In September, the gradual start of the green harvest has yet to improve food security outcomes. Multiple conflict and flood shocks are displacing households, preventing harvesting and other livelihood activities, disrupting markets and trade, and impeding humanitarian operations. Overall, the severity of acute food insecurity is likely highest in Pibor, Upper Nile, Jonglei, Warrap, Unity, and northern Lakes, where households are likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) remains likely in Pibor, Akobo county of Jonglei, Tonj North and Tonj South counties of Warrap, and Aweil South county of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, particularly among poor households in inaccessible areas who are unable to harvest crops or receive food assistance. Past trends suggest that Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is possible in additional conflict- or flood-affected areas. Furthermore, South Sudan still faces a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), which could occur if a shock isolates households from food sources for a prolonged time.
Hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan are unable to harvest due to displacement, the threat of attack, or floodwaters that have submerged or destroyed crops. Despite acute logistic and security challenges, WFP reached 2.56 million people with food assistance in August, a critical stopgap that is mitigating the severity of food insecurity across the country. However, the total population that needs food assistance is most likely still within the range of 7-8 million at the end of the lean season. Moreover, available plans from WFP suggest funding will provide food assistance for only six percent of the South Sudanese population between October and December. Food assistance will likely be inadequate to prevent large to extreme food consumption gaps among conflict- and flood-affected populations during the harvest period and leaves more than 100,000 people in protracted displacement sites exposed to deteriorating food insecurity. Sustained food assistance beyond currently funded levels is required to save lives and protect livelihoods.
Tambura county of Western Equatoria is among the conflict-affected areas at risk of worsening food insecurity. Around 80,000 people have fled violence related to SPLM/A-IO divisions, which amounts to around 70 percent of the total county population. The internally displaced population is spread between Tambura, Ezo, Yambio, Nagero, Wau, and Nzara counties. To date, WFP confirms reaching over 25,000 people with food assistance. Most displaced people had to abandon their existing food stocks from the first-season harvest and will likely be unable to harvest their second-season crops. Despite peace-building interventions by religious leaders, UNMISS, and the Joint Defense Board, tensions between armed forces remain high and multiple violent incidents occurred in September, including heavy fighting, roadside attacks, and arson. It is likely that conflict will expand to Ezo and Nagero. As a result, there is very high concern that food assistance delivery to the displaced households could be delayed, suspended, or otherwise disrupted in the near term.
Conflict in the Upper Nile-Jonglei border region and greater Tonj of Warrap is also extremely concerning, given that food insecurity is already severe. In Upper Nile and northern Jonglei, fighting between factions of the SPLM/A-IO has displaced an unverified number of civilians and is interfering with households’ ability to harvest crops, trade livestock, or access markets, especially in Manyo, Longochuk, and the Sobat corridor. Concurrent flooding in northern Jonglei raises the risk that household movement in search of safety and/or food sources could be restricted in the near term, especially in Fangak and Canal/Pigi. The conflict has also forced the closure of the road linking Fashoda-Manyo-Magenis to Sudan since July, significantly restricting trade and humanitarian logistics. Traders and humanitarians are instead using the longer, more costly River Nile route, which is also at risk of exposure to conflict. Meanwhile, in Tonj East and Tonj North of Warrap, an uptick in attacks is again restricting population and humanitarian movements. If conflict escalates further and prevents harvest activities or humanitarian access, then food insecurity could be worse than projected during the harvest period.
According to OCHA, an estimated 426,000 people have been affected by floods, primarily in the river-basin areas of Unity, Jonglei, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile, Lakes, and parts of Warrap and Western Equatoria. The largest and worst-affected populations are in Mayom, Leer, Mayendit, and Panyijiar counties of Unity; Fangak, Canal/Pigi, and Ayod counties of Jonglei; and Aweil South and Aweil East counties of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. In these areas, the floods displaced communities, caused significant to total crop losses, and submerged or cut-off markets and trade routes. Key informants report significant losses of small ruminants. Additionally, human and livestock disease incidence is expected to rise due to standing water, the contamination of water sources and poor sanitation, and the loss of pasture for grazing, which will likely worsen acute malnutrition levels and livestock health. Challenges to the humanitarian response include road access constraints – such as from Bor to northern Jonglei and Pibor – and the costs associated with river and air operations.
National crop production prospects in 2021 are similar to better than 2020 and the five-year average; however, this is well below pre-conflict levels and indicative of a large national cereal deficit. The largest deficits are likely to occur in conflict- and flood-affected areas. Atypical yield losses are also expected in Eastern Equatoria due to a mix of crop water stress and excess soil moisture. As the harvest gets underway, the risk of further flood-induced crop losses depends on the forecast of subsiding rainfall in northern and eastern South Sudan in October and the forecast of average second-season rainfall in southern and western South Sudan through November. Currently, the increasing availability of the sorghum, maize, and groundnut harvests are likely beginning to mitigate food insecurity in the relatively calm parts of Greater Equatoria. Other positive reports include the start of the green maize harvest in Pibor and Akobo East of Jonglei and the start of the groundnut harvest in parts of Lakes and Western Bahr el Ghazal. Elsewhere, crop growth stages still vary widely.
Commercial truck driver strikes led to short-term declines in cross-border trade flows in August and early September. Kenyan and Ugandan drivers protested for the second time this year against attacks, killings, and extortion along the Juba-Nimule highway. The two-week strike led to a pile-up of commodities at the Nimule and Elegu border crossing points, which are major entry points for regional and international goods. After South Sudanese, Ugandan, and Kenyan authorities agreed to deploy joint national security escorts and remove illegal checkpoints, trade resumed at Nimule on September 7th. Based on FEWS NET’s analysis of weekly cross-border trade data via Nimule, maize grain and sorghum import volumes dropped by 10-13 percent in late August before rebounding by 30-60 percent in mid-September as trucks resumed travel.
In August, the retail price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum declined for the fourth consecutive month in the major markets of Wau, Aweil Centre, and Rumbek Centre, reflecting the impact of the unified exchange rate, increased hard currency reserves, the availability of the harvest and food aid, and other factors on market supply and demand. Prices range from 20 to 75 percent below August 2020, with the largest decline recorded in Aweil. Comparisons to the five-year average are more varied, ranging from 10 percent above average in Rumbek to near average in Wau to nearly 40 percent below average in Aweil. In contrast, the price of a malwa of sorghum in Juba rose 15 percent in August and slightly higher in early September due to supply disruptions from the truck driver strikes. As a result, the price in Juba is 85 percent higher than August 2020 and 190 percent higher than the five-year average.
Following the completion of four SMART surveys in Pibor, Akobo West, Tonj North, and Aweil South counties earlier this year, humanitarian partners completed four additional SMART surveys in Bor South and Uror of Jonglei, Aweil East of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Gogrial West of Warrap between June and September. For the latter group of surveys, the South Sudan Nutrition Information Working Group has so far validated the results in Bor South and Uror. In Bor South, Household Hunger Score and Food Consumption Score data indicate most households have moderate to large food consumption gaps consistent with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Global Acute Malnutrition prevalence by weight-for-height z-score (GAM WHZ) was 14.8 percent, indicative of ‘Serious’ levels (10-14.9 percent). In Uror, the GAM (WHZ) prevalence is 14.4 percent, also indicative of ‘Serious’ levels, but food security data has not yet been shared. Plans are underway for additional surveys in Panyikang of Upper Nile and Panyijiar of Unity.