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Intensified conflict in border areas increases the size of the food insecure population

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Sudan
  • April - September 2012
Intensified conflict in border areas increases the size of the food insecure population

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  • Key Messages
  • National-level food security
  • Most likely food security scenario (April to September 2012)
  • Sub-National Analysis
  • Key Messages
    • The size of the food insecure population has increased from 4.5 million people last month to 4.7 million in April, due to increased conflict in some parts of South Kordofan and reduced access to food because of gradual depletion of food stocks at the household level and atypically high prices across most key markets. 

    • Food insecurity is of greatest concern in areas controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in South Kordofan, where about 200,000 – 250,000 people now face Crisis to Emergency (IPC Phase 3 and 4) levels of food insecurity. Food insecurity is expected to deteriorate through the scenario period (April to September 2012), though not to Phase 5 levels, as households exhaust coping strategies. Current restrictions on humanitarian access, trade flows, and population movements are assumed to continue. 

    • Crisis levels of food insecurity are expected in SPLM-N-controlled areas of Blue Nile through September, due to similar – though less severe – restrictions on trade, movement, and assistance as in South Kordofan.

    • Fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) of South Sudan in the Heglig oil region (South Kordofan) in April has displaced approximately 10,000 people to Khresana, Kilak, and other villages and increased the potential for additional and more intense conflict. 

    • Crisis levels of food insecurity are likely to continue through September in North Darfur and the northern parts of South Darfur, where the harvest performed poorly, and in Jebel Mara due to the impacts of insecurity on food access.

    National-level food security

    As of April 2012, an estimated 4.7 million people are food insecure in Sudan:

    • In Darfur, the majority of the 1.8 million IDPs face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) levels of food insecurity. About 1.2 million resident/host communities in the drought-affected areas of North Darfur face Crisis levels of food insecurity.
    • In South Kordofan State, approximately 400,000 – 500,000 people are directly affected and/or displaced by the ongoing conflict (out of the state’s total population of 1.6 million people), though not all of this population is food insecure. Of this population, about 200,000 – 250,000 people are located in SPLM-N controlled areas (including both the displaced population and the conflict-affected local population), and face Crisis to Emergency levels of food insecurity.  About 150,000 – 200,000 people affected and/or displaced by conflict are in GoS-controlled areas, and face Stressed levels of food insecurity. This represents a significant increase over the estimate provided in the February Outlook (100,000 – 150,000 people in GoS-controlled areas) due to recent displacement caused by conflict within GoS-controlled areas.  This includes movement from Talodi and nearby villages to Al Leri (20,000 IDPs), Abu Jubaiha (10,000 IDPs), and Kalogi (2,000 IDPs). In addition, recent fighting between SAF and the SPLA of South Sudan displaced more than 10,000 people from Heglig to Khresana, Kilak, and villages further north.
    • In Blue Nile State, approximately 200,000 – 225,000 people are directly affected and/or displaced by the ongoing conflict (out of the state’s total population of about 800,000). Of this population, about 100,000 – 150,000 people are located in SPLM-N-controlled areas, and face Crisis levels of food insecurity. About 100,000 people affected and/or displaced by conflict are in GoS-controlled areas, and face Stressed levels.
    • About 1 million people in parts of Red Sea, North Kordofan, White Nile, and Kassala states face Stressed levels of food insecurity due to the impacts of the poor rainy season and reduced purchasing power because of high inflation. The food insecure population in these areas has increased in recent months as an early start to the lean season sets in. 
    • Most of the 100,000 – 120,000 people displaced from Abyei are located in Agok (within Abyei) and are at Crisis levels.
    National-level food insecurity drivers

    Food insecurity at the national level is driven broadly by the generally poor 2011/2012 harvest, above-average prices in many areas, and conflict in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and parts of Darfur. In many areas – drought-affected areas of North Darfur, North Kordofan, Red Sea, Kassala, and White Nile states, and conflict-affected areas of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and parts of Darfur – the lean season has started one to two months earlier than normal, in March/April.

    In general, nominal sorghum prices in March were 100 – 160 percent higher than the five-year average and about 65 percent above the reference year (2009/2010). Sorghum prices in March increased by 20 percent in Nyala (South Darfur), five percent in Port Sudan (Red Sea), and three percent in Damazin (Blue Nile) compared to February prices, though remained stable at above-average levels in Al Quadarif, Al Fasher (North Darfur), El Obied (North Kordofan), Kadugli (South Kordofan), and Dongola (Northern). High prices are driven by the reduced supply of cereals to markets because of the poor production, as well as restricted market access in areas affected by conflict in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and parts of Darfur. Demand is steadily increasing due to gradual depletion of food stocks at the household level. Price stabilization in some urban markets is mainly attributed to the release of subsidized grain by the Strategic Grain Reserve Corporation (SGRC) and to food aid distributions in other areas.  Price increases on international markets (particularly for wheat), inflation, and the local currency devaluation have also influenced prices.

    Due to below-average pasture and water conditions, distress sales of livestock are reported in some areas (e.g. North Darfur, North Kordofan and Buttana plain in central Sudan), and livestock migrations started earlier than normal. While high demand for livestock for export to the Gulf States, Asia, and Egypt has continued, livestock prices are not keeping pace with the sharp increase in cereal prices, and livestock/cereal terms of trade are rapidly deteriorating for pastoral communities who depend on livestock sales to purchase grain, particularly in North Darfur and North Kordofan.  

