Even with higher proportion of planting in some areas of Pariang and the Aweils, crop production faced many challenges, including dry spells (in Aweil East, Aweil North, and Pariang), pest damage (19-44 percent in all areas), shortage of seeds (Aweil East and North), and plant diseases (Pariang). Most areas experienced cumulatively near- or slightly below-average rainfall, although this masked the observed rainfall anomaly during August that affected crop production and yields. As a result, 2023 harvests are likely lower than in 2022 in Renk and Aweil East; similar to last year in Pariang; and similar to or above average in Aweil North. In Rubkona, little to no harvest is expected given the extremely low engagement in crop production. Production data from the past three years in these areas indicates that on average, county-level crop production meets 85 percent of need in Aweil North, 54 percent in Aweil East, 58 percent in Renk, and 20 percent in Pariang. However, these estimations do not take into account the large increases in returnees who were not able to engage in crop production and are heavily dependent on host communities.

    Livestock production: Livestock production, with milk production peaking between June and October, is traditionally an important livelihood in most of these areas of concern and a key source of food and income for those with access. According to the FSNMS round 29, the area with consistently high livestock ownership remains Pariang (over 80 percent). In the rest of the counties of concern, the majority of households reported not owning livestock, reflecting an important deterioration in asset base. In Aweil North and East, about 60 percent do not own any livestock, reflecting a continuous decline in livestock ownership over the years in Aweil North, although relatively stable in Aweil East. In Renk and Rubkona, over 90 percent do not own any livestock, which for Rubkona represents a dramatic decline from 5 years ago when over 80 percent reported owning livestock.  

    Fishing and wild foods: Poor households in all the three livelihood zones also engage in gathering, hunting, and fishing to complement main food and income sources. During the lean season, dependence on wild foods due to a lack of other options was highest in Rubkona (94 percent) and Aweil East (54 percent), although in each, about one third of households reported this was normal consumption patterns and an additional 6-14 percent said it was less than normal. In Renk and Pariang, the level of consumption of wild foods was reportedly normal for most households (65-80 percent), with less than one-third reporting that consumption was due to a lack of other options. In Aweil North, 61 percent reported they were not consuming wild foods during the assessment time. With the arrival of the harvest in October, the dependence on wild foods likely declined among those who planted but likely remained high for returnees and among households in Rubkona following the end of assistance in August.   

    Similarly, FSNMS round 29 data showed 55 to 94 percent of households in Aweil East, Renk, and Rubkona had access to fish for consumption during the lean season mainly sourced from the market (63-95 percent). Only Rubkona showed a larger share of households with access to fish from their own fishing (29 percent). While much of the land around Rubkona is inundated, lack of fishing equipment is a major constraint to access (reported by 97 percent of households), as well as unpredictable water levels (37 percent). This is corroborated by field assessments indicating that the water is largely swampy and increasingly difficult to fish in. In Aweil North and Pariang, the majority indicated they have no access to fish for consumption (80-90 percent) during the lean season but would have some access in October given the relative calm in proximity to perennial rivers.

    Household income sources:In October, typical income sources for poor households include agricultural labor during the harvest, sale of own crops, and sale of wild foods or other forest products. In Pariang, sale of livestock is a main income source, while in Rubkona, it is the sale of fish for those able to engage in fishing, as well as collected materials such as firewood and charcoal. According to the FSNMS round 29, 40 to 50 percent of households had reported a decrease in income over the last six months, of which 20 to 30 percent of households defined it as a large decrease. Given increased competition for labor opportunities and scarce natural resources, these reductions in income are expected to continue in October, further diminishing the purchasing power of poor households.

    Markets and staple food prices: Although over half of the households in the areas of concern indicate they have physical access to markets, the distance to markets, transportation, and limited income remain major constraints to accessing available food. According to the FSNMS round 29, between 67 and 87 percent of households in these areas lack the economic capacity to meet their essential needs. Market supplies remain low due to access challenges along main domestic trade routes, high transportation costs, and disrupted trade with Sudan. While the prices of staple foods declined 4-32 percent in key markets between August and September, reflecting the arrival of the harvest, they remained 17 to 45 percent higher than last year. In Rubkona, the local government further suspended local taxes on food items to alleviate the cost in markets. In Renk, the retail price of white sorghum in October was 57 percent and 109 percent higher than in September and October last year, respectively. Poor households with little to no harvests, no livestock, and limited income opportunities, as well as returnee households and households hosting returnees, are most affected by high staple food prices. 

