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A scale-up of food assistance is required to prevent a significant risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in 2021

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • October 2020 - May 2021
A scale-up of food assistance is required to prevent a significant risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in 2021

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  • Key Messages
  • If Planned Humanitarian Food Assistance Is Not Delivered, Famine (Ipc Phase 5) Would Be Possible In Pibor
  • National Overview
  • Events That Might Change The Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • The escalation of conflict and severe floods in 2020, coupled with the impacts of the worsening macroeconomic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic on staple food prices and household income, have driven exceptionally high levels of acute food insecurity for the main harvesting period. FSNMS data collected in October 2020 and other available evidence indicate household hunger is comparable to the peak of the 2019 lean season and worse than the post-harvest period of 2019. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is likely among households in multiple counties of South Sudan, including in Pibor, Aweil South, greater Tonj, and Akobo. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are widespread.

    • The area of greatest concern is Pibor,1 where it is possible the population in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in the October-November period is near to or exceeds 20 percent. Available information suggests extreme levels of acute malnutrition and mortality – which are lagging indicators – have likely not reached the Famine (IPC Phase 5) thresholds. FEWS NET assesses that the delivery of food assistance to 20 percent of the local population in October has mitigated deterioration to worse outcomes, resulting in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes at the county level. As food and income sources decline during the dry season, however, some increase in acute malnutrition and excess mortality is anticipated.

    • In Pibor, FEWS NET anticipates area level Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) 2 outcomes with some households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in the projection period. WFP plans to deliver food assistance to nearly 20 percent of the population monthly from January to May, and humanitarians are expected to prioritize delivery to the worst-affected households to the greatest degree possible. However, there are significant concerns for potential disruptions to delivery. Further, the scale of planned assistance is inadequate to prevent large food consumption gaps among all households. As such, FEWS NET assesses a significant risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will persist. If assistance is not delivered, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible. A scale-up of food assistance and guaranteed humanitarian access is urgently needed to save lives.

    • Across the rest of South Sudan, the completion of the main harvest in December and availability of other typical food sources will somewhat alleviate the severity of food insecurity through January. However, widespread deterioration to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is expected in 40 counties during the lean season, from February to May. In addition to Pibor, other areas of high concern include Jonglei, Warrap, Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, and Upper Nile.

    • Although humanitarian response plans indicate funded food assistance is likely to reach up to 20 percent of the national population during the lean season, FEWS NET anticipates that the total population in need of food assistance will exceed at least 50 percent of the national population. FEWS NET also assesses Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) will be possible in some areas – including but not limited to Akobo, Aweil South, and greater Tonj – if planned food assistance is delayed or disrupted. Given these high levels of food insecurity, a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will likely persist in other areas of South Sudan if an additional shock were to isolate households from food sources for a prolonged time.


    If planned humanitarian food assistance is not delivered, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible in Pibor

    Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System (FSNMS) data collected in October 2020 and information on food availability and access indicate households in multiple counties of South Sudan were likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) at the start of the main harvesting period, including in Pibor, Aweil South, greater Tonj, and Akobo. Pibor is the area of greatest concern, where a significant proportion of households face an extreme lack of food due to high levels of conflict in 2020 and severe flooding in 2019/20. Extreme food insecurity indicative of Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) is expected in Pibor through May, with the assumption that food assistance will prevent further deterioration. However, based on available information from WFP, significant constraints to food aid distributions in Pibor are a concern. If assistance is absent in the projection period, FEWS NET’s analysis is that Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible in Pibor. 

