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Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) amid aid delivery disruption and high food prices

  • Key Message Update
  • South Sudan
  • May 2024
Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) amid aid delivery disruption and high food prices

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Humanitarian needs are rising as the lean season approaches due to deteriorating economic conditions, atypically early depletion of food stocks, and seasonally low availability of wild foods, fish, and livestock products amid high returnee burden. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes persist in 28 counties and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are likely in Pibor County of Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) due to insecurity affecting ground transport and suspension in April of UNHAS airdrops. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are also expected among returnee households in transit sites who have little to no assets and minimum capacity to cope, as well as among some households in Aweil East. Concern for severe outcomes likewise persists among internally displaced populations, such as those in informal camps in Twic County, as indicated by a recent joint assessment by partners in late April. Similarly, FEWS NET’s rapid food security assessment mission to Aweil South in early May found that many households are facing large food consumption gaps indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) given protracted years of flooding, low crop production, and atypically early depletion of stocks. 
    • In mid-May, the government and hold-out opposition groups convened in Nairobi for high-level mediation talks, resulting in the signing of a “commitment declaration” for peace. Meanwhile, intercommunal attacks continued in May in several conflict hotspots including the Twic-Abyei border region, Lakes, and Jonglei. In Rumamer County of Abyei on May 5, armed youth from Twic County clashed with Misseriya cattle keepers, resulting in 500 cattle raided and 18 people killed. In Lakes, the resurgence of cattle raiding in Cueibet, Rumbek East, Rumbek Center, and Yirol East counties led to over 12 deaths and looting of unconfirmed number of livestock between April 28 and May 9. Tensions remain high between Murle and Lou Nuer in parts of Jonglei and GPAA, with attacks reported in in Biey and Lokormach of Lekuangole Payam of Pibor on May 8, displacing over 900 households to Pibor Town (Kondako), and separately in Akobo on May 13. In addition, Tambura of Western Equatoria remains of concern following the resurgence of ethnic violence in April that displaced over 10,000 people to Nagero County and several others to the jungles of Tambura, prompted the scaling up of UNMISS forces there.  
    • The number of arrivals remained relatively lower again for the second consecutive month, with about 35,700 people crossing the border in May compared to about 27,000 in April. This is in comparison to 45,000 respectively in February and March, and 60,000 or higher each month between October and December 2023. Nonetheless, the high burden of nearly 695,000 South Sudanese returnees and refugees from the Sudan crisis, on top of close to two million internally displaced persons (IDPs) plus additional returnees from Ethiopia, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, continues to drive high humanitarian needs. 
    • Inflationary pressure has further worsened the macroeconomic conditions in May, marked by historically low hard currency reserve levels, high and rising cost of living, surging inflation rate, and elevated poverty. The sharp economic deterioration is primarily driven by the significant loss in oil revenue as reported in FEWS NET’s April report. The government has increased customs and border taxes and fees in a bid to increase non-oil revenue, and has auctioned 3 million USD to forex and commercial banks in an effort to stabilize domestic currency. However, the local currency continued to depreciate significantly, particularly on the parallel market which was trading at 2,940 SSP per USD in late May, representative of a 32 and 205 percent loss in value compared to last month and last year, respectively. 
    • Staple food prices have remained high, and trending upward, given continued volatility in the exchange rate and high supply costs amid rising fuel prices and increased customs and border fees. Based on CLIMIS market data, the sorghum prices per malwa (3.5kg) in Juba, Aweil Centre and Wau increased by 17 - 39 percent between April to May, while in Bor South, the prices have remained relatively similar to April. These rising costs of food and non-food items have reportedly forced some traders in Juba and Torit to close and are straining household capacity to purchase sufficient food. While the government has announced effort to subsidize foods at 50 percent of market prices in 37 centers in Juba city, this is unlikely to alleviate the extent of pressure on traders and households in other cities and rural centers.  
    • Per FEWS NET’s cross-border trade data for May, import volumes of maize flour at Nimule has increased by nine percent compared to April, due to ongoing government’s initiative to supply the market. and remained similar for maize grains, though generally 21-78 percent lower than last year. At Kaya, maize flour imports have declined in May compared to April due to seasonal road deterioration, pushing some traders to use the Nimule-Juba instead; however, the overall import level is 87 percent lower than last year. Meanwhile, trade flows with Sudan remain disrupted, with atypically high re-exports of sugar, wheat flour, high-energy biscuits, and fuel to Sudan while imports from Sudan remain atypically low. 
    • While floodwaters have receded in the Sobat, Akobo, Pibor, and Khawk river basins, inundation persists into May in some parts of Rubkona, Leer, and Mayendit of Unity, and western Duk and Twic East of Jonglei, affecting commodity flows and household movements. Flash flooding in Wau town, as confirmed by FEWS NET field monitoring, has resulted in over 700 homes destroyed in late May. Further severe flooding is anticipated from June through November under forecasts of la Niña-induced above-average rainfall and further aggravated by the release of large volumes of water from the Jinja dam in early May likely to reach the central and northern flood prone areas of South Sudan by August-September period.  
    • Livestock production continues to face challenges of inadequate pasture, heat stress, cattle raiding, and limited veterinary services resulting in poor body conditions in most pastoral and agropastoral areas as confirmed by FEWS NET monitoring. Given delayed pasture rejuvenation in most of unimodal South Sudan, the majority of livestock are still in seasonal grazing areas, limiting households’ access to milk. Exceptions include parts of Eastern Equatoria, where the early onset of the March to May rains has increased water and pasture availability and encouraged return of livestock near to homesteads, as well as in areas where floodwaters have significantly receded, rejuvenating pastures and improving livestock body conditions and milk availability, such as in Maiwut and Fashoda of Upper Nile; Fangak and Duk of Jonglei; and Mayendit and Leer of Unity. 
    • The March to May season to date has been characterized by below average rainfall, poor temporal and spatial distributions, warmer-than-normal temperatures, and deepening deficits in parts of Central and Western Equatoria. However, these deficits so far are unlikely to greatly impact overall growth conditions given the area typically receives more than enough rainfall. According to the Water Requirement Satisfaction Index for maize (WRSI) and the vegetation health condition measured by Normalized difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), crop conditions are good to very good and vegetative health is average to above average in most areas in May. This is further corroborated by FEWS NET monitoring indicating maize crops are widely at weeding and vegetative stages; groundnut and bean crops are at their early flowering stages; and early maturing sorghum crops in parts of Eastern Equatoria are at their vegetative stage. 
    • While figures of beneficiaries reached in May are not yet available, data from April indicates that one million people were reached with food assistance – a decline from 1.2 million reached in March and less than half of the planned number of beneficiaries for the month. The disruptions are a combination of delayed and less than anticipated prepositioning, operational challenges via road and river transport routes that have resulted in unforeseen delays and increased transportation costs, and the pause in UNHAS air services in April due to the imposition of the tax on fuel. While custom and border fees have reportedly been lifted from humanitarian operations, disruptions are expected to continue in May, resulting in lower than anticipated assistance in priority counties including Twic East of Jonglei; Koch, and Mayendit of Unity; Kapoeta North of Eastern Equatoria; and Ulang of Upper Nile. In these areas, FEWS NET now assessed that assistance between March and May will on average be insufficient to reach the thresholds to mitigate worse outcomes and these areas are expected to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in May 2024.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. South Sudan Key Message Update May 2024: Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) amid aid delivery disruption and high food prices, 2024.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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