    Increased insecurity and direct confrontations on multiple fronts are a major driver of food insecurity in Sudan, both through direct and indirect impacts, with the potential for significant escalation and expansion to other border areas of Sudan and South Sudan.  In conflict-affected areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, food security remains a major concern amid ongoing restrictions on trade flows, population movements, and the provision of humanitarian assistance. Increased involvement by the recently formed Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) – an alliance of several factions of Darfur groups and the SPLM-North – alongside the SPLM-N in South Kordofan has added a new dimension to the fighting that signifies the increasing intensity in the region. In early April, tensions between Sudan and South Sudan reached new levels with the temporary occupation of Heglig oil field in South Kordofan by South Sudan forces.  The SRF, particularly JEM, reportedly took part in fighting alongside the SPLA of South Sudan in this direct confrontation with SAF forces. The takeover of the oil field resulted in shutdown of the production facilities, causing both countries to increase mobilization and declare high levels of alert. Heglig oil field produces about 40 percent of the 115,000 barrels of crude oil now produced per day in Sudan (since the separation from South Sudan in July 2011), and repair of the oil field will take several months. The recent fighting in border areas has caused additional population displacement, destruction of assets and an unknown number of civilian deaths, and hindered market functioning and access, all of which have reduced household level access to food. 

    Due to the impacts of conflict on oil production, the GoS faces shortfalls of hard currency to fund imports of essential commodities. Inflation has continued to steadily increase as the local currency devaluates.  In March the official inflation rate was 22.4 percent, up from 21.3 percent in February. As of mid-April, the unofficial black market exchange rate was over SDG 6 per US dollar, more than double the official Bank of Sudan exchange rate. The fall in the official exchange rate may mask the true size of the fall in purchasing power as prices for locally produced and imported food and non-food items have increased in nominal, local currency terms.  In order to cope with this situation, the GoS declared plans to cut public expenditures and is considering oil imports to cover the deficit generated by the closure of Heglig oil field. 

    Most likely food security scenario (April to September 2012)

    In order to project food security outcomes through the scenario period, FEWS NET makes a number of assumptions about likely events important to sources of food and income in areas of concern. FEWS NET also makes assumptions about other future events that could have a significant impact on food security in the region. These assumptions enable FEWS NET to project changes in household food and income sources and food security outcomes over the course of the outlook period.

    The most likely scenarios for April through September 2012 are based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Food stocks: Given this year’s poor harvest, carryover stocks from the 2010/11 good harvest and stocks from the 2011/12 harvest are expected to be depleted for poor households in most parts of Sudan in March/April, instead of in May/June, leading to an early start to the lean season in March/April. However, in some parts of Sudan, households are expected to maintain adequate carryover and current year food stocks and/or enough cash income from the sale of cash crops and livestock to enable them to meet basic food and livelihood needs throughout the Outlook period.
    • Conflict: Conflict is likely to continue at high levels in South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Darfur, and areas along the Sudan and South Sudan border. Increased involvement by pro-government militias is likely, especially after the incursion of SPLA-South Sudan in Heglig.
    • Macroeconomic situation: The loss of revenue from oil production will continue to exert pressure on the general economic situation, and high inflation and local currency depreciation are likely to continue during the scenario period. Furthermore, the continuation of fighting is likely to divert national economic resources, slow economic growth, and delay development projects funded by the national budget.
    • Cereal prices: Cereal prices are expected to continue increasing significantly throughout the scenario period due to high inflation and the poor harvest, particularly in remote areas of west and east Sudan due to high transport costs, and in conflict-affected areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile due to restricted trade flows. Prices are likely to peak from May to August.
    • Dependence on markets: Households will depend on the market for food purchases earlier in the season, and market purchases will remain important through September. Households will have decreased purchasing power given limited income and high prices, particularly in conflict-affected areas. 
    • Rainfall: The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) forecasts for the May to October period both indicate an increased likelihood of normal to above-normal rainfall across Sudan. A normal start of season for Sudan is assumed. 
    • Livestock conditions/prices: April to June will be a critical period for livestock due to the severe pasture and water shortages, and high insecurity around the main seasonal grazing routes in border areas. Livestock to cereal terms of trade are expected to remain poor for livestock holders because of rising cereal prices, despite the expected improvement in livestock body conditions and prices in July/August following the rains. Livestock holders in areas affected by drought last year will be most affected, particularly North Darfur and North Kordofan.
    • Seasonal grazing patterns: Access for nomadic pastoralists who typically graze in parts of South Sudan during the dry season (through May) will continue to be reduced (though not cut off) due to tensions in border areas.  With the start of the rains in June, livestock will return to wet season grazing areas in Sudan.  

    At a national level, food insecurity has begun to increase earlier than normal, as food stocks are depleted in many areas and households turn to the market for food purchases. The lean season, which typically begins in May, has already begun in some areas, and will continue through September.  Given the expectation for prices to rise above current levels, most poor households will face difficulty accessing food on the market. In conflict-affected areas, including South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Abyei, and parts of Darfur, access to markets will be further restricted.

