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Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes anticipated at the peak of 2020 lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • South Sudan
  • June 2020 - January 2021
Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes anticipated at the peak of 2020 lean season

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  • Mensagens-chave
  • The risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) has declined, but Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains possible in worst-case scenario
  • Current Situation
  • Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Mensagens-chave
    • During the 2020 lean season, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes are widespread in South Sudan. The severity and scale of acute food insecurity are high across the country, driven by the loss of productive assets linked to conflict, poor macroeconomic conditions, and large-scale crop and livestock losses during the 2019 floods. At this time of year, the relative importance of food purchased from markets to household food access is seasonally high. Escalating inter-communal conflict in Warrap, Lakes, and Jonglei is also interfering with households’ ability to engage in productive livelihood activities. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) persists in areas most significantly affected by recent or recurrent shocks, especially in Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap, and Upper Nile.

    • Although most COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in May, the overall demand for labor and services remains below normal levels. In urban areas, the decline in daily income coupled with high food prices is likely driving an increase in the number of food insecure households. In rural areas and Protection of Civilian sites, where the known spread of COVID-19 remains low, the direct and indirect impacts on rural households’ health or food security are still low. However, the population’s vulnerability to the health and food security impacts of COVID-19 is very high, based on existing high acute malnutrition prevalence, poor access to health services and WASH infrastructure, and levels of chronic or other illnesses.

    • At the peak of the lean season in July/August, the magnitude and severity of acute food insecurity are expected to increase as household food access becomes increasingly constrained by rising, high food prices. Food insecurity will be most severe in Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap, and Upper Nile, where inter-communal conflict is likely to persist in the near-term and where a forecast of above-average rainfall in eastern South Sudan poses a high risk of flooding. Based on low food availability, high food prices, and limited livelihoods coping options, many households will be extremely vulnerable to disruptions in access to markets, food assistance, or other food and income sources. Under these conditions, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5)[1] is possible among some households in localized areas in the 2020 lean season. While efforts to distribute double distributions of food assistance to 2.8 million people is underway in June, the effects of insecurity, operational challenges due to COVID-19, and/or seasonal deterioration in road access could delay or impede deliveries.

    • During the post-harvest period, food security is expected to marginally improve to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in most areas. Based on a forecast of favorable rainfall in western South Sudan but offset by poor access to seeds, 2020 harvests are likely to be similar to or lower than last year. Most rural households with access to arable land are expected to harvest several months of stocks, while milk, fish, and wild food availability will be seasonally high. However, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is expected to persist in conflict-affected or flood-prone areas of Jonglei, Warrap, Upper Nile, and Lakes, where crop and livestock production prospects are most likely to remain below normal. In the event that the scale of flooding in 2020 is severe in Jonglei or Upper Nile and temporarily prevents households from accessing food sources, it is possible that some households could experience Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) during the post-harvest period.

      [1] Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is when a household group has an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even after the full employment of coping strategies. This can occur in the case of a localized situation, or if there is a time-lag between food insecurity, acute malnutrition, and mortality.

    The risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) has declined, but Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains possible in worst-case scenario

    Although Famine (IPC Phase 5) could be possible under a worst-case scenario in which there is a resurgence of political conflict in South Sudan, recent events are driving a decline in the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in 2020 compared to 2014-2019. While levels of inter-communal conflict are higher in 2020 than 2019, levels of political conflict have remained low since the signing of the 2018 peace agreement and formation of the unity government in February 2020. Based on patterns of conflict in South Sudan and past trends of acute food insecurity, tactics used in the political conflict led to rapid deterioration in food security outcomes in cases where household movement and humanitarian access were significantly restricted. Communities were cut off from food sources for a prolonged time, leading to excess mortality from hunger. Due to the volatile nature of the political conflict, areas of highest concern could shift quickly and unpredictably. In contrast, inter-communal conflict patterns are characterized by hit-and-run attacks with periodic, temporary disruptions to household movement and humanitarian access. While the impact on food security can be severe for affected households, the scale and timing of the attacks have not cut off large communities from food sources for a prolonged time.

