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Scale-up of food assistance is still required to prevent Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes

  • Key Message Update
  • South Sudan
  • November 2021
Scale-up of food assistance is still required to prevent Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • At the peak of the harvesting period in November, severe acute food insecurity persists in South Sudan due to multiple compounding shocks – including conflict and insecurity, floods, and macroeconomic challenges – that have limited seasonal improvement in household food availability and access to food. Many households have moderate to large food consumption gaps or are using negative livelihoods coping strategies to mitigate these gaps. As such, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are widespread. Moreover, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely occurring in areas of highest concern, including Pibor, Jonglei, southern Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, the greater Gogrial and greater Tonj areas of Warrap, parts of Upper Nile, Tambura of Western Equatoria, and Awerial of Lakes.

    • Although data from the 27th round of the Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring System is not yet available to confirm, past trends and the severity of recent shocks suggest some households are likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Pibor; Fangak, Ayod, and Canal/Pigi counties in Jonglei; Mayendit, Leer, and Panyijiar counties in Unity; and Tonj East and Tonj North counties in Warrap. In Pibor, there is persistent concern for extreme food insecurity among some households in remote and insecure areas, where food and income sources remain very low and humanitarian access has remained quite limited. In northern Jonglei, southern Unity, and greater Tonj, ground information indicates some households lost their entire crops or livestock and have little to no access to food assistance or markets.

    • Since mid-October, average to above-average rainfall has sustained atypically high flood extent in the Sudd Wetland and Sobat and Akobo River catchments beyond the usual end of the main rainy season. The latest OCHA and WFP estimates of the total flood-affected population since May 2021 range between 780,000 and over 875,719 people. The impacts on food insecurity are most severe in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile, where the floods drove massive displacement and forced entire communities to relocate to higher ground in some areas. Given high soil saturation and high swamp and river water levels in most of these areas, the above-normal rains will likely sustain flooding longer than usual and will likely cause additional harvest losses, delay pasture regeneration for livestock, and restrict typical household movements, trade flows and market functioning, and the delivery of food assistance.

    • In November, the impacts of conflict and insecurity on household access to food and income sources, markets and trade, and humanitarian access remain of very high concern in Tambura county of Western Equatoria and Tonj North and Tonj East of Warrap. In Tambura, commercial activities have resumed and the main market has re-opened, but tensions between rival Balanda and Azande militias threaten to lead to a resumption of violence despite recent peace efforts. In Tonj North and Tonj East, some rival communities' rejection of peace talks may undermine the peace dialogue between the rival Rek Dinka communities in greater Ananatak and greater Akop and risks triggering further violence. Other conflict events of concern include SPLM/A-IO divisions in the Jonglei-Upper Nile border region; an uptick in criminal raids in Jonglei (Bor South, Akobo, Duk counties); an increase in inter-communal violence in Mayom and Leer counties of Unity; vigorous opposition to disarmament exercises from various communities in Rumbek North and Cueibet in Lakes; and clashes between the SSPDF and NAS along the Juba-Lainya Road in Lainya in Central Equatoria.

    • Household food and income from livestock production – including access to milk  – remain significantly disrupted in flood-affected areas. Livestock body conditions have deteriorated due to oversaturated pastures and atypically long migration distances in search of pasture and water, and this pattern is expected to persist into the dry season. There is also a high likelihood of excess livestock mortality due to starvation or water-borne disease. In Kilo-30 town in Rubkona county of Unity, for instance, key informants report an estimated 1,500 livestock deaths due to water contamination related to the flooding of oil fields, which also poses a threat to humans. Additionally, the high flood extent is likely to delay the arrival of pastoral Sudanese nomads at the border towns, leading to a reduction in the milk access and trading opportunities on which border communities typically rely. Conversely, below-average late-season rainfall in pastoral areas of Eastern Equatoria and Pibor is expected to affect pasture and browse for livestock adversely.

