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Returnees, conflict, and floods sustain Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes

  • Key Message Update
  • South Sudan
  • November 2023
Returnees, conflict, and floods sustain Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • South Sudan continues to experience high levels of acute food insecurity in the harvesting period. Eleven (11) counties in Jonglei, Unity, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, and Eastern Equatoria are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), with pockets of people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Nyirol and Duk of Jonglei and Rubkona of Unity, as well as among South Sudanese returnee from Sudan. The high levels are primarily driven by negative impacts of conflict; high food prices amid poor macroeconomic conditions; high returnee burden; and unpredictable weather marked by below-average rainfall or prolonged dry spells between June and September and above-average rainfall in October and November that has caused localized flooding in eight counties. While the ongoing measles vaccination campaigns of nearly 700,000 children to date have largely contained new outbreaks, the risk of new cases persists requiring continued attention. Urgent multisectoral action is needed to save lives and prevent livelihood collapse. 
    • In November, humanitarian food assistance has been extended or resumed in areas assessed to have households experiencing severe hunger. However, funding shortfalls will continue to limit the reach of assistance. The lean season response concluded on 31 October, with final distributions occurring in November in Akobo West, and continuing through December in Pibor. In Rubkona, assistance was resumed in November with a one-off double distribution reaching 57,514 people out of 193,000 planned and is likely helping to mitigate Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes. WFP is also responding to the needs of returnees by providing Emergency assistance at arrival, during transit, and scaling up assistance at final destinations. As of the end of November, WFP has assisted 374,000 people upon arrival with high-energy biscuits, specialized nutritious foods, and in-kind food or cash assistance. WFP has also reached 125,000 returnees at their final destinations with one-off two- or three-month food assistance at 50 percent rations.  
    • Security conditions remain tense and highly volatile in many areas of the country with outbreaks of conflict continuing to disrupt livelihoods and displace households. In Leer of Unity, clashes broke out between SSPDF and SPLA-IO forces on November 28, killing 6 soldiers and displacing over 700 people. The situation has calmed following intervention by the state government, but tension and fears remain high. In Greater Bahr el Ghazal, over 32 people were killed and 20 wounded in fighting between armed youth from Twic of Warrap and Abyei AA at Rumamer on November 20. This followed closely after another incident on November 13 in which 19 people were killed in Anyuak of Twic, including SSPDF soldiers. Retaliatory attacks have also continued between communities in Gogrial East and Marial Baai of Jur River over land resources resulting in additional displacement, injury, and deaths including of a humanitarian worker. In Jonglei and Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA), tensions remain high between Murle and Lou Nuer with continued incidences of cattle raiding, abductions, and road ambushes. The ongoing insecurity in the area also resulted in several deaths including a humanitarian worker on November 6. On November 15, 750 Necessary Unified Forces troops were deployed to Malakal for further training and armament, after which point they will be deployed to Tonga and Atar. While the reception in the community has reportedly been positive, there remains a risk that their deployment could exacerbate existing conflict dynamics.
    • As of the end of November, over 400,000 returnees and refugees have arrived from Sudan and over 70,000 from Ethiopia due to deteriorating security conditions in these countries. The ongoing high influx of South Sudanese returnees continues to exert heavy pressure on the scarce resources as many of them arrive with no assets and extremely limited coping capacity or few social connections. While tracking of onward movements of returnees has been challenging and available data is incomplete, Renk of Upper Nile; Rubkona and Pariang of Unity; and Aweil East and North of Northern Bahr el Ghazal continue to host a large share of the newly arrived from Sudan. The highest shares of returnees from Ethiopia are in Nasir (~37,000 people), Maiwut of Upper Nile, and Akobo of Jonglei (~11,000 each). Given that returnees are encouraged to re-integrate into home communities, the impacts of returnee burden are also expected to be driving poor food consumption outcomes in additional counties of Greater Upper Nile, particularly close to borders with Sudan and Ethiopia. 