    Humanitarian food assistance: The proportion of the population receiving assistance varied across the counties for the period of July through August, with less than 10 percent reached in Aweil East and North, about one-third reached in Pariang and Rubkona, and over half reached in Renk.  The lean season response for host communities in all areas of concern concluded by August 2023 and is not expected to resume until February or March 2023, according to WFP. In past years for areas with very high dependence and limited capacity, such as Rubkona, assistance has continued throughout the dry season. This year’s decision to stop food assistance distributions in Rubkona amid persisting high needs reflects the significant humanitarian funding shortfall, challenges to allocating limited resources to target populations with logistical challenges, and the rising costs of food commodities. The stoppage of assistance in Rubkona is expected to cause outcomes to deteriorate in October given the erosion of livelihoods and lack of coping capacity.

    Current food security outcomes 

    Poor food consumption outcomes and dependence on severe coping were observed during the July/August peak of the lean season, with particularly severe outcomes observed in Aweil East, Aweil North, and Rubkona. Given significant asset erosion and high returnee burden in the areas of concern, the severity of acute food insecurity remains high during the October harvesting period. However, the relative increase in the availability of food from the main season harvest and access to wild food gathering, livestock production, and seasonal declines in staple food prices in October have likely led to a marginal reduction in the size of household kilocalorie deficits, resulting in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in Pariang, Aweil North, and Renk as of October. In Aweil East, where lean season outcomes suggested severe food insecurity among those with highest asset erosion (including of livestock), the high returnee burden and localized insecurity have continued to drive high severity and persistence of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in October. Following the atypical end of assistance in August in Rubkona, coupled with the high return burden, many households likely increased reliance on markets and wild foods, including fish, while facing very limited income-generating opportunities and high food prices. However, food from these other sources is likely inadequate to replace the kilocalories typically filled by food assistance, and as a result, some households are likely experiencing large to extreme consumption gaps indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes in October. 

    Assumptions

    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to these areas of concern:

    • A continued influx of South Sudanese returnees is expected in Renk, Pariang Aweil North, and Aweil East through the projection period, which will likely drive further competition and tension over available resources.
    • Trade and market functioning are expected to remain below normal through the projection period due to the conflict in Sudan. This will limit supply and increase costs and competition for tradable grains in East Africa region. In Renk, local supply from commercial production, in addition to trade flow from Blue Nile state are expected to sustain near-normal market supply through the projection period. As such, food prices are likely to be higher than last year and five-year average in all areas of concern during the October to January harvesting period and the February to May 2024 post-harvest and lean season. This is likely to limit household access to available foods in markets.
    • Given significant production challenges experienced by farming households in 2023 in all areas, below average harvests in Aweil East and Renk are likely to lead to early exhaustion of own stocks by January 2024. In Pariang and Aweil North, harvests similar to or slightly above last year (though below the five-year average) are expected to sustain households until February/March 2024. In Rubkona, little to no harvest is expected.
    • WPF’s current operational plans include coverage for the county population in Pariang and Rubkona, reaching 40-55 percent from December 2023 to March 2024 and 40-60 percent between April and July 2024. In Aweil East and North, WFP plans to distribute HFA to 2-5 percent and 8 percent of the populations, respectively, from December to March 2024 and April to July 2024. There are no current HFA plans for Renk during the projection period. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    During the October 2023 through January 2024 harvesting period, availability of food and income sources including own production, fish, milk, and wild foods is expected to increase in most areas. However, household access to these food and income sources is likely to remain well below their minimum kilocalorie needs, with variations in the degree of severity between counties. Although household dependence on markets is expected to decline with arrival of the harvest for those that planted, high supply costs and continued SSP depreciation are expected to drive higher staple food prices than last year and limit financial access to the market. In Pariang and Aweil North, higher levels of livestock ownership, average to above-average harvests, and access to wild food gathering will likely prevent the occurrence of large food consumption gaps, resulting in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. In Aweil East and Renk, low livestock ownership and access to livestock products and below-average harvests and income are expected to leave households with large food consumption gaps, characteristic of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. In Rubkona, heavy reliance on wild foods (including fish and lilies), limited income earned from casual labor and the sale of natural resources, and the resumption of planned food assistance in November are expected to provide the main sources of food amid very low livestock ownership and minimal harvests, resulting in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. 