    Available evidence suggests a significant proportion of the population of Pibor is likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in the October-November period, and it is possible the population facing such extreme food consumption gaps is near or exceeds 20 percent. According to FEWS NET’s analysis of the FSNMS R26 data using the convergence matrix, 23 percent of the population concurrently reported a score of 5-6 on the Household Hunger Scale, a Poor Food Consumption Score, and a high use of consumption-based coping strategies. This represents considerable deterioration from the levels of hunger reported in late 2019 (Figure 1). However, acute malnutrition and mortality information do not suggest the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence exceeds 30 percent or the Crude Death Rate exceeds two per 10,000 per day.3 GAM is assessed to be at Critical (GAM weight-for-height z-score (WHZ) 15-29.9 percent) levels based on expert analysis. While data on mortality are not available, ground information does not suggest the existence of high levels of excess mortality. Extreme levels of acute malnutrition and mortality – which are lagging indicators – have likely not reached the Famine (IPC Phase 5) thresholds. Based on these factors, FEWS NET assesses that Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is likely in Pibor on the county level, but a large proportion of the population has food consumption gaps indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). FEWS NET assesses that the delivery of food assistance in October likely played a role in mitigating the severity of area-level outcomes. After conflict and flood-related constraints suspended food distributions in June, July, and September, WFP was able to deliver a partial ration (85 percent) to 20 percent of the population in October.  

    Food assistance will serve as an increasingly critical lifeline to the local population, which faces a significantly below-average harvest, large livestock losses since 2019, and a likely resurgence of conflict that will disrupt livelihood activities. Based on WFP distribution plans, nearly 20 percent of the population in Pibor, on average, is expected to receive 50 percent of their monthly kilocalorie needs from food aid during the January to May period. Even though this level of assistance falls below the 25 percent threshold set by IPC-compatible mapping protocols, FEWS NET anticipates Pibor will face Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) outcomes. This classification indicates that food assistance is likely to reach the worst-affected households and prevent more severe deterioration that would lead to Famine (IPC Phase 5). Assuming that humanitarians will likely prioritize assistance delivery to the greatest degree possible given the severity of the situation, it is nevertheless possible that distribution plans will not be implemented in full due to logistic constraints, including disruptions related to conflict. Therefore, a high risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will persist due to the potential for disruptions to the delivery of assistance. Even if food assistance plans are successful, the scale of assistance is not sufficient to prevent large food consumption gaps among all households. As a result, area-level Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) outcomes with some households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) are expected through May, which would lead to excess mortality. A scale-up of food assistance and guarantee of humanitarian access is urgently needed to save lives in Pibor.  

    A scale-up in food assistance is also necessary in other counties, particularly where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes exist. While the ongoing harvest will temporarily alleviate the severity of food insecurity in December and January, more deterioration is expected during the February-August lean season. Given these high levels of food insecurity, a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will likely persist in other areas in other areas of South Sudan if an additional shock isolates food-insecure households from typical food sources or food assistance for a prolonged period of time.


    NATIONAL OVERVIEW

    Current Situation

    Conflict and displacement: Although the September 2018 peace deal is largely holding, high levels of localized armed conflict and insecurity have been observed in 2020 in Jonglei, Warrap, parts of Lakes and Unity, and Central Equatoria. According to data collected by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), the number of recorded conflict events to date in 2020 is higher than 2019 and similar to 2018 (Figure 2). Conflict is a primary driver of prevailing food insecurity, causing household displacement, disrupting household engagement in livelihoods activities, and disrupting food commodity supply flows. According to UN estimates, approximately 157,000 people across South Sudan have been displaced by conflict in 2020. The impacts of conflict are most significant in Jonglei – particularly Pibor – and greater Tonj in Warrap, where the levels of violence in 2020 are among the highest since 2013. Communities in Pibor and greater Tonj have experienced significant loss of life along with large-scale livestock losses, and have a limited ability to engage in other livelihood activities due to the threat of violence. Although overall levels of conflict declined in many areas during the main rainy season, Central Equatoria and Warrap remain conflict hot spots in November. For example, a recent clash between rival communities affected approximately 1,000 people in Tonj East. In Central Equatoria, armed activity by non-signatories to the peace agreement repeatedly affects local civilians.