    Despite the early start to the lean season in many areas, households in some areas, including most parts of Northern, River Nile, Al Qadarif, Khartoum, Jazirah, Sinnar, Northern Kordofan, South Darfur, and White Nile States, are likely to meet basic food and livelihood needs through market purchases or reliance on food stocks throughout the scenario period, and will therefore face no acute food insecurity (Figures 2 and 3).  In other parts of the country that had poor harvests, or who have less access to food on the markets, food security is likely to deteriorate to Stressed levels over the course of the Outlook period.  These areas include parts of Red Sea, Blue Nile, Kassala, Northern Kordofan, Southern Kordofan, White Nile, and the Darfur states.  In conflict-affected areas of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, some parts of North Darfur, and some parts of South Darfur, Crisis to Emergency levels of food insecurity are expected (Figures 2 and 3).

    Alternative scenario: Escalation to war

    The most likely scenario described above assumes that conflict between Sudan and South Sudan will remain at high levels, but does not assume escalation to full-scale war.  However, given the recent high intensity confrontations between SAF and SPLA of South Sudan in Heglig and other border areas, additional clashes have the potential to trigger a full-scale war between the two countries. If this occurs, likely events and outcomes include the following:

    • Displacement:  Additional, widespread displacement in border areas would likely occur; the main areas of concern include border villages in South Darfur, South Kordofan, White Nile, and Blue Nile states.
    • Cultivation: Cultivation would be severely restricted in border areas, especially on the semi-mechanized farms along the border with Blue Nile and White Nile states.
    • Trade flows: Trade flows to South Sudan, including smuggled goods, would become severely restricted, with increased risks for those taking goods to South Sudan. The Government of Sudan has already recently announced the intention to enact extreme penalties for those smuggling goods to South Sudan. These measures may also apply to trade flows to SPLM-N-controlled areas.
    • Access to grazing: Full-scale conflict would severely limit or halt access to traditional grazing areas in South Sudan for over 10 million heads of cattle from Sudan. This would have severe repercussions on the livelihoods of Baggara (e.g. Messeriya, Rizeigat, Falata, Kenana, Rufa’a and Lahwein) cattle herders of Sudan.
    • South Sudanese in Sudan: Up to 500,000 South Sudanese are estimated to live in Sudan. Should the South Sudanese face increased pressure to leave Sudan, their movement would be highly constrained by transportation difficulties due to their huge numbers, compounded by the June  – September rains and insecurity along the way.
    • Macroeconomic impacts: A major war between Sudan and South would mean losses of billions of dollars from oil export for both countries, with significant budgetary implications for both countries.

    Sub-National Analysis

    South Kordofan

    Current conditions

    Fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the SPLM-N has continued in parts of South Kordofan since June 2011, causing major destruction of assets, reduced access to farms for cultivation, damage to harvests, diminished agricultural labor opportunities, disruption to livelihoods, civilian displacement, and an uncertain number of deaths.  To date, an estimated 400,000 – 500,000 people in South Kordofan have been directly affected and/or displaced by the fighting. 

    As of mid-April, fighting had spread to 15 out of the 19 localities in the state, with the most recent outbreak of heavy fighting in Talodi and a number of nearby villages in late March/early April. About 30,000 people were displaced to Aleri (20,000), Abu Jubaiha (10,000), Kalogi (2,000), and other areas, though some have since returned to their villages. A rapid assessment by the Sudanese Red Crescent (SRC) in GOS-controlled areas stated that food, shelter, water and sanitation, and health services are the most pressing needs of the newly displaced. SRC reportedly distributed food donated by the GoS to the newly displaced in Al Leri, Abu Jubaiha and Kalogi.

    The recent alliance between the SPLM-N and a number of Darfur rebel factions under the umbrella of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) has led to more aggressive fighting between SAF and the SRF in some parts of South Kordofan. A number of direct confrontations have also taken place between SAF and SPLA of South Sudan over the past two months, with heavy fighting in Heglig in South Kordofan. Ongoing fighting in Heglig has caused 10,000 people to flee to Heglig town and to villages further north (e.g. Khresana and Kilak), and continued displacement is likely.

    The precise number of people displaced by conflict in South Kordofan (and particularly within SPLM-N-controlled areas) is unknown due to continued fighting, restricted movement of humanitarian agencies, and widespread minefields. In addition, the Government of Sudan has indicated that it will not allow the settlement of IDPs in camps both within and outside of South Kordofan, which has complicated information-gathering on the size and status of the displaced population.

    Since the beginning of April 2012, about 20,000 people from South Kordofan have registered as refugees at Yida camp in Unity State, South Sudan. The influx of refugees from South Kordofan to Yida has reportedly increased in recent weeks, with 400 – 500 people arriving per day compared to previous weekly totals of 100-150 people. This is mainly attributed to increased violence over the past four weeks but also to deteriorating food security conditions in SPLM-N controlled areas. UNHCR also reported that about 500-800 refugees from Sudan and South Sudan have been arriving in Kakuma (Turkana District, Kenya) on a weekly basis over the last few weeks.

