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Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes remain widespread at the start of the green harvest

  • Key Message Update
  • South Sudan
  • September 2023
Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes remain widespread at the start of the green harvest

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes persist across South Sudan despite the start of the green harvest and some stabilization in cereal prices in unimodal areas, albeit at above-average levels. This persistence is driven by ongoing sporadic conflict, underlying poor macro-economic conditions, limited income-generating opportunities, slow livelihood recovery prospects, and localized poor harvests. In the northern counties bordering Sudan, the influx of South Sudanese returnees continues to drive high humanitarian needs, putting additional burden on the host households who are sharing scarce resources with the newly arrived. Canal/Pigi and Fangak of northern Jonglei, and Fashoda and Panyikang of Upper Nile remain of high concern, where some households are likely still in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in the latter two counties due to multiple years of asset and livelihood erosion exacerbated by the arrival of South Sudanese returnees and conflict-related disruption to trade flow with Sudan. 
    • Of additional concern are Akobo East of Jonglei and Gogrial West of Warrap, where recently validated SMART surveys conducted in June found rates of acute malnutrition at the upper end of the range of ‘Critical’ (15-29.9 percent). In Gogrial West, 26.9 percent were found to be acutely malnourished, reflecting a significant deterioration from the last same-season assessment in June 2021 (17 percent). The deterioration is associated with early exhaustion of food stocks due to last year’s flooding and ongoing high food prices resulting in poor household access to food at the peak of the lean season. In Akobo East, the prevalence of acute malnutrition was found to be 27.9 percent, up from 16 percent in the last same-season analysis from June 2018 and driven by a combination of poor household dietary diversity and child feeding practices, and high child morbidities. Other high-priority areas where SMART surveys have been conducted since March 2023 found rates of acute malnutrition between 13.3 and 24.7 percent, including Kapoeta South (13.3 percent) of Eastern Equatoria; Yirol West (14.3 percent) of Lakes; Canal/Pigi (17.8 percent) and Fangak (18.8 percent) of Jonglei; Aweil South (19.2 percent) and Aweil North (24.7 percent) of Northern Bahr el Ghazal; and Mayendit (20.5 percent) of Unity. 
    • Sporadic attacks and road ambushes continue in several areas of South Sudan, leading to disruption of livelihood activities and trade flows, as well as loss of lives in some incidents. In late August and into early September, inter-communal counterattacks were reported in Gogrial East of Warrap, as well as road ambushes along Torit-Kapoeta road in Eastern Equatoria. Key informants have also continued to report new incidents of looting of household food stocks and assets in Central Equatoria, notably in Wudabi payam of Morobo County; Mugwo, Otogo, Lasu, and Tore payams of Yei County; and Wonduruba and Mukaya payams in Lainya County. The killing of a trader in Yambio County of Western Equatoria and the attempted killing of a local chief in Lobonok payam of Juba County in Central Equatoria are likely to prompt retaliatory attacks and tensions within the communities, disrupting household mobility and trade flows. Meanwhile, rising community tension over land resources and looting of cattle at the border between Western Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap has triggered the deployment of SSPDF at Manyang checkpoint to de-escalate the tensions.
    • Based on analysis of sorghum prices available in CLiMIS, the retail price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of sorghum in August remains similar to July, but was 15 to 110 percent higher than last year and 100 to 325 percent higher than the five-year average in Wau, Aweil Center, Juba and Rumbek, respectively. The high prices have been primarily driven by lower import supply, high transportation costs, and depreciating local currency. In early September, the local currency (SSP) was trading at 1020 per USD and 1004 per USD in the parallel and official markets. Overall, both the official and parallel exchange have stabilized at or around 1000 per USD between July and early September. The depreciating SSP coupled with the continued high prices of staple food are affecting household access to food and non-food commodities. 
    • In August, WFP planned to reach 2.4 million people with food assistance programs, having reached 2 million people in July. This represents about 26 percent of FEWS NET’s estimated population in need if perfectly targeted, and 17 percent of the country’s population. However, WFP lean season assistance has already started to seasonally reduce with the onset of the green harvest, despite rising needs amid the continued influx of South Sudanese refugees and returnees in the north that has surpassed 260,000 by mid-September. Historically, the persistence of high needs in the post-harvest period has resulted in the continuation of assistance in some high-priority areas. But large funding shortages this year are likely to threaten coverage and are already driving difficult prioritization decisions across South Sudan, as evidenced in the decision to suspend assistance for 4 months in Bentiu camp, reportedly due to a funding shortfall. The suspension of aid has triggered community complaints and rising concern for further deterioration in food security conditions, particularly as the community is supporting a large number of returnees to meet their basic needs, as revealed in a recent REACH survey in late August.    
    • Below-average rainfall across much of the country in both July and August has eroded the cumulative rainfall performance across increasing portions of the country and has deepened deficits over the southeast. These rainfall deficits in the southeast are affecting crop and pasture conditions in parts of Central and Eastern Equatoria, particularly in Lafon of Eastern Equatoria and southeastern parts of Pibor County in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area. However, these areas, particularly in Eastern Equatoria, are typically highly pastoral with less dependence on crops for food or income, and pasture resources have remained sufficient for livestock. Overall, crop harvest in 2023 is likely to be similar to or slightly below last year and the five-year average, driven by relatively better production in the western half, while the eastern half will likely see more pervasive below-average harvests. 
    • Based on the available rainfall forecasts from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and NOAA’s multi-model ensemble (NMME), and given expectations under El Niño, the trend of below-average rainfall is likely to continue through September and October. As such, the risk of severe flooding beyond typical floodplain extents in the remainder of the rainy season is low. Nonetheless, episodes of heavy rainfall may continue to cause localized flooding, such as that seen in the Sobat and Akobo basins due to above-average rainfall in Ethiopian highlands, as well as localized flooding in Renk of Upper Nile in late August that affected hundreds of households including many newly arrived. According to OCHA, the flooding in Renk has worsened the already poor living conditions of the returnees and refugees and reduced physical access to key areas. In November and December, forecasts for above-average rainfall in the southern bimodal areas and in the southeast of the country could cause additional localized flooding and could negatively affect dry harvesting resulting in post-harvest losses.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. South Sudan Key Message Update September 2023: Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes remain widespread at the start of the green harvest, 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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