    Rainfall performance and floods: Many communities have also experienced a significant to total loss of own-produced crops and other livelihood assets due to a second, consecutive year of unprecedented floods. From June to October, heavy, above-average rainfall combined with the release of upstream dams led to the overflow of the White Nile River. In some counties, such as Bor South of Jonglei, flooding occurred in river basin areas more than five times. Similar floods occurred in the Pibor, Sobat, and Lol river basins and in low-lying inland areas. Overall, the scale of flooding in 2020 is estimated to be similar to 2019, but the timing of the floods is earlier than 2019 and the local severity of the floods differs across counties. According to OCHA, 1,034,000 people have likely been affected by flooding in eight of South Sudan’s ten states (including Pibor) (Figure 3). Of those affected, approximately 481,000 were displaced. The proportion of the flood-affected population is highest in Jonglei (over 400,000) and Pibor (over 125,000), and Lakes (147,000 people). While most displaced households moved to higher grounds within their respective counties, the International Organization for Migration reported in November that 32,660 people were displaced from Twic East and Duk county of Jonglei to the Mingkaman area in Awerial county of Lakes. FSNMS R26 data corroborate many households lost crops, livestock, and other property due to the floods, and many local markets and trade routes were submerged.

    Inaccessible roads, high river water levels, the flooding of key ports (such as in Mingkaman), and insecurity have periodically disrupted food assistance operations.

    Agricultural production: Main season crop production across the country is estimated to be similar to or below the 2019 average and similar to the five-year average, though the annual Crop and Food Security Assessment (CFSAM) has not been undertaken. While marked by erratic distribution in some areas, cumulative June to September rainfall was broadly average to above average across the country. Crop losses related to floods, conflict, dry spells, and other factors are expected to be highest in Jonglei and Pibor, the Warrap-Lakes border region, and parts of Unity, Upper Nile, and Central Equatoria. The start of the harvest was also significantly delayed in parts of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. More favorable crop production prospects are likely in Western Bahr el Ghazal, Greater Equatoria, and parts of Lakes and Warrap. In Jonglei, FAO estimates that 11,915 tons of cereals have been lost due to floods and total crop production is projected to be seven percent below 2019 and near the five-year average (Figure 4). Larger variations exist on the county-level. Since above-average rainfall continued through early November, the high soil-moisture content is likely affecting the drying of main season crops, which raises the risk of atypically high post-harvest losses.

    Livestock production and other food sources: Livestock is an important source of food and income for households in agropastoral and pastoral livelihoods zones, but livestock holdings significantly declined due to the 2013-2018 conflict, the 2019/2020 floods, and an escalation of inter-and intra-communal violence and other armed clashes in 2020. As a result, most poor households have below-normal access to milk and meat and a reduced ability to sell or barter livestock for food, especially in conflict- and flood-affected counties. In August 2020, FAO estimated around five percent of the livestock population died and over 73 percent of the livestock population was affected by heightened levels of disease and flooded pasture in Bor South, Twic East, Duk and Canal/Pigi. Nationally, FSNMS R26 data indicates that 46 percent of the population does not own livestock, while 38 percent of the population reported large decreases in their livestock holdings compared to late 2019. Surveyed households attributed their losses to disease outbreaks (47%), inter-communal raiding (31%), and floods (29%).  Meanwhile, high flood waters and insecurity periodically limit household movement to markets, grazing areas, and grounds for fishing, hunting, and gathering, which further limits household coping capacity. FSNMS F26 data suggest that over 13 percent of the national population was unable to access traditional gathering areas for wild fruits and vegetables due to insecurity. Loss of fishing equipment and distance from fishing grounds are additional constraints cited by households.

    Macro-economic conditions: The macroeconomic crisis has worsened since August, exacerbating the impacts of foreign currency shortages, the contracting economy, and import-induced inflation on household income and high food prices. Foreign cash reserves in the South Sudan Central Bank reached a record low in August, driven by a sharp drop in oil export revenues linked to fluctuating global oil prices and low global demand. Recent fiscal measures to stabilize the depreciation of the South Sudan Pound (SSP) and spiraling inflation include financial support from the African Development Bank, an increase in the interest rate by the Central Bank of South Sudan, and a recent $52.3 million loan from the IMF. Despite this, the foreign currency in circulation remains limited. As of mid-November, the parallel market exchange rate fluctuated between 560 and 600 SSP/USD compared to about 177 SSP/USD on the official market.

    Markets and trade: The depreciating SSP has had a significant effect on weekly cross-border trade volumes, especially sorghum, as the cost of importing of food has rapidly increased. Based on FEWS NET’s quarterly cross border trade monitoring data, import volumes of sorghum from Uganda to South Sudan during the July to September period were 44 percent below the second quarter and 27 percent lower than the same quarter of 2019. However, imports of maize were 207 percent higher than the second quarter and six percent above 2019.