    Of most concern is the large number of IDPs within the Nuba Mountains, where fighting is more intense than in other parts of South Kordofan, and restrictions on trade and humanitarian assistance to the area continue. FEWS NET estimates that about 150,000 – 200,000 IDPs may be displaced to this area, which is controlled by the SPLM-N. Most IDPs are concentrated in Heiban, Burram, and Dellami localities. Most of the displaced within the Nuba Mountains fled without productive assets (including livestock and food stocks). Of the remaining livestock approximately 50 to 80 percent have reportedly either been looted by conflicting parties and/or died due to disease and lack of pasture/water and veterinary services. IDPs now depend on the support of host communities and/or wild food consumption (mainly fruits, leaves, and grasses). Furthermore, the SPLM-N is reportedly demanding compulsory contributions of crop harvested this year and livestock owned by the local population in order to supply soldiers. 

    The GoS has continued to prohibit trade to SPLM-N-controlled areas. Market supplies of food commodities in SPLM-N controlled areas (e.g., Heiban and Kauda) are reportedly about 25 percent of normal levels, with prices three to five times those before the conflict began. In Dellami, a 90 kg sack of sorghum now reportedly sells for SDG 225 and in Heiban for SDG 450 compared to SDG 70-80 before the conflict began.

    The food security status of the displaced and poor households in GoS-controlled areas appears to be more stable than in SPLM-N-controlled areas given less restricted market activity, greater labor opportunities, and limited humanitarian assistance provided by GoS, humanitarian organizations, and host communities.

    Displacement within South Kordofan and to other parts of Sudan and South Sudan appears to be taking place in waves, mostly in the wake of conflict.  However, population movements appear to be restrained, and several reasons may be attributed to this. Firstly, movement to other areas is hindered by insecurity and the risk of aerial bombardment, mines, and the difficulty of making the journey without adequate food and water. Secondly, populations may be remaining in South Kordofan voluntarily, in support of the SPLM-N, and because of perceptions of greater security remaining within the Nuba Mountains. Finally, there is growing concern that the SPLM-N has restricted civilian movements outside of SPLM-N controlled areas as a new tactic to maintain its support and resource base, and to increase pressure on the GoS to allow humanitarian access into SPLM-N-controlled areas. The GoS is reportedly attempting to attract population movements into their areas by providing humanitarian assistance and, on some occasions, by providing transport for people leaving SPLM-N controlled areas.

    IDPs in SPLM-N-controlled areas are thus highly vulnerable to food insecurity due to the impacts of prolonged displacement, missed cultivation last season, looting/loss of assets, limited labor opportunities, and lack of access to markets and humanitarian assistance. The health and nutrition status of IDPs is reportedly deteriorating in the Nuba Mountains, where health and nutrition conditions are expected to be worse due to limited access to basic health services and inadequate food and nutrition assistance. Water is also reportedly scarce as about 40 percent of water resources in SPLM-N controlled areas are no longer functioning. The host community – particularly poor households – is similarly vulnerable, due to the burden of hosting the displaced and providing contributions to the SPLM-N, reduced cultivation last season, reduced access to seasonal labor opportunities and other livelihood sources, as well as decreased mobility and access to markets.

    Most likely scenario

    Information is scarce about conditions on the ground in SPLM-N controlled areas (Kouda, Delami,  Buram, Um Durein, and Heiban) due to insecurity and restrictions on access.  The most likely scenario detailed below draws on information available from Government of Sudan sources, UN and NGO reports, and key FEWS NET field sources, and is based on the following assumptions:

    • Conflict: Conflict is likely to continue between the GoS and SPLM-N in South Kordofan throughout the scenario period. Troop movements and delivery of logistical supplies may be somewhat constrained by poor road conditions during the rainy season (June-September). The increased involvement of the SRF is likely to intensify fighting.
    • Humanitarian access: Restrictions on humanitarian access to displaced population in SPLM-N-controlled areas are likely to remain in place during the scenario period. Although significant diplomatic efforts are underway to obtain access to affected populations, the GoS restrictions are unlikely to be fully withdrawn during the scenario period.
    • Trade flows and access to markets: Restrictions on trade flows from GoS to SPLM-N controlled areas are likely to continue, though small quantities of food will continue to be smuggled into SPLM-N controlled areas.  Smuggling may be further restricted with the start of the rains in June. On April 23, the Government of Sudan announced plans to declare a state of emergency in border areas with South Sudan to curb the smuggling of foods to South Sudan. The government indicated plans to strengthen its anti-smuggling policy and implement new and potentially extreme penalties to prevent smuggling of food to South Sudan. These measures may also apply to trade flows to SPLM-N-controlled areas.
    • Population flows:  Restrictions on population flows out of SPLM-N controlled areas by the SPLM-N are likely to continue.  However, with the onset of rains in June, some of the displaced population (both in the SPLM-N and in GOS-controlled areas) might return to their villages in time for planting. This could involve movements within SPLM-N controlled areas and GOS-controlled areas or attempts to cross from GOS to SPLM-controlled areas or vice versa.
    • Rainy season: The rainy season is expected to begin in June, and is assumed to begin on time and to be average to above average at this time. The rains will increase susceptibility to water-borne diseases associated with malnutrition at this time of the year.
    • Cultivation: In spite of the forecast for average to above average rainfall, the prevailing insecurity is likely to reduce area cultivated among traditional farmers and IDPs. Furthermore, some farmers on large-scale semi-mechanized farms (located in GoS-controlled areas) are likely to avoid risks associated with farming in South Kordofan this year, including potential damage to crops and looting of equipment by the SPLM-N. However, some limited small-scale cultivation, mainly for sorghum, might be practiced by residents and IDPs still in the Nuba Mountains. Such cultivation is likely to supply food for only 1-2 months, and to be hindered by insecurity.
    • Food availability: Carryover food stocks from the good 2010/11 harvest, and from the 2011/12 harvest are now expected to be exhausted or drawn to a minimum among both the host and displaced communities.  Although green leaves might be available at the beginning of August, they are not expected to compensate for household food consumption deficits. However, in western parts of South Kordofan not affected by conflict, people are expected to maintain good stocks from the 2010/11 harvest, as well as from this year’s harvest. Parts of these areas grow millet and cash crops (e.g., groundnut and sesame), which are more resistant to drought and performed better than the sorghum harvest. Furthermore, households in these areas also rely on livestock sales as an important source of income.