    From the February 2024 post-harvest period through the May 2024 start of lean season, household stocks are expected to be exhausted and staple food prices are likely to rise above last year due continued poor macroeconomic conditions. Additionally, seasonal availability of wild foods, fish, and milk are also likely to be low. The seasonal reduction in all food and income sources are expected to cause low dietary consumption and quality and generate large food consumption gaps. As a result of high severity of acute food insecurity associated with below average access to food and income sources, a significant proportion of poor households and returnees in all areas are more likely to increasingly adopt coping strategies indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in all areas. However, planned and likely food assistance deliveries are expected to prevent large consumption gaps in Pariang, resulting in Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!), and alleviate the most severe outcomes in Rubkona, where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes will likely persist. In Aweil East and North, insignificant levels of planned and likely assistance, household stock depletion, and below average access to wild foods are expected to contribute to further deterioration in food consumption, with a higher proportion of the population likely to experience larger food consumption gaps indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4). In Aweil East, some pockets of returnees and host households with no livestock and limited access to income sources are expected to face extreme food consumption gaps indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). 


    Area of Concern: Pibor in South-eastern semi-arid Pastoral LHZ05; Nyirol, Duk and Uror in Eastern Plains Livestock and Cattle LHZ06 (Figure 13)

    Figure 13

    Duk, Nyirol, and Uror of Jonglei; and Pibor of GPAA
    Area of concern map: Duk, Nyirol, and Uror of Jonglei; and Pibor of GPAA

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    Conflict, displacement and returnee burden: Conflict, insecurity, and cattle raiding remain key drivers of acute food insecurity across the counties of concern, displacing households and intermittently disrupting trade flows and delivery of humanitarian food assistance. According to WFP’s FSNMS round 29, the proportion of households reporting insecurity as a shock increased in Pibor, Duk, and Nyirol in 2023 compared to last year and sustained the same high levels in Uror. Sporadic attacks and cattle raiding in 2023, involving armed Murle youths and their neighbors, the Dinka and Lou Nuer, interrupted livelihood activities and resulted in livestock theft. For example, in January and June/July, fighting between Murle armed youths and Lou Nuer in Gumuruk and Lekungole payams displaced thousands and interrupted trade flow and delivery of assistance. As such, in February 2023, some population in Gumuruk, Lekungole and Vertheth payams sought refuge in Boma. Given years of protracted attacks, Lekungole and Gumuruk payams face the most severe erosion of assets and higher rates of food insecurity.  

    Likewise, in Nyirol, Duk, and Uror Counties several shocks including insecurity, cattle raiding, high prices, and prolonged dry spells have affected household ability to access or produce foods in 2023. These are compounding on several years of successive shocks (flooding, conflict, displacement) that have eroded livelihoods in the counties. On top of this, returnee burden has further strained household access to food and income and limited their capacity to cope. Given limitations in data tracking returnee onward movement, official numbers of returnees in these counties are limited. However, news reporting of registration of returnees in Nyirol already indicated at least 3,000 returnees in just one payam, with numbers likely to continue to climb. Self-reporting of hosting of returnees also suggests a high burden of returnees in these three counties. 

    Livestock production: Although livestock production is typically an important source of livelihood for many households in Pibor County, livestock holdings remain low for a pastoral area, with only 27 percent of households reporting livestock ownership in 2023, compared to a reporting of 19 percent, in 2022 and 77 percent in 2019. The reduction is due primarily to consecutive years of intercommunal violence and cattle-raiding in 2020-2021. In late 2022 and 2023, sporadic attacks and cattle raiding in December/January and June/July, in Gumuruk and Lekungole payams led to further livestock looting. As such, availability and access to livestock products are significantly below average in comparison to 2019. 