    Staple food prices rose steeply from August through October and currently range from moderately to extraordinarily high compared to 2019 and the five-year average in key reference markets. According to price data available from the South Sudan Crop and Livestock Market Information System (CLiMIS), the retail price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum has reached soared to 900-1,544 SSP in Bor South, Juba, Wau, and Aweil (Figure 5). In October, the price was 74–169 percent higher than October 2019 and 94-388 percent above the five-year average in Torit, Rumbek, Aweil, Wau, and Juba. Although markets have remained functional in the state capitals, conflict and floods have disrupted market and trade functioning in many counties, further compounded by persistence of poor feeder road conditions (Figure 6). The sharp depreciation of the SSP against the USD exacerbated the impact of these factors on import and transportation costs, leading to soaring prices. Cost-prohibitive staple food prices combined with low household income continues to limit poor rural and urban households’ ability to purchase their minimum food needs for the household. In October, a household in Juba could only purchase 7 kg of white sorghum with a day’s wage.

    Humanitarian food assistance: The humanitarian food assistance response remains far below the level of need, reaching only 12 percent of the national population, on average, from August to October. Food distributions also continues to face numerous logistic constraints related to conflict and insecurity, floods, and COVID-19. Frequent disruptions to food assistance delivery are typically concentrated in Jonglei and in Warrap, as well as parts of Unity and Lakes, due to high levels of violence in 2020. According to WFP’s monthly food distribution report, WFP reached 1.5 million people with General Food Distribution (GFD) and Food for Assets (FFA) programs in October. On the state level, food assistance reached the most people in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, and Upper Nile, where 28-37 percent of the population received assistance. Food assistance reached only 11-12 percent of the population in Jonglei and Lakes, and less than 5 percent of the population in Warrap, Greater Equatoria, and Western Bahr el Ghazal. The number of people reached was similar to September (1.34 million) and August (1.44 million people).

    Current outcomes

    Given that the FSNMS R26 data was collected in September/October 2020, some improvement in dietary quality and quantity would normally be expected at the start of the harvest. However, food security outcome data indicate that household hunger and very poor dietary diversity are comparable to the peak of the 2019 lean season and worse than the post-harvest period of 2019. According to FSNMS data collected in rounds 24-26, 42 percent of the national population reported a poor Food Consumption Score (FCS) in September/October 2020, which is nearly equivalent to the proportion of the population who had poor FCS (43 percent) in July/August 2019 and higher than the proportion of the population who had poor FCS (37 percent) in November/December 2019. Similarly, 6.4 percent of the national population reported a severe Household Hunger Score (HHS 4-6) indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in September/October 2020, compared to 8.6 percent of the population in July/August 2019 and 2.9 percent in November/December 2019. Meanwhile, approximately 62 percent of the population experienced moderate hunger (HHS 2-3) in both the 2020 harvesting period and 2019 lean season, which exceeds the levels observed in late 2019 (53 percent).

    Based on available outcome data on household hunger and livelihoods coping, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are widespread in October-November. While the results of the October 2020 IPC are yet to be finalized, more than half of the population is likely experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes even in the presence of humanitarian food assistance. According to FEWS NET’s analysis, 33 counties are likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), reflecting large food consumption gaps or the use of emergency livelihoods coping strategies to mitigate the size of food consumption gaps. The severity of acute food insecurity is particularly high in six counties of greatest concern, including Pibor and Akobo of Jonglei, Aweil South of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Tonj East, Tonj South, and Tonj North of Warrap. In these counties, the convergence of severe HHS, poor FCS, and consumption-based and livelihoods coping strategies suggest there are households experiencing extreme food consumption gaps indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Pibor is the area of greatest concern, as evidence suggests the population in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) may reach or exceed 20 percent.

    Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are mostly concentrated in Jonglei, Warrap, Lakes, Unity, and Upper Nile states. In these areas, cycles of localized conflict and consecutive years of severe flooding have devastated local livelihoods, marked by household displacement, significant crop and livestock losses, recurring restrictions on household movement to markets, grazing areas, and hunting/gathering grounds, and erosion of coping capacity. Even in areas where security conditions have been relatively calm, most households have a limited ability to cope with deficient crop production and skyrocketing food prices after cumulative asset losses during the 2013-2018 national conflict. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, for example, delayed rainfall at the start of the planting season and localized dry spells and floods at critical crop development stages have resulted in a delayed, poor harvest. Aweil South was among the worst affected, where the delayed arrival of the green harvest, soaring food prices, and a missed food distribution cycle due to a 3-month pipeline break led to extreme hunger among some households in September/October. A more detailed analysis of acute food insecurity outcomes in Pibor, several counties of Jonglei, and the Warrap-Lakes border region is provided on pages 9-15 of this report.

    Based on nutrition experts’ analysis of historical GAM WHZ prevalence, trends in admissions for treatment of moderate or severe acute malnutrition, available MUAC data, and contributing factors, the preliminary IPC results indicate acute malnutrition outcomes are worse than January 2020. No SMART surveys were conducted and data on mortality is not available. The preliminary results suggest 53 counties have ‘Serious’ (GAM WHZ 10.0-14.9 percent) or ‘Critical’ (GAM WHZ 15-29.9 percent) GAM prevalence compared to 48 counties in January 2020. These outcomes are mostly concentrated in Jonglei, Warrap, Unity, Upper Nile, and parts of Lakes and Eastern Equatoria. Information from Nutrition Cluster partners and the IPC analysis suggest GAM levels are rising among children under five in flood- and conflict-affected areas. The major contributing factors to acute malnutrition include very poor quality and low quantity of food, high waterborne disease prevalence, and poor access to health and nutrition services as some nutrition sites or treatment facilities had to be closed, suspended, or relocated due to COVID-19 preventive measures, floods, or insecurity. In Jonglei and Unity states, for example, 65 nutrition sites are either partially or totally closed, including 30 sites that have been suspended or relocated.

