South Sudan continues to face very high levels of acute food insecurity indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes, with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes persisting in the worst conflict- and/or flood-affected areas. The areas of highest concern include Fangak, Canal/Pigi, and Akobo counties of Jonglei; Pibor County in Greater Pibor Administrative Area; Mayendit and Leer counties of Unity; and Fashoda and Panyikang counties of Upper Nile, where the population in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is very high, and some households are likely still in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). While efforts are underway to scale up food assistance deliveries to these areas, there have yet to be considerable improvements in livelihood activities, market functioning, or physical access constraints. Additionally, local authorities have reported several hunger-related deaths in Panyijiar County of Unity, indicating that protracted hunger and malnutrition among hard-to-reach households is taking a severe toll despite food assistance deliveries to Nyal and Ganyiel payams in January. FEWS NET and partners are working to collect additional information to verify and better understand the proximate causes of these deaths.
Despite continuing efforts to implement the peace process, such as the graduation of the necessary unified forces and charting a path forward for elections in 2024, conflict and insecurity continue to threaten lives and livelihoods in multiple areas. In Upper Nile and northern Jonglei, the surge in armed attacks in December by the white army on civilians and IDP camps in the Akedid area of Kodok Payam in Fashoda of Upper Nile displaced an additional 40,000 people, according to the UN. Meanwhile, the fighting along the western bank of the River Nile has displaced 19,000 people from Panyikang to Malakal, over 20,000 people to Kodok Town, and 5,000 people to Melut County. As of January 10, around 22,000 IDPs remained in Kodok Town and at the UNMISS compound. In Fangak and Canal/Pigi in northern Jonglei, the armed clashes that occurred between the white army and combined SSPDF and Agwelek forces along the Malakal-Fangak-Canal/Pigi border region in December continue to affect local civilians, who lost assets and face reduced access to food and income sources due to the disruption of livelihood activities, trade, and humanitarian access.
Of additional high concern is the recent escalation of inter-communal violence between the heavily armed youth from the Lou Nuer/Dinka and Murle communities from late December into January. In Pibor, fighting started around Nanam village and spread to Kongor (Namaru village) in Lekuangole and Gumuruk payams, displacing an estimated 30,000 people and killing 56 people, with extensive destruction of facilities and houses and looting of household assets. According to a Nutrition Cluster update, 17,000 people were displaced to Vertheth and Pibor Town, and four nutrition facilities in Manyabol, Vuveth, Molokthoch, and Gumuruk burned down. In addition, there are reports that armed clashes in Manyabol and Lokoromach villages of Lekuangole payam persisted into mid-January. There are reports of further retaliatory attacks in Uror and Nyirol counties of Jonglei, causing displacement and raising concern that volatile conditions will continue to contribute to acute food insecurity across the southern Jonglei counties and GPAA in the near term.
Intermittent and volatile patterns of conflict also remain key drivers of acute food insecurity elsewhere in South Sudan. In Central Equatoria, recent clashes between Dinka Bor cattle herders and farming communities have led to deaths, property destruction, the killing of 400 cattle, and the displacement of more than 400 families from several bomas in Mangalla to Jabel Ladu Payam. Recent reports suggest the cattle herders have started migrating to Lainya County, and the likelihood of more clashes remains high. In Upper Nile, fights over the Kilo Ashar disputed area broke out again in mid-January between Mabanese and Nyiel Dinka from Melut. In Abyei and Twic county, a series of retaliatory attacks were reported in early to mid-January and involved the deaths of several aid workers. Finally, the southern migration of Messeriya pastoralists risks inflaming tensions again, and an attack on January 14 already prompted authorities to close the Aweil-Meiram road. There are concerns that the road blockade will remain in place – as was the case in 2022 – and negatively affect trade flows and staple food prices.
The negative impacts of the 2022 floods – which affected over 1 million people in 36 counties – continue to be felt across South Sudan as floodwaters are slow to recede. The most severely flood-affected areas include parts of Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes, and Warrap, where households experienced significant losses in livestock, crops, and household property. Standing water is still present in many of the flood-affected areas, and there are new occurrences of localized flooding in Jonglei and rising river levels in Pibor and Eastern Equatoria due to anomalous precipitation in late December. Most significantly, floodwaters persist in parts of the Sudd Wetlands (such as in Bentiu of Unity) and continue to limit commercial and humanitarian movements. However, key informants report relative declines in floodwater levels in parts of Fangak, Canal/Pigi, Twic East, Duk, Leer, Mayendit, and Aweil North counties, which has facilitated the return of some displaced households as well as a modest recovery in the movement of goods and assistance.
While staple food prices have declined from the peaks seen in July and August last year in most markets, they remain atypically high during the post-harvesting period due to the below-average 2022 harvest, high import costs and fuel prices, and local currency depreciation. Based on market price monitoring data in CLiMIS, the retail prices of a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum in December ranged from 130 to 270 percent above the same time last year and 225 to 275 percent above the five-year average in Juba, Wau, and Aweil Centre markets. Prices remained relatively similar from November to December in Aweil Centre and Wau, mainly due to the availability of household stocks from their own harvests and increased import volumes from Sudan and Uganda as feeder road conditions have seasonally improved. In Juba, by contrast, the sorghum price increased eight percent month-on-month due to disrupted trade flows at the border with Uganda and low local supplies.
Livestock production and household access to livestock products vary across the states based on the impacts of protracted conflict, flooding, and cattle raiding. Reports from field monitors and key informants indicate that pasture conditions have improved in flood-affected counties of Leer, Mayendit, Fangak, and Canal/Pigi and some parts of Pibor as floodwaters receded, with livestock body conditions ranging from poor to fair generally. In Gumuruk and Lekuangole villages of Pibor, livestock was relocated to Vertheth payam in mid- to late-December 2022 due to the ongoing fighting. In Greater Kapoeta of Eastern Equatoria, where drought is a concern, typical livestock migration to dry season grazing areas is occurring, resulting in even lower access to milk amongst women, children, and the elderly who remain behind at the homesteads.
Although the final January food distribution report is not yet available, WFP planned to reach 1.7 million people with General Food Distribution and Food-for-Asset programs. In Akobo (East and West), Pibor, Canal/Pigi, Fangak, Leer, and Mayendit, WFP plans to distribute 70 percent rations to nearly 416,500 people for a period of eight months starting in January. According to WFP’s bi-weekly distribution reports in January, WFP conducted one-off 15-day emergency food distributions to 17,000 IDPs in Pibor Town (out of an estimated 30,000 displaced people, according to OCHA), as well as to 1,407 conflict-displaced people in Tonj East of Warrap. Additional emergency distributions are planned in the Adok area of Leer in January and in Abyei area of Warrap in February in response to recent increases in conflict. However, insecurity continues to be a major limiting factor for humanitarian access, interfering with the distribution of at least 653 MT of food assistance in 2022 in Jonglei and GPAA, including Akobo West, Uror, Nyirol, Twic East, and Pibor. However, WFP has been able to improve humanitarian access routes to Malakal, Canal/Pigi, Fangak, and Bor via river convoys and is currently negotiating access along the Bor-Pibor road in order to resume assistance deliveries in Pibor.