    The most important sources of food at this time of year are typically food stocks from the harvest, wild foods, and some market purchases. This year, food stocks held by the host community in the Nuba Mountains are now mostly exhausted. Chief income sources at this time of year for poor households, in a typical year, include sales of cash crops (e.g. groundnut and sesame), wild foods (e.g. Lalop, Ardieb, Nabag), firewood/charcoal, gum arabic, and livestock, as well as seasonal labor in urban areas. The ongoing conflict has directly and/or indirectly disrupted all of these livelihood strategies in SPLM-N-controlled areas by limiting the ability to engage in market activity, wild food collection, or movement for labor opportunities. Typical coping strategies during this period include increased seasonal migration for labor into urban areas (e.g., Khartoum, Kosti), and increased reliance on kinship support and remittances from other parts of Sudan, mostly cash transfers via cell phones – a very important source of income. These coping strategies will be greatly limited due to restrictions on movement, and inability to access cash transfers.   

    Consequently, beginning in April and through the rest of the Outlook period, about 200,000-250,000 people (the displaced and poor households among the local population) in SPLM-N controlled areas are likely to face Crisis to Emergency (IPC Phase 3 and 4) levels of food insecurity, based on the expectation of extreme food consumption gaps among this population, as well as extreme loss of livelihood assets leading to food consumption gaps. Most of the IDPs will be at Phase 4 levels, while the host community is likely to face Crisis to Emergency levels of food insecurity.    

    The displaced population in GoS-controlled areas (about 100,000 – 150,000 people) will face Stressed to Crisis levels of food insecurity throughout the Outlook period.  The population in Phase 3 (Crisis) mainly includes the population of 40,000 people recently displaced from Talodi and Heglig, most of whom are now located in Al Leri, Abu Jubaiha, Kalogi, Khresana, and Keilak. Those recently displaced are likely to remain at Crisis levels through September.  Food insecurity is expected to be less severe in GoS-controlled areas than in SPLM-N-controlled areas based on the assumptions that households in these areas have greater access to markets, livelihood opportunities, and humanitarian assistance.

    In western parts of South Kordofan not affected by conflict, no acute food insecurity is expected through the Outlook period, as these areas will have adequate food stocks from the 2010/11 and 2011/12 harvest and/or adequate purchasing power to access food from market.

    The period July to September will be a critical time, as prices tend to peak, savings are typically low, and food stocks are exhausted. Market purchase is the most important source of food at this time. Wild foods, especially green leaves, are available during this period, and seasonal agricultural labor opportunities increase in a normal year. However, for the displaced and conflict-affected households in the Nuba Mountains, access to food will be even more restricted during this period should restrictions on movement and trade to the area continue. Poor households typically divide their time and/or family labor between working on their own farms and farms of better-off households, but with limited or no ability to access seasonal labor opportunities, households will lose this critical source of income. During this period, prevalence of malnutrition will peak due not only to inadequate food consumption but also to diarrheal diseases. Food security conditions are likely to deteriorate during this period, though Phase 5 outcomes are not anticipated in the most likely scenario.

    Alternatives and events that would change the most likely scenario

    FEWS NET develops most likely scenarios to provide early warning of food insecurity. However, some assumptions underpinning the most likely scenario are more certain than others. As a part of its scenario development process and analytical framework, FEWS NET identifies these assumptions, their probable alternatives, and the potential changes to food security outcomes that could result from these alternatives.

    Trade restrictions:  If trade restrictions are loosened, and either the GoS allows some flow of goods into SPLM-N-controlled areas, or key trade routes into South Sudan or other parts of Sudan are secured by the SPLM-N, this would enable flows of food and non-food items into the Nuba Mountains. However, given the high prices, as well as likely added costs of bringing commodities into high-risk areas, most food commodities would still be inaccessible to most poor households and the displaced.  However, support from the local community through kinship support and also redistribution from tribal leaders could mean a slight increase in food availability for these populations.  Even with this potential slight increase in physical availability of food on markets, food insecurity levels would likely remain at Phase 4 levels throughout the scenario period. 

