The scale and severity of acute food insecurity are extremely high in South Sudan during the peak of the 2022 lean season, with an estimated 7-8 million people in need of urgent food assistance. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are widespread, and humanitarian food assistance is preventing more extreme outcomes across much of Greater Upper Nile and parts of Greater Bahr el Ghazal regions. However, many households still face large food consumption gaps indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes. The areas of most extreme concern include Fangak, Canal/Pigi, and Ayod of Jonglei; Leer and Mayendit of Unity; and Tonj East of Warrap, where some populations are likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) due to the impacts of conflict and flooding on typical food sources such as crops and livestock. FEWS NET also assesses that it is now likely that some populations are in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Tonj North of Warrap due to escalation of conflict that has driven displacement and restricted household movement and assistance delivery.
Conflict and insecurity remain widespread in South Sudan, disrupting livelihoods, displacing households, causing the loss of livestock, and impeding trade flows, market functioning, and delivery of food assistance. Since 2021, Greater Tonj of Warrap has remained an epicenter of armed inter-communal conflict and violence between the South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF) and rival youth groups. In late June, fighting between armed youth and SSPDF disarmament forces in Rualbet Payam of Tonj North led to 450 deaths and the looting of over 150,000 livestock, displacement of 6,000 households, and disruption to trade flows. Also, as a result of the insecurity, food assistance delivery in Tonj North remains suspended or slowed.
Eastern and Central Equatoria has seen increasing conflict and cattle raids, particularly in Kapoeta North where over 15,000 heads of cattle were looted and 235 killed in one cattle raid on July 8. Similarly, in late June to early July, trade flow and household movement between Juba and Nimule was disrupted following the killing of the Nimule local chief. Further disruptions to trade flows and livelihood activities also occurred between Juba and Mayom of Unity State via Warrap State, after armed clashes between SSPDF and South Sudan People’s Movement/Army (SSPM/A) at the end of July led to the death of over 60 people, mostly soldiers.
In bimodal southern South Sudan, the below average performance of March to May rainfall has resulted in significant moisture deficits and led to an overall poor and delayed first season harvest, with crop stage varying by region. According to key informants and FEWS NET’s field monitoring, households in Yambio of Western Equatoria; Obbo and Lobone of Magwi of Eastern Equatoria; and Yei of Central Equatoria have already harvested maize and groundnuts. However, it is estimated that upwards of three-quarters of first season maize crops in Greater Equatoria are still in the reproductive and grain-filling stages. In most parts of Magwi and western Torit of Eastern Equatoria, first season harvests are poor and lower than last year.
Across much of northern South Sudan, except for Upper Nile and Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, the June to September main rainy season is characterized by widespread moisture deficits and abnormal dryness through late July. As a result, vegetation conditions are below-average in localized areas and available field information indicates that the prolonged dry spell resulted in the re-planting of crops in Fashoda, mild incidences of Fall Army Worm (FAW) and caterpillar outbreaks in Ikwoto and Lopit, and severe crop damage by millipedes in Aweil North and Aweil East. Overall, the area planted this year is lower than last year due in large part to residual floodwaters, which remain atypically high. Furthermore, although the start of season has been characterized by deficits, weather forecasts indicate above-average rainfall is likely in August through October, which will drive a fourth consecutive year of flooding. Some maize fields in Pulpam and Chotbora of Fangak in Jonglei are already submerged by floodwaters linked to rising river water levels.
While livestock conditions vary across the country, overall, many households still have limited or no access to livestock products given the widespread loss of livestock from three consecutive years of flooding and the rise in cattle raids. For households with livestock, overall livestock body conditions are fair to good, given seasonal increases in the availability and access to water and pasture. Key informants report that most livestock have returned to wet-season grazing areas near homesteads, driving increased milk supply and consumption among populations across the country. Conversely, though, in localized areas in Jonglei and Unity, livestock body conditions are poor given the impacts of residual floodwaters on pasture rejuvenation. In Warrap, Unity, Jonglei, and Eastern Equatoria, cattle raids and retaliatory attacks among the pastoralists and farmers are significantly eroding livestock assets and limiting household access to livestock. In addition, livestock diseases are threatening livestock health and production in some areas, including suspected Food and Mouth Disease (FMD), which killed 22 livestock in early July in Aweil South of Northern Bahr el Ghazal.
Staple food prices remain high in South Sudan, stemming from high global fuel prices, increased import taxes, tight regional supply amid the national cereal deficit, and the depreciating local currency. In July, the retail price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum—the dietary mainstay—was between 35 and over 200 percent higher than the same period last year in Juba, Wau, and Aweil Centre. Prices were between 140 and 190 percent above the five-year average. Although the government has resumed efforts to stabilize the exchange rate through the auctioning of 47 million USD weekly in July to commercial banks and forex bureaus, both the official and parallel exchange rates continue to rise, further driving up the costs of imports. Between June and July 2022, the value of the South Sudanese Pound (SSP) has depreciated against the USD by roughly 15 percent on both official and parallel markets, and by 45-55 percent compared to the same time last year. In Juba, the cost of the minimum expenditure basket (CMEB) rose by 22 percent from the same time last year, reflecting a significant increase in the cost of households’ basic food needs.
South Sudan continues to face one of the largest food security emergencies worldwide, with many households facing large to extreme food consumption gaps, indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes. While food security outcomes are expected to improve somewhat during the October to January period with the availability of the harvest, ongoing conflict and forecasted flooding will limit production prospects. Overall, widespread assistance needs will persist. Unfortunately, sharp increases in the cost of fuel and food have put further strain on the funding available for humanitarian response, and the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan was only 31.5 percent funded by July. While WFP is likely to continue prioritizing the counties of highest concern, including Fangak and Canal/Pigi, millions in need of urgent food assistance are unlikely to be reached, and they will sustain food consumption gaps in the absence of assistance. Sustaining food consumption gaps will lead to irreversible negative physiological impacts. As such, an urgent scale-up in assistance is needed to prevent high levels of acute malnutrition and hunger-related mortality.