    Similarly, livestock production is an important source of livelihood for many households in Duk, Nyirol and Uror Counties, where livestock ownership has been fairly stable since 2019, with 40-55 percent of households reporting livestock ownership in 2023 compared to a reporting of 45-70 percent in 2022.  While this stability in livestock ownership suggests likely lesser negative impacts of successive years of flooding in 2019-2022, up to 60 percent do not own any livestock. Indeed, further analysis of the profile of the households with severe hunger in the lean season revealed even lower livestock ownership in Uror and Duk (between 6-32 percent) although similar to county level in Nyirol and Pibor. With the positive rainfall conditions in October, it is likely these areas have retained good access to livestock and may delay livestock migration to dry season grazing areas. 

    Rainfall and crop production: The June to September main rainfall season was generally below average to poor with widespread reports of dry spells, especially in the Pibor area. About half of total households with access to land planted mostly maize in 2023, nearly all reported a prolonged dry spell which was corroborated by satellite rainfall estimates in July and August. However, crop production is typically a marginal activity due to the semi-arid nature of the area, with production typically only meeting 21 percent of population needs in the county on average. Given expectations of below average production this year, households are likely to heavily rely on their livestock, wild foods, fish, markets, and humanitarian food assistance. 

    In Duk, Nyirol and Uror, the local economy is historically more agro-pastoral, meaning crop and livestock production are both important sources of livelihood. However, they are similarly structurally grain deficit— meeting less than 26 percent of its total grain needs year-on-year since 2014 – and harvests that used to last up to 9 months now only last 2-4 months due to increasing conflict and climate hazards. This year conflict and weather shocks were reported in all 3 counties and overall harvest in 2023 is likely to be lower than 2022, with some household having significantly below average harvests. 

    Fishing: Fishing is typically very limited in Nyirol and Uror, occurring in just a few seasonally swampy areas, due to the lack of proximity to permanent river sources. By contrast, fishing remains a key livelihood activity for households especially in Duk and to a lesser extent in Pibor, though availability and access vary depending on the season of the year and level of insecurity. In Duk, nearly 80 percent reported access to fish for consumption during the lean season, up from 66 percent in 2022, although 79 percent reported access was affected by insecurity. In Pibor, access to fishing was reported by 15 percent in 2023, reduced from 29 percent in 2022 due to the poor rainfall in 2023 and unpredictable water levels. In addition, localized insecurity is limiting household movement to the distant fishing grounds in River Pibor or the Nile River in the low-lying areas of Pibor.  

    Wild food gathering and hunting: Wild food gathering and hunting are another key source of food and income for many households in these areas. In Pibor County, 77 percent indicating they are consuming wild foods because of lack of food, with 52 percent reporting consumption of wild foods was more than normal for this time of the year. In Duk, Nyirol, and Uror Counties, 80-90 percent are consuming wild foods because of a lack of other options, with 38-78 percent of households consuming wild food more than normal for this time of the year. Moreover, analysis of longer-term trends around wild food consumption in the 4 counties of concern, reveals a steady increase over the last 4 years in the share of households who are saying that consumption is more than normal and conversely a steady decline in proportion of households reporting not consuming wild foods at all, indicative of increasing dependence on this source.  Similarly, households appear to have intensified hunting in 2023 in all counties. Between 35-70 percent of the households compared to 10-35 percent in 2022, likely due to loss of other key food sources such as crops and livestock. 

    Trade, market functionality, and staple food prices: Trade and market functionality varies across the counties of concern, ranging from limited to minimal or no activity due to high transportation costs, insecurity along trade routes, and poor road conditions. The main Pibor market has low or limited food supply due to insecurity and poor road conditions along the Juba-Bor-Pibor road. Lekuangole and Gumuruk markets in Pibor remain vandalized. As such, retail price of red sorghum per malwa (3.5 kgs) increased from 5,920 SSP in September to 10,000 SSP in mid-October 2023—an increase of 69 percent. In addition, physical and financial access for households remains a challenge. Although 85 percent of the households in Pibor report having access to the market, distances are far and purchasing power is low. According to the Economic Capacity to Meet Essential Needs (ECMEN) indicator, 98 percent do not have the capacity to afford the minimum expenditure basket. These, combined with high staple food prices, are affecting food availability and food access. 