    Population movements: FEWS NET assumes that population movements from SPLM-N-controlled areas to other parts of Sudan and to South Sudan are restricted for the most part due to the reasons cited above.  However, it is possible that displaced populations and poor households in the Nuba Mountains would reach a point where they would assume the risks of going to South Sudan or into GOS-controlled areas to escape the extreme food consumption gaps associated with Phase 4 food security outcomes.

    Restrictions on humanitarian assistance: Ongoing diplomatic negotiations with the Government of Sudan may result in loosening of restrictions on humanitarian assistance. However, FEWS NET assumes that the delivery of large-scale humanitarian assistance in SPLM-N controlled areas is unlikely and/or very difficult to implement due to recent escalation of fighting and the challenges of reaching affected populations. However, should moderate levels of assistance be effectively provided to the most affected populations, deterioration to Emergency levels of food insecurity could be prevented with some pockets of the affected areas. After the rainy season begins, access to the most vulnerable populations will become increasingly difficult and humanitarian assistance will be more costly.

    Escalation to war: Major war between Sudan and South Sudan would have significant impacts on population movements and mobility, cultivation, trade flows, and access to grazing, as noted in the alternative scenario described in the national overview.  Significant deterioration in food security outcomes in the Nuba Mountains would be possible.

    Blue Nile State

    Fighting between the SPLM-N and SAF in Blue Nile has been ongoing since September 2011. Approximately 200,000 – 225,000 people are directly affected by the ongoing conflict. Of this population, about 100,000 – 150,000 people are located in SPLM-N-controlled areas, and face Crisis levels of food insecurity. About 100,000 people affected and/or displaced by conflict are in GoS-controlled areas, and face Stressed levels. The scale of fighting has been reduced and confined to localized areas in the southwestern areas (Bau, Kurmuk, some parts of Tadamon and Geissan localities); however the recent formation of the SRF could potentially instigate more widespread fighting between SAF and SPLM-N in Blue Nile.

    As low-level fighting continues, more people have reportedly been returning to GoS-controlled areas. HAC reported the return of approximately 30,000 refugees from Ethiopia. Many of those displaced from Damazine and Roseries localities have returned to their villages and towns in the northern parts of the state and have been able to engage in normal livelihood activities, and markets in these areas have resumed normal functioning. However, access to remote markets in the southwestern parts of the state is difficult due to increased banditry and lawlessness in these areas and high risk of insecurity. The road between Damazin and Kurmuk is only possible via GoS military escort. Recently, the GoS reportedly took control of Magan, Jilgo and Gabaniet villages in the Angasana mountains from SPLM-N.   

    As in South Kordofan, figures on displacement are difficult to estimate and verify due to mobility restrictions and limited humanitarian access. FEWS NET estimates that about 100,000 – 150,000 people have been blocked in SPLM-N controlled areas in the Angasana Mountains in the south and south/western parts of Blue Nile State, while thousands of people have been hiding and/or moving along the border with South Sudan to escape the recent fighting. At present, the main populations of concern are those displaced in SPLM-N controlled areas where fighting continues and access by traders and humanitarian agencies is limited.  UN sources in South Sudan have reported that there are approximately 90,000 refugees from Blue Nile in Upper Nile state of South Sudan. UNHCR reported that there are about 52,000 refugees in Ethiopia (30,000 in Assosa and 22,761 in Gambella). 

    The most likely scenario is based on the following assumptions:

    • Conflict: Conflict is likely to continue between the GoS and SPLM-N in Blue Nile through the scenario period. Conflicting parties will attempt to occupy strategic positions before the onset of rains when movement of troops and logistical supplies may be somewhat constrained by blockage of roads. However, the scale and intensity of fighting in Blue Nile is expected to be less severe than in South Kordofan, due to the fact that SAF has control of a vast area in Blue Nile. However, the new SRF alliance might reinvigorate the SPLM-N to resume fighting in Blue Nile state.
    • Trade: The GoS is expected to continue to restrict trade flows from GoS-controlled areas to SPLM-N controlled areas, though access to markets is less constrained (both physically and in terms of security) than in South Kordofan, and there are more opportunities for smuggling along the corridor controlled by SAF into SPLM-N controlled areas.  In eastern (Roseries and Dindir localities), western (Dali and Mazmum and parts of Tadamon localities) and northern (Damazin locality) areas where SAF maintains full control, trade flows are normal. In addition, SAF may allow access to trade to Kurmuk from GoS-controlled areas in order to maintain control of the area and to trigger more return of refugees from Ethiopia and Upper Nile state of South Sudan.
    • Population flows: Population movements into other areas (South Sudan, Ethiopia, other parts of Sudan) are less constrained than in South Kordofan because of longer borders and fewer physical barriers, and relatively less insecurity. Therefore, the displaced and poor households in SPLM-N-controlled areas are assumed to have a certain degree of freedom to move.
    • Cultivation and agricultural labor movements: Blue Nile is a major semi-mechanized surplus production area, most of which is under SAF control, while most areas in conflict are dominated by traditional farming. It is likely that seasonal movement for labor from the traditional sector (SPLM-N controlled) to semi-mechanized (SAF) sector will be less than normal due to insecurity. The start of the rains might trigger population movements for traditional small-scale cultivation if fighting does not significantly increase.
    • Prices: Although prices in the state are more stable than in other areas of the country, they are still above-average, and are likely to rise throughout the scenario period.
    • Humanitarian assistance: GoS restrictions on humanitarian assistance to SPLM-N-controlled areas of Blue Nile are likely to continue.

