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Staple food prices rise as trade is disrupted by conflict

  • Special Report
  • South Sudan
  • January 24, 2014
Staple food prices rise as trade is disrupted by conflict

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  • Key Messages
  • Preface

  • Preface

    Regular FEWS NET South Sudan monthly outlook reporting has been suspended due to the current crisis; FEWS NET will continue monitoring the food security situation and post periodic updates while the crisis is ongoing.

    Key Messages
    • Over half a million people have been uprooted from their homes since fighting broke out in South Sudan on December 15, 2013. About 494,000 people have been internally displaced, with 67,400 people sheltering within UN bases in the affected states. In Malakal and Bor, where fighting has been the most intense, the number of IDPs increased to 22,000 and 10,000, respectively, by January 19. The government announced the recapture of both Malakal and Bor on January 18 and 20, respectively.

    • On January 23, the government of South Sudan and rebels loyal to the country’s ousted former vice president signed a cease-fire agreement, scheduled to be in effect within 24 hours of the signing. The cease-fire is considered a temporary measure, and continued negotiations are needed.

    • Despite the recent fighting between the two sides in the oil-rich states of Unity and Upper Nile, and evacuation of oil workers, no significant impacts on oil production have been reported. South Sudan depends almost entirely on the oil for its revenue (nearly 98 percent).

    • Conflict interrupted the main harvest, which started in November 2013 and is expected to continue through January 2014. Seven out of the 10 states of the country are impacted the by conflict, with Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile the most affected. In those states, most households were displaced at a critical point in the harvest, and fled without their harvest, which was eventually either destroyed or looted. Food availability on the markets is not expected to increase in the near future given the fluid security situation.

    • The food security situation of the displaced and refugee populations is most impacted by the conflict. Given the current disruption in livelihoods, markets, and normal coping strategies, most of the IDPs are estimated to face Crisis levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3). Over 199,000 refugees also have substantial food consumption gaps due to strained humanitarian access, and face Crisis levels.

    Markets and Trade

    • South Sudan imports most of its staple foods from neighboring countries, mostly Uganda, South Sudan, and Ethiopia. The fighting has completely halted domestic and cross-border trade flows into the areas severely affected by the conflict in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states. Most traders left the country since the outbreak of fighting, which has significantly reduced food availability on markets. Although trade flows continue between Uganda (the main source of imports) and South Sudan, volumes in January are less than half the pre-crisis levels. The merchandise is mostly destined for Central Equatoria and Eastern Equatoria states; typically, trade from Uganda would flow to additional states (Unity, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Warrap, Lakes and Western Bahr el Ghazal), but conflict is preventing trade flows to these areas.
    • Markets in Bor, Malakal, and Bentiu were completely destroyed during the fighting. Traders lost substantial amounts of their stocks, and most fled. Although the government is now in control of the main towns, it is assumed that the traders will not risk returning so soon due to insecurity. Most supply in Bor markets comes from Uganda. In Bentiu, commodities are sourced from both Uganda and Sudan, while Malakal obtains its supplies from Ethiopia, Sudan and some from Uganda. Evacuation of foreign traders from those towns has significantly reduced market activity.
    • Prices increased unseasonably in December immediately following the onset of fighting. In Juba, the price of sorghum increased by 8 percent compared to November, while in Wau and Bor, the increase was 6 and 2 percent, respectively. When compared to the previous year, sorghum prices increased by 61 percent in Bor, and 11 percent in Wau, whereas maize prices increased by 32 percent in Aweil. Sorghum prices increased by 46 percent in Juba, 26 percent in Wau and 17 percent in Aweil, respectively, compared to the five-year average. With the reduced inflow of commodities, FEWS NET assumes significant price increases in the coming months.

    IDP and refugees

    • Of the estimated 494,000 IDPs, 67,400 are sheltering in UN compounds. The largest concentration of IDPs is in Unity state, with an estimated 117,500 IDPs, followed by Jonglei State, with about 114,500 IDPs. About 91,700 people to date have been displaced from Jonglei state into Awerial County of Lakes state since mid-December. In Central Equatoria state, there are 88,000 IDPs, while in Eastern Equatoria and Upper Nile states, the numbers have been estimated at 50,100 and 25,200, respectively. 2,500 IDPs have crossed into Abyei area from Unity state. Over 86,100 people have crossed into neighboring countries. Most refugees are in Uganda (46,600), followed by Ethiopia (20,600), Sudan (10,000), and Kenya (8,900).
    • As of January 21, 212,000 IDPs have received some form of humanitarian assistance; of them, 161,000 have received food assistance. While aid agencies are reaching IDPs in urban settings, thousands in rural areas are not readily accessible due to persistent fighting in Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity states, along with the impacts of last year’s floods on roads in some areas. The state of emergency declared by the government in those areas has also restricted humanitarian access. In Unity State’s Leer County, nearly 40,000 IDPs are reported to be in dire need of food assistance.
    • Malnutrition is a major concern among IDP concentrations, such as the UN compounds. UNICEF has reported that in Juba, the prevalence of severe acute malnutrition at Tomping UN compound was 2.07 percent, and moderate acute malnutrition was 4.59 percent. It is assumed that prevalence is even higher in Bor, Malakal and Bentiu.
    • Sudanese refugees are facing food shortages as supply routes have been affected by the fighting and most aid workers have been evacuated.  Currently, South Sudan hosts an estimated 199,000 Sudanese refugees in Maban in Upper Nile state (122,000) and Yida in Unity state (77,000), according to UN OCHA on January 17.

    Food Security Outcomes

    • With the current displacement and disruption in livelihoods and markets, a significant proportion of households in the affected areas of Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states will face substantial food consumption gaps in the coming months if conflict continues. Continued conflict would disrupt the provision of humanitarian assistance and market access, with significant impacts on the food security of displaced and local populations.  This would result in severe food shortages, particularly in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile, where Crisis levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3) would spread widely in the affected states until March. After that time, IDPs in areas with heavy fighting (currently in Unity, Jonglei, and Upper Nile states), and no access to humanitarian assistance, would likely face Emergency levels (IPC Phase 4).  However, if the January 23 cease-fire is effectively maintained in the coming months, and trade and humanitarian assistance flows resume, food security outcomes would likely be better than the projections above.  

     

     

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