    National Assumptions

    The most likely scenario from October 2020 to May 2021 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Based on historical and seasonal trends, conflict events are likely to rise during the post-harvest period (October-January) and then escalate as the dry season intensifies (February-May). Typically, conflict in the post-harvest period is lower compared to the dry season; however, the potential for retaliatory attacks in areas that experienced high levels of violence in May-June 2020 could lead to a more unpredictable situation in late 2020/early 2021. The epicenters of conflict will likely include parts of Jonglei, the Warrap-Lakes border region, Unity, and Eastern Equatoria. Political conflict is expected to persist in parts of Central Equatoria and Western Equatoria due to the delays in unification of the armed forces and delays in reaching the Rome-facilitated peace deal with non-signatories to the R-ToGNU.
    • Based on current trends, the total number of officially confirmed COVID-19 cases is likely to rise due to increased testing and contact tracing capacity – associated with the expansion of testing to nine sites – and due to the spread of the virus. Although the government is unlikely to reinstate movement restrictions, key preventive measures for international travelers will likely continue to impede humanitarian movements and assistance delivery.
    • Low oil production and low global crude oil prices are expected to continue to limit foreign exchange reserves. Given the gap between foreign currency demand and supply, FEWS NET projects the SSP will further depreciate on the parallel exchange rate market, ranging from 500 to 660 SSP/USD. Depreciation of the local currency, impacts of conflict on economic activity, and increased military spending are anticipated to drive import-induced inflation upward, which the IMF projects will reach 24.5 percent (annual percentage change) in 2021.
    • Based on high demand for staple food commodities and trends observed in FEWS NET’s weekly cross-border trade monitoring data from July to September, food commodity trade flows from Uganda will most likely be similar to or above 2020 despite the depreciating SSP. Trade flows from Sudan will most likely be similar to 2020, but lower than 2019. Weekly and quarterly variations in trade flows are likely due to heightened scarcity of USD, the cost of mandatory COVID-19 testing fees of 65 USD imposed on truck drivers, and seasonal and conflict-related impacts on feeder road conditions.
    • Given that current COVID-19 preventive measures have little effect on domestic trade flows, seasonal flooding and conflict will be the main drivers of disrupted or reduced trade route activity. Domestic trade flows are expected to remain below normal, especially in flood- and conflict-affected areas, and periodic local market supply shortages are likely.
    • The deficit national supply of staple foods, import-induced inflation, and the impact of insecurity and poor road conditions on transportation costs are expected to be the main drivers of high food prices. Based on price data collected in October and preliminary price data in November in Juba, Bor South, Wau, and Aweil and the depreciating parallel exchange rate, FEWS NET projects the retail price of a malwa of white sorghum will be at least 55-170 percent above 2019 and at least 130-330 percent above the five-year average and remain exceptionally high through May.
    • In Greater Upper Nile and most of Greater Bahr el Ghazal, FAO’s County Crop Monitoring Committees and key informants from the State Ministries of Agriculture support FEWS NET’s earlier projections and monitoring information that the main season harvest is most likely to be lower than or similar to 2019 and similar to the five-year average. However, harvests will vary by county, depending on the localized impacts of floods, conflict, and other drivers.
    • In Western Bahr el Ghazal and much of Greater Equatoria, the 2020 main season harvest is likely to be similar to or higher than 2019. Crop production has benefitted from relatively better rainfall performance and higher area planted due to increased labor availability at the household level (given the closure of schools due to COVID-19). Crop losses from Fall Army Worm (FAW) and desert locusts are generally low, though damage from FAW occurred in Greater Bahr el Ghazal. However, high soil moisture content is delaying grain drying and may lead to atypically high post-harvest losses.
    • Based on subsiding rainfall and short-term forecasts, flood waters are expected to gradually recede from November onward. In the March to May first rainfall season in bimodal Greater Equatoria, the NOAA/CPC NMME forecast predicts average rainfall, which should support timely agricultural and livestock production activities. However, localized conflict and insecurity as well as shortages of seeds and other agricultural inputs may continue to limit area planted in 2021.
    • Communities that remained in or are returning to flood-affected areas will likely face difficulty accessing wild foods until flood waters recede. In other areas, access to fish, wild foods, and game is likely to remain normal, though periodic disruptions or limited access due to conflict is possible. Fish availability is expected to reach a seasonal peak in Nov./Dec.
    • Milk availability will be seasonally high through November/December before declining through March/April, when water and pasture availability diminishes during the dry season. Household access to milk will vary depending on livestock holdings, but will likely remain below normal in conflict- and flood-affected areas due to large-scale livestock losses.
    • Based on WFP’s operational plan, planned and funded food assistance is expected to reach an average 714,420 people monthly (six percent of the population) from November to January. Humanitarians are expected to prioritize delivery to populations facing Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) and the broader flood-affected population. A scale-up in food assistance is planned from February to May, targeting an average 1.2 million people monthly (10 percent of the population) in February-March and an average 2.4 million people monthly in April-May (20 percent of the population). Logistic constraints related to conflict, floods, and general insecurity may slow down or periodically disrupt assistance delivery.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Urgent and unimpeded humanitarian access to scale up food assistance is needed to save lives and livelihoods in South Sudan. Planned food assistance during the 2020/21 post-harvest period and during the 2021 lean season is inadequate to prevent large food consumption gaps among a substantial proportion of the population. Based on available evidence, FEWS NET anticipates the total population in need of food assistance will exceed at least 50 percent of the population. Although it is assumed that humanitarians will prioritize food assistance delivery to reach the most vulnerable households, some households are still likely to face extreme food gaps. Pibor is the area of greatest concern, where Emergency! (IPC Phase 4!) outcomes are expected and the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) is significant even in the presence of planned assistance. FEWS NET also anticipates Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) could occur in other areas, such as Akobo, Aweil South, Tonj East, Tonj North, and Tonj South. Recent trends show that if planned food assistance is delayed or a distribution cycle is missed due to insecurity or other factors, rapid short-term deterioration in acute food insecurity can occur.