    • Above-average rainfall due to prevailing El Niño conditions in the East Africa region has led to rising river levels in some river basins and incidents of flood-related displacement in November. In Bor South of Jonglei and in Gondokoro and Mangala of Juba, Central Equatoria, approximately 3,000 and 5,000 people respectively have been displaced due to recent flooding. In Maban of Upper Nile, floods in November also displaced 300 households. Flooding in Yirol West of Lakes interrupted trade flows and movement along Juba-Yirol-Rumbek road; and on 28 November, floods inundated Pibor market in GPAA, disrupting market functionality. The rising water levels in the Nile River coupled with the persistence of high residual floodwaters in Rubkona, Mayom, and other low-lying areas of Leer, Mayendit of Unity, and Twic East of Jonglei are constraining assistance deliveries and household engagement in livelihoods to varying extents and are likely sustaining high prevalence of disease due to water contaminations and poor sanitation. In Rubkona, the heavy rains and rising water levels are likely to further exacerbate already severe food insecurity, compounding on high returnee burden. However, assistance delivery is reportedly ongoing and higher water levels may be conversely improving access to fish and wild foods, thus helping to mitigate further severe escalation of extreme food consumption gaps. In December, rainfall is likely to be above average in Greater Equatoria, but with reduced intensity as the amount of rainfall is typically very low by mid-December. 
    • The above-average rainfall has led to improvements in pasture and water conditions contributing to generally good livestock body conditions. FEWS NET’s field monitoring in Torit, Maiwut, Pibor, Duk, Leer, and Mayendit confirmed that households are benefitting from improved access to livestock products. However, cattle raiding and inter-communal conflict, plus poor veterinary services especially in Warrap, Lakes, Jonglei, Unity, and Eastern Equatoria continue to affect livestock production. Additionally, the presence of large numbers of Sudanese nomads in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Northern Upper Nile is increasing pressure on rangeland resources and contributing to heightened tensions among the herders.  
    • Cross-border trade via border entries with Uganda and Kenya continues to occur, benefiting from main season harvests in Uganda and Tanzania. However, volumes remain depressed compared to last year due to the persistent SSP depreciation and high transaction costs. Trade flow from Sudan, on the other hand, remains significantly disrupted due to ongoing conflict, with no cereal import from Sudan via Gok-Machar and Warawar border crossing points through November. This continues to negatively impact market supply and commodity pricing in northern states of the country. Similarly, the inter-state trade flows are occurring via land and rivers but at reduced level due to poor road accessibility and insecurity. 
    • Based on the analysis of November price data available in CLIMIS, the retail price of a malwa (3.5 kgs) of white sorghum in November 2023 were stable or declining compared to October 2023 prices in Juba, Aweil, Wau, and Rumbek Centre due to increased availability of local supply in markets from the main season harvest. However, prices remain elevated compared to the same time last year (20-40 percent) and compared to the five-year average (150-200 percent) in these markets due to continued SSP depreciation and rising costs of importation. With limited income-earning opportunities, persistently high food prices continue to erode household purchasing power and limit financial access to food. 
    • Second season crops in Equatoria bimodal zone are in various stages of growth, from vegetative to harvesting in most parts of Western Equatoria; Magwi of Eastern Equatoria; and Yei and Lainya of Central Equatoria. Long-maturing sorghum crops are at flowering to seed formation stages in Magwi and mountainous areas of Ikwoto, Budi, and southern part of Torit of Eastern Equatoria; and parts of Juba in Central Equatoria. Harvesting of sesame and groundnuts crops is occurring in Opari and Pageri Payam of Magwi and Yei, but heavy rains are leading to post-harvest losses. Similarly, heavy rains in Ikwotos and Budi of Eastern Equatoria are affecting vegetative growth leading to poor yields. Key informants have confirmed the rotting of groundnuts, cowpeas, and broad beans due to ongoing heavy rainfall, which is likely to drive a lower harvest than last year in most parts of Western Equatoria state and Yei of Central Equatoria.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. South Sudan Key Message Update November 2023: Returnees, conflict, and floods sustain Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes, 2023.

    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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