    Nevertheless, food security outcomes remain severe in the border regions of Lakes and Warrap states and in Jonglei and northern Unity states, where inter-communal conflict is driven by competition over land and grazing resources, cattle raids, and associated retaliation. In these areas, households have very low coping capacity due to the prolonged erosion of productive assets linked to conflict, poor macroeconomic conditions, and large-scale crop and livestock losses caused by the 2019 floods. Recent FSNMS and SMART surveys and field assessments conducted in late 2019 and early 2020 indicate that active conflict and the fear of conflict are interfering with households’ ability to engage in productive livelihood activities. Further, severe flooding in low-lying, wetland areas – particularly in Jonglei and Upper Nile – can temporarily cut households off from food sources as observed in 2019, though water or airborne delivery of food assistance remains possible. As a result, small proportions of at-risk households – characterized by a lack of productive assets or social networks to access support and heavy reliance on food assistance – can quickly deteriorate to Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in the event of recurrent shocks or in between food assistance distribution cycles. Data collected in Akobo, Ayod, and Duk suggest the proportion of households who experienced Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) due to these drivers is well below 20 percent at the county level.

    At the July/August peak of the 2020 lean season, more than 55 percent of the population will likely experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes even after the delivery of food assistance. Although the unity government reached an agreement on the selection of state governors in June, inter-communal conflict will most likely persist in the near term. A forecast of above-average rainfall in eastern South Sudan is also anticipated to lead to a consecutive year of flood-induced crop and livestock losses in low-lying areas where existing food insecurity is already severe. Based on low household food availability, high food prices, and limited livelihoods coping options, many households will be extremely vulnerable to disrupted access to food assistance and markets resulting from conflict, floods, or the direct or indirect impacts of COVID-19. Under these conditions, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is possible among at-risk households during the 2020 lean season; in the event of severe flooding, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) could also be possible during the post-harvest period based on trends observed in late 2019/early 2020. However, because of the periodic, localized scale of inter-communal conflict and given that large-scale populations have not been cut off for extended periods of time since 2017/18,  there is a declining likelihood that at least 20 percent of the population in a given area would sustain an extreme lack of food accompanied by extreme acute malnutrition and excess mortality due to hunger, indicative of Famine (IPC Phase 5).

    Current Situation

    Conflict and displacement: Implementation of the 2018 peace agreement continues to gradually move forward. On June 17, President Kiir and Vice President Machar reached an agreement on the selection of governors for the country’s 10 states, a key benchmark for the peace process. However, the third party to the agreement, the South Sudan Opposition Alliance, is yet to confirm the agreement on the selection of governors. Several security challenges still need to be resolved, including the unification of the national army and a resolution to political conflict between the revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) and hold-out opposition groups in Central Equatoria. In Lainya, Yei, Morobo, and Kajo-Keji counties of Central Equatoria, the conflict has displaced more than 17,000 people since January. Meanwhile, intercommunal conflict – which has been driven by cattle raids, access to grazing land and water, and retaliation for earlier attacks and enabled by the recent absence of state governors – has escalated in parts of Warrap, Lakes, and Jonglei. At least 60,000 people were displaced in these areas in early 2020. Additionally, armed youth activity in Twic county of Warrap and Mayom county of Unity state displaced 10,000 people and resulted in  significant loss of life, and looting of 20,000 cattle in late May to early June.

    According to IOM, at least 1.6 million South Sudanese are internally displaced based on data collected from January to March under the round 8 displacement and mobility tracking matrix. The population of internally displaced people (IDP) declined 4 percent compared to late 2019, attributed to the return of flood-affected IDP, closure of some IDP sites, and data cleaning. The largest IDP populations are in Unity, Warrap, and Upper Nile; however, round 8 does not capture displacement that occurred from April to June. According to UNHCR, a further 2.25 million people remain displaced in neighboring countries as of May. UNHCR has recorded 53,848 refugee returns in 2020, nearly half of whom returned to Central Equatoria. An average of 4,250 returns have been recorded monthly since March, though UNHCR notes the data may reflect retroactive updates on pre-COVID-19 returns in Maiwut of Upper Nile and Magwi of Eastern Equatoria. Returns through May 2020 exceed 50 percent of total returns in 2019 but are lower than previously expected due to COVID-19-related border closures.