    At this time of year, own-produced sorghum, millet, groundnut, sesame, cowpea and okra are the main food sources in a typical year, supplemented by market purchase. Sales of cash crops (e.g. millet, sorghum, sesame, gum Arabic and groundnut), shoats, crop residues, handicrafts, wild foods and forest products are the main income sources.

    Currently, the displaced in SPLM-N areas have been greatly relying on host community support, limited market purchase, and consumption of wild foods.  Crisis levels of food insecurity are likely to persist through the Outlook period as displaced populations and poor households from the local community will face significant food consumption gaps and reduced diversity food intake because of low income sources, the expected increase in food prices during the scenario period, and decreased own production because of displacement.  Outcomes in Blue Nile are expected to be better than in South Kordofan as host communities have more food stocks to assist the displaced, and there is better access to markets from adjacent areas with good harvests, such as in the neighboring Beni Shengol region of Ethiopia.

    The displaced in GoS-controlled areas are likely to remain Stressed during the scenario period. These populations are assumed to have greater access to markets, livelihood opportunities, and humanitarian assistance. HAC has reported that the Zakat chamber donated 270 tons of sorghum, 30 tons of lentils and 700 jerry cans of cooking oil to be distributed to 18,000 people in Kurmuk town. This amount of food is believed to cover needs for two months. Furthermore, the start of the rainy season in June will provide more labor opportunities on the large scale semi-mechanized farms for those in GoS areas.   

    As in South Kordofan State, food security conditions are likely to deteriorate during the peak of the lean season in July/August. Prices will likely be at peak levels, while households will be more reliant on the market than at any other point in the year. During this period, prevalence of malnutrition also rises due not only to inadequate food consumption but also to water-borne diseases.


    In Darfur, 1.8 million IDPs face Stressed levels of food insecurity, while about 1.2 million residents/host communities in the drought-affected areas of North Darfur face Crisis levels of food insecurity.  Food security conditions in Darfur are driven by this year’s poor harvest, extremely high food prices, limited access to markets and alternative livelihood options, and ongoing insecurity in many areas. Food security is of most concern in North Darfur and the northern parts of South Darfur, where the harvest performed poorly, and in Jebel Mara due to the impacts of insecurity on food access.

    Since the formation of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) — SPLM–N, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and the Abdelwahid and Minni Minawi factions of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA)— in November 2011, conflict has increased in Darfur, as attested by recent outbreaks of fighting in several areas. Fighting between SAF and SLA-Abdelwahid has continued since an eruption of fighting in late March in Western Jebel Mara, in the areas of Rokero, Geldo, and Fatah, which displaced 2,000 people to mountains close to the areas in conflict and 200 people to Rokero town. In Kuttum locality (North Darfur), sporadic fighting between SAF and Darfur rebel groups in Kuttum rural and Fata Barno has continued since early April, causing an undetermined number of civilian causalities and displacement. People continue to flee the tribal-conflict affected villages (e.g. Alauna and Sag el Na’am) south of El Fasher town. Recently about 350 people were displaced from Alauna village to Dar es Salam and over 3,000 people fled to Zam Zam IDP camp in EL Fasher town. JEM and SLA-MM reportedly attacked some locations (e.g. Saisaban, Samaha and Um Dafoug) in South Darfur, but detailed impacts on civilians are unknown. In spite of new displacement in Darfur, considerable numbers of refugees/IDPs have returned voluntarily to their villages. The Voluntary Return Working Group in Darfur confirmed the voluntary return of 109,000 IDPs  and 31,000 refugees from Chad over the course of 2011. Nonetheless, about 1.8 million people in Darfur have remained displaced since 2003.

    In North Darfur, the post-harvest assessment of the 2011/12 season conducted by the State Ministry of Agriculture revealed a total food deficit of about 147,830 tons (56 percent of annual cereal requirements), marking the second consecutive poor year in the state. However, groundnut production is far better than last year due to a 22 percent increase in area planted, which is likely to increase income for some households. Average cereal production is about 240 kg (100 kg of sorghum and 140 kg of millet) per household. This is just 2.5 months of food for a typical household of six people; own production among poor households typically lasts for 5-6 months. The assessment also revealed severe pasture deficits in some areas (Malha, Kuma, Um Baru, Tina, Kuttum, Tawila and Fata Barno), which is expected to increase competition over pasture and water among pastoral groups in these areas. Furthermore, the low (50- 60 percent) levels of wadis and reduced drainage of wadis could reduce winter/summer irrigated wadi cultivation of vegetables. Sale of vegetables is an important source of income for people living in these areas and the wadi cultivation also provides labor opportunities for IDPs.  It is estimated that about 1 million residents are likely to face food deficits in North Darfur during the 2011/12 food consumption year (October 2011 to September 2012). The worst-affected areas include Kuma, Malha, Mellit, Fata Barno, Teina, Sayah and Um Baru localities/admin units, where less than 20 percent of area planted is expected to be harvested.