    • Harvest activities are at an annual peak and will likely be complete by early January. The main harvest of short-maturing sorghum is already complete in bimodal areas of Greater Equatoria, unimodal areas of Greater Bahr el Ghazal, and some parts of Greater Upper Nile, while both the short and long-maturing sorghum harvests are complete in Pibor. On the one hand, the harvest is gradually increasing the availability of household and market food stocks, especially in areas that were less affected by conflict or weather shocks in parts of Greater Equatoria, Greater Bahr el Ghazal, and northern Upper Nile, where the 2021 harvest is generally better than last year. On the other hand, large crop production deficits are expected in Jonglei, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, eastern Upper Nile, and Warrap. To a lesser extent, a reduction in crop yields is also likely in bimodal areas of Eastern and Central Equatoria due to poor rainfall at the end of the second season.

    • Due to the political crisis in Sudan, cross-border trade flows from Sudan via Gok-Machar and Warawar Harvest activities are at an annual peak and will likely be complete by early January. The main harvest of short-maturing sorghum is already complete in bimodal areas of Greater Equatoria, unimodal areas of Greater Bahr el Ghazal, and some parts of Greater Upper Nile, while both the short and long-maturing sorghum harvests are complete in Pibor. On the one hand, the harvest is gradually increasing the availability of household and market food stocks, especially in areas that were less affected by conflict or weather shocks in parts of Greater Equatoria, Greater Bahr el Ghazal, and northern Upper Nile, where the 2021 harvest is generally better than last year. On the other hand, large crop production deficits are expected in Jonglei, Unity, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, eastern Upper Nile, and Warrap. To a lesser extent, a reduction in crop yields is also likely in bimodal areas of Eastern and Central Equatoria due to poor rainfall at the end of the second seasonhave been limited since October, causing an increase in staple food prices in Aweil Centre. Based on weekly cross-border trade data, imported wheat flour and rice quantities declined by eight percent and 36 percent, respectively, compared to the same time last year. Consequently, a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum (feterita) rose by 11 percent from September to October in Aweil Centre due to reduced imports and local, flood-induced crop losses. Some traders are likely storing goods in case of future price increases, given the prevailing political uncertainty. The increase in the sorghum price reduced the terms of trade between a day’s wage and a kg of sorghum, which fell from 47 kg in September to 39 kg in October.

    • In Rumbek, Wau, and Juba, the retail price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum (feterita) remained stable between September and October due to the availability of the local harvest and imports from Uganda. Compared to October 2020, the price of sorghum fell 61-65 percent in Rumbek and Wau and was stable in Juba, reflecting the positive impact of the stabilized exchange rate and the higher availability of hard currency on imported trade volumes and market supply. Stable to falling food prices led to slight improvement in the terms of trade between sorghum and a day’s wage in October, which rose from 4 to 5 kg in Juba and 15 to 18 kg in Wau compared to September. Despite these relatively favorable trends, white sorghum prices are still above the five-year average by 7-13 percent in Rumbek and Wau and 131 percent in Juba.

    • Current levels of funding for the food assistance response remain inadequate to prevent severe acute food insecurity and rebuild coping capacity among flood- and conflict-affected households. In October, WFP reached 1.97 million people with General Food Distributions and Food-for-Assets, equivalent to around 28-33 percent of the estimated population in need of food assistance. Plans for November and December indicate WFP aims to reach 1.29 million people nationally with food assistance during the remainder of the harvest period. Attacks, insecurity, and other access constraints also further limit humanitarian partner capacity; however, WFP successfully reached an agreement with Pibor youth to resume food assistance activities effective November 18, following several dialogues with the youth to address their grievances.

    • According to Nutrition Cluster data, the admission of children with severe and moderate acute malnutrition (SAM and MAM) in OTP and TSFP programs was higher in January-September 2021 than in the same period of 2020 and 2019. The rising level of need has occurred despite the expanded reach of nutrition programs, which served 13 percent more beneficiaries in 2021 than in 2020. The increase in SAM and MAM cases may be linked to a very high disease burden, specifically malaria. Based on national malaria screening data of new SAM admissions (172,326), 25 percent (33,191) of admitted children tested positive for malaria, and 88 percent (29,154) of malaria-positive cases received treatment at the nutrition sites. Jonglei, Eastern Equatoria, and Upper Nile had the highest malaria cases.

    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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