    From October to January, FEWS NET anticipates food security outcomes will marginally improve in some areas as households complete the harvest of main season crops and receding flood waters permit increased access to fishing, hunting, and gathering grounds. Household food consumption will also benefit from seasonally high milk availability. Improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) are projected in Greater Equatoria, Western Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes, Unity, and parts of Upper Nile and northern Warrap. However, more severe Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in 19 counties, mainly in Jonglei, greater Tonj, and parts of Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile. In many of these areas, households have an increasingly limited capacity to cope with significant crop and livestock production losses and the impacts of conflict and insecurity on their livelihoods. Further, given exorbitantly high food prices, suppressed economic activity, and limited assets for trade, many households will have substantial difficulty earning income and purchasing or bartering for food. Poor urban households are expected to have difficulty accessing food given low, declining purchasing power. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely be widespread in 44 counties across the country. ‘Serious’ (GAM WHZ 10.0-14.9 percent) or ‘Critical’ (GAM WHZ 15-29.9 percent) levels of acute malnutrition are expected in 53 counties.

    From February to May, FEWS NET expects a resurgence of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in 40 counties, especially concentrated in Jonglei, Warrap, Lakes, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Upper Nile. Given deficit crop production, most households with own-produced harvests are expected to deplete their food stocks as early as January. At the same time, access to livestock products and the availability of fish, wild leaves, and fruits will both seasonally decline and be periodically restricted by an uptick in conflict during the dry season. Exceedingly high food prices will likely also limit households’ ability to purchase or barter food at the market. Given multiple, sustained constraints to typical food and income sources, the planned humanitarian food assistance response is inadequate to prevent large food consumption among all households. However, in some counties where the scale of food assistance is locally significant, such as in southern Unity and Akobo and Ayod of Jonglei, FEWS NET expects Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes. The arrival of green first season harvest is likely to sustain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in parts of Western Equatoria. ‘Serious’ (GAM WHZ 10.0-14.9 percent) or ‘Critical’ (GAM WHZ 15-29.9 percent) levels of acute malnutrition will likely be sustained in 52 counties; however, GAM is projected to deteriorate to ‘Extremely Critical’ (GAM WHZ ≥30 percent) levels in Renk county of Upper Nile based on historically high prevalence and low access to nutrition and WASH services following the withdrawal of NGOs such as MEDAIR and WVI.

     

    Events that Might Change the Outlook
     
    AREAEVENTImpact on food security outcomes
    Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap, UnityLower levels of intercommunal conflict and livestock raidsLivestock production, trade flows and market functioning, and humanitarian access would likely improve. While other shocks would continue to affect food security outcomes, improved security conditions would enable gradual improvements in food availability and access. Improvement from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) would be possible.
    Jonglei, including PiborProlonged suspension of humanitarian food assistance (HFA)Food security outcomes would deteriorate significantly. Counties that are currently projected to be Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!), such as Akobo, Ayod, and Nyirol, would slide into Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Significant proportions of the county populations would likely face Catastrophic (IPC Phase 5) outcomes, given heavy dependence on HFA. Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible in Pibor.
    NationalNon-adherence to peace deal implementation, leading to an uptick in conflictIf disagreement over key provisions stalls peace deal implementation, this could lead to a resurgence of political conflict. Conflict would increasingly restrict household movement, disrupt access to food and income sources, cause displacement, and impede assistance delivery. More widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would be likely. At-risk households, who are already facing severe outcomes, would be more likely to face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Based on past trends, the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) would likely increase
    NationalFurther economic contraction and depreciation of the SSPIf the loss of oil revenues is greater than currently projected and the government is unable to secure loans, the contracting economy or its total collapse would leave much of the population unable to cope with the high cost of food and living. Massive out-migration and rising insecurity would be likely, and given already high levels of food insecurity, the additional shock would lead to more widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4). The risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) would increase.
    Figures

    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: FSNMS R25 and R26

    Conflict events by state, January 2013 – November 2020, South Sudan

    Figure 2

    Figure 2.

    Source: Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project

    Population affected and displaced by floods, Oct. 2020

    Figure 3

    Figure 3.

    Source: OCHA

    Net crop production trends in Jonglei by county. 2014-2019 data from annual CFSAM; 2020 estimate from FAO

    Figure 4

    Figure 4.

    Source: CFSAM data and FAO estimates

    Retail price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum compared to the parallel exchange rate, Jun. 2016-Nov. 2020

    Figure 5

    Figure 5.

    Source: South Sudan Crop and Livestock Market Information System

    Market functioning and trade route activity, Oct. 2020

    Figure 6

    Figure 6.

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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