    Similarly, in Nyirol, Duk and Uror, many households are facing market access challenges due to the high staple food prices, long distances to reach any market, and insecurity along market routes. In Duk, the central market in Poktop is operating with atypically low grain supply at this time of the year due to impassable road linked to heavy rains in October exacerbated by insecurity along the Bor South-Twic East route. According to the ECMEN indicator, between 78 and 93 percent of households in Duk, Nyirol, and Uror cannot afford the minimum expenditure basket. 

    Humanitarian food assistance: According to analysis of WFP’s July-September distribution reports, assistance reportedly reached more than 25 percent of the county population with rations fulfilling more than 25 percent of kilocalorie needs on average in Nyirol, Pibor, and Uror, although not in Duk. However, distributions were disrupted periodically due to insecurity and a high rate of sharing is suspected as evidenced by very high rates of self-reported receipt of assistance according to the WFP FSNMS round 29, likely diluting the impact on households’ consumption. According to WFP, a three-month distribution covering August to October was ongoing in Pibor, likely reaching 47 percent of the county population meeting 70 percent of their daily kilocalorie needs. In Duk and Nyirol, lean season response was completed by September, while in Uror, a one-month distribution was completed in September reaching 74 percent of the county population with 15 days ration sizes.

    Current food security outcomes 

    Food consumption outcomes indicators and livelihood change data collected at the peak of the lean season in July-August pointed to significant deterioration across the counties of concern, with indications of severe hunger likely persisting in October. According to key informants and contextualization, severe household hunger as reported by the household hunger score indicator from the time of the data collection in July-August was linked to the disruption of food assistance delivery due to insecurity and likely household sharing of food assistance that tends to lower the impact of any assistance at household level. However, according to WFP, a three-month food distribution from August to October is ongoing in Pibor, likely mitigating the more severe outcomes. As such, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, without populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), are assessed in October in Pibor. In Nyirol, severe hunger was also observed, according to FSNMS data. Given the very high reporting of returnee burden, high levels of insecurity, low levels of assistance, and poor access to food and income sources persisting in October, the area is classified in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) with households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Likewise, severe hunger was similarly observed in Duk and Uror County; however, in the latter the provision of additional assistance in September was expected to lessen the severity observed in July-August. As such, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) persists in both, with households in Catastrophe in Duk, where no assistance was delivered in October. 

    Assumptions

    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to these areas of concern:

    • Availability of and household access to fish and wild foods will be lower in Pibor, given the below average rainfall; however, the above-average rainfall forecast in the remainder of the season may result in October/November increased availability of fish and wild foods, while the overall availability of fish and wild foods will start to seasonally decline from March/April through May. 
    • Livestock ownership is likely to remain fairly stable in Duk, Uror, and Nyirol in the projection periods but decline further in Pibor as sporadic violence and cattle raids are anticipated. As such, livestock production and productivity as well as household access to livestock products will vary, depending on the level of livestock raids, pasture shortages, and livestock diseases. 
    • According to WFP plans shared at the IPC, assistance deliveries to the counties of concern is expected to restart in February and March and be scaled up in April and May, reaching between 35 and 80 percent of the county populations and meeting 50 percent of their daily Kcal needs. However, assistance delivery will face challenges due to insecurity, poor road conditions, and potential weather-related conditions. 

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Food security outcomes will remain poor from October 2023 to January 2024 due to a low harvest, limited availability of and access to fish and wild foods, and market access challenges such as high staple food prices, distant physical access to markets, and insecurity. This is in addition to low livestock ownership, especially in Pibor. The added burden of returnee households will also further reduce the availability of and access to these food sources. As such, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, with some households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), are expected in Nyirol and Duk at least through January. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in Pibor and Uror. 