    In South Darfur, the post-harvest assessment of the 2011/12 agricultural season indicated that average cereal production was 7.2 sacks per household, about 57 percent of last year’s production (12.7 sacks per household), mainly attributed to late and below-average rainfall. This year there is a total food balance sheet deficit of about 208,897 MT of cereal, or 33 percent of annual cereal requirements.

    The most likely scenario is based on the following assumptions:
    • Conflict: The recent alliance of rebel groups under the Sudan Revolutionary Front and sporadic tribal conflicts will continue to increase insecurity in some parts of Darfur. Increased banditry and lawlessness are expected. Recent escalated fighting on different fronts are likely to cause additional displacement, endanger civilians, reduce access by humanitarian agencies, hinder market functioning and access. Access to markets is expected to remain limited in some areas due to insecurity, particularly in Jebel Mara.
    • Prices: Prices of food and non-food prices are expected to continue to rise through the Outlook period.
    • Food stocks: Food stocks from own production will be drawn to a minimum or exhausted by April 2012.
    • Livestock conditions: Poor livestock body conditions and atypical livestock movements are expected to limit the typical contribution of livestock to household income and food sources.
    • Assistance: A late start of seasonal support, in spite of earlier than usual onset of lean season, is expected.  

    At this time of year, food aid rations, market purchase, and support from relatives are the primary sources of food for IDPs in camps. IDPs living with the host community typically have additional food sources, including their own limited production from the 2011/12 season, though food stocks are now mostly exhausted. Those in drought-affected areas of Darfur, particularly North Darfur, are depending on limited own production, while market purchase will be the main source of food for the majority of households during the lean season (April to September 2012). Availability of wild foods, an important food source in poor years, is considerably reduced due to poor rains and access is constrained by insecurity. Seasonal food aid distributions (typically from May/June to September/October), intended to cover deficits during the lean season, have not started yet.

    The main food items purchased in a typical year include cereals (millet and sorghum), cooking oil, dry vegetables, sugar, and meat. The main sources of income for most IDPs in Darfur are daily labor, remittances, firewood/grass collection, and petty trade. However, with the current level of insecurity, access to firewood and grass collection has become extremely limited and competition over limited labor opportunities within areas of displacement is high.

    During the Outlook period, most drought-affected resident communities and people affected by conflict in Darfur will face either some food consumption gaps or will meet basic food needs through the use of atypical coping strategies. The size of the food consumption gaps will increase through September (reaching high levels during the June-September period). Most of the 1.8 million IDPs in greater Darfur (North, South and West Darfur) will face Stressed levels of food insecurity during the Outlook period, although they are expected to receive a half food aid ration.  Without food assistance these populations would face Crisis levels of food insecurity. 

    Of the 1.2 million drought affected people and host communities in Darfur, most (750,000 -900,000) are in North Darfur (Al Malha, Mallit, Kuttum, Fata Barno, Rural El Fasher, Al Kuma, Umkeddada, Kalimando and Darsalam localities) with the remainder in West Darfur (Kulbus, Beida and Rural Geneina).  These populations will face Stressed levels of food insecurity through September.  In some parts of North Darfur state, where the harvest was particularly bad (e.g. Kuttum, Malha, Kuma, Sayah, Kilimando, Dar el Salam and Mellit localities), Crisis levels of food security outcomes are likely to continue through the scenario period.

    The situation in East Jebel Mara in South Darfur is still precarious as the area is controlled by SLA-Abdulwahid, though most main roads leading to the area are under GoS control. Humanitarian agencies have very limited access to the area, and population movements are highly curtailed by insecurity. Approximately 200,000 people live in the area. Food security and livelihoods are directly affected by limited access to markets, high destruction of crops by animals, limited access to humanitarian assistance, and limited access to basic services.  About 200,000 people in the Jebel Mara area will face Crisis levels of food insecurity during the scenario period.


    In Abyei (the disputed territory), following the displacement of the majority of inhabitants after heavy fighting in February/March 2011, the security situation has remained relatively calm since the deployment of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) in July 2011. However, the recent fighting between SPLA-South Sudan and SAF in Heglig could expand to Abeyi. UNISFA reported that about 5,000 people from Abyei had crossed the River Kiir/Bahr el Arab and settled in villages south of Abyei (e.g. Marial Achok, Leu, Wunruk, Mikol, Duop, Ayon Bonj, and Manjok). Since rains are due to start in May, it is unlikely that more people will return to Abeyi until the next dry season that will begin in December. The bulk of 110,000 people displaced from Abyei are still in the Agok area and parts of South Sudan.

    In contrast to other clans from South Sudan, the Dinka Angok of Abyei currently residing in Sudan were entitled to Sudanese citizenship, as Sudan claims Abyei as part of its territory. Although this could provide an incentive for the Dinka Angok to return to Abeyi, the return process is constrained by insecurity (particularly the recent fighting in Heglig).

    Since last November/December, road access has improved and humanitarian agencies have increased humanitarian delivery/assistance to the displaced in Agok and parts of South Sudan, which has improved the food security status of the displaced and reduced the burden on host communities. Stressed/Crisis levels of food security are likely to continue through the scenario period

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Most likely food security outcomes, April 2012

    Figure 2

    Figure 1. Most likely food security outcomes, April 2012

    Source: FEWS NET

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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