    Food security will deteriorate further from February to May 2024, with the depletion of food stocks and seasonal decline in availability of fish and wild foods, in addition to persistent financial and physical challenges accessing food. Moreover, seasonal declines in the availability of livestock products during the dry season will contribute to low food and milk consumption, with significantly below average levels likely in Pibor given lower livestock holdings. As such, many households will face large food consumption gaps in all counties. While planned assistance is expected to exceed the thresholds (at least 25 percent of the county population reached meeting at least 25 percent of kilocalorie needs) in the four counties of concern, past trends suggest a high likelihood of frequent disruptions or suspensions due to conflict or insecurity, high levels of sharing, and/or missed targeting of households will lead to lower level of food assistance deliveries to the most at risk of acute food insecurity. As such, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) will persist in all four counties, and some households are expected to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Pibor.  


    Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance

    Annex on the Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in South Sudan

    FEWS NET assesses and communicates a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) when there is a credible alternative scenario in which Famine (IPC Phase 5) would occur in the future, but it is not the most likely acute food insecurity outcome. A credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) exists when the likelihood of the scenario that would result in Famine (IPC Phase 5) is considered ‘moderate’ or ‘high’. This distinction is important in contexts where potential worst-case scenarios exist, but these are not scenarios that FEWS NET considers to have a moderate or higher likelihood of occurrence. According to the IPC 3.1 protocols, the classification of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in a specific area requires that three thresholds related to starvation are met: 1) at least 20 percent of the area’s population has an extreme lack of food; 2) acute malnutrition levels meet or exceed 30 percent of children under five; 3) ≥2 adults or ≥4 children for every 10,000 people are dying each day due to outright starvation or the interaction of malnutrition and disease. 

    Below-average rainfall characterized the 2023 June to September rainy season, resulting in few reported incidences of flooding through the season and little change in the flood extent beyond levels observed at the start of the season. The reduction in flooding facilitated greater access to land for farming and grazing in many areas and contributed to improvement in food security outcomes in the harvest period. During the October 2023 to May 2024 outlook period, FEWS NET assesses that the risk of severe flooding will remain low, even though localized floods are likely. Moderate-to-strong El Niño conditions are expected to persist through early next year, and this is expected to result in above-average rainfall in upstream river catchments in Uganda; however, based on current flood extent and streamflow forecasts, this is unlikely to cause severe riverine flooding downstream in South Sudan to an extent that would isolate households from accessing food and income for a prolonged time. Moreover, the risk of flooding is expected to further decline through typical dry season, as flood waters recede.

    In addition to reductions in flooding, the incidence and intensity of violent conflict has been relatively lower over the past eight months. This trend has contributed to marginal improvements in physical access to food and income sources and a reduction in overall needs during the harvest and post-harvest periods. Conflict in South Sudan remains highly volatile given its underlying politicized and retaliatory nature, and sporadic incidences of inter-communal attacks are expected to continue in some areas and increase in others through the projection period. However, analysis of current conflict dynamics points to continued fragmentation of the opposition, such that the likelihood of these conflicts escalating in a coordinated or widespread manner that isolates households from food sources, including assistance, for a prolonged period is low. 

    Levels of acute food insecurity remain very high in South Sudan. Even with the relative improvements observed during the harvest period, almost half of the population remains in need of food assistance during the harvest period due to years of steady erosion of livelihoods amid recurrent flooding and conflict shocks. The population in need of food assistance is expected to rise further as South Sudan enters the post-harvest and lean season periods of 2024, with over 1 in 2 households requiring urgent food assistance. Pockets of households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) are expected to persist through the projection period, driven by the underlying erosion of livelihoods and a heavy burden of returnees fleeing neighboring conflicts. Meanwhile, significant funding gaps will limit the scale of the humanitarian assistance response. While the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) is considered low from October to May, it is important to bear in mind that Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are still indicative of a severe situation in which atypically high levels of acute malnutrition and mortality are expected. 

    The risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) can be added or removed from a country at any time as conditions evolve. FEWS NET will continue to closely monitor and regularly assess the level of risk, given that flood and conflict patterns may shift after the 2024 rainy season begins and in the lead-up to the December 2024 elections.

    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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