    Macroeconomic conditions: Low export earnings relative to demand for imported goods continue to drive local currency depreciation, which in turn continue to cause the price of essential food and non-food commodities to rise. South Sudan’s oil export earnings, which account for 97 percent of its export revenue, are being affected by the collapse of global crude oil prices at a time when peace deal implementation, infrastructure investments, and the COVID-19 pandemic response are stretching government resources. Although global crude oil prices are gradually recovering, prices remain well below previously budgeted oil prices of 50 USD/barrel. Under the OPEC+ agreement signed in April, South Sudan is obligated to cut national oil output by 23 percent of its October 2018 volumes –which were 120,000-130,000 barrels per day (bpd) – for a period of time. Reflecting low foreign exchange reserves and an overvaluation of the official exchange rate, the gap between the official and parallel market exchange rates widened from 82 percent in June 2019 to 93 percent in June 2020. In June, the SSP is trading at 315 SSP/USD on the parallel market and about 163 SSP/USD on the official market. However, the rate of inflation has declined from 54 percent in February 2020 to 40 percent in April and remains below the rate of inflation in April 2019 (52 percent), according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

    COVID-19: Rising COVID-19 cases continue to threaten the health of the South Sudanese people, while enhanced health screenings at the border and previous movement restrictions continue to indirectly affect pre-existing food insecurity. Since confirmation of the first case on April 5th, 2,006 cases have been confirmed by the Ministry of Health as of June 30th, with an 18.9 percent positive test rate and observed case-fatality ratio of 1.8 percent. Most known cases are located within Juba. However, due to low per capita testing, contact tracing challenges, and a testing backlog, the total case incidence is likely higher than known. Although the Ministry of Health and WHO advocate various preventive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, adherence to these measures is very low among the public. To date, the known spread of COVID-19 in rural areas and Protection of Civilian sites remains very low, resulting in few known, direct impacts to rural households’ health or food security. However, the vulnerability of the population to the direct health impacts of COVID-19 is very high, based on existing high acute malnutrition prevalence, poor access to health services and WASH infrastructure, and existing levels of chronic or other illnesses. In addition, poor households are very vulnerable to the direct impacts of COVID-19 on food security, as infected households may face limited ability to engage in productive livelihood activities while sick or being quarantined.

    Previously, the indirect impacts of COVID-19 via movement restrictions to limit the spread of the virus drove a high risk of deterioration in acute food security outcomes. However, in early May, the government lifted most movement restrictions to permit people to resume income-earning activities. The lifting of restrictions is facilitating the gradual recovery of business activity in urban areas, but overall business activity and demand for labor and services remains below normal levels. As a result, income from daily casual labor and petty trade – which are key income sources for poor, urban households – remains atypically low. Key preventive measures that remain in place include the closure of land borders and mandatory COVID-19 testing of truck drivers transporting cargo at formal border crossing points. These preventive measures, in combination with existing, long-term macroeconomic issues, are likely contributing to high staple food prices in some markets.

    Markets and trade: In June, markets and trade routes are operational in all state capitals and most rural areas. However, supply levels and performance vary, driven by periodic disruptions from conflict and insecurity, seasonal deterioration in feeder road conditions, and high transportation costs indirectly associated with COVID-19 restriction measures and longer clearance times at border entry points (Figure 2). Specifically, insecurity and inter-communal conflict in Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity, Lakes, Warrap, and Upper Nile periodically disrupt trade flows and market functioning in some rural areas. Localized heavy rainfall since the start of the main season rains in late May/early June damaged some segments of the western and eastern road corridors. In addition, measures in response to COVID-19 slowed down cross-border trade flows from source markets and domestic trade flows from market hubs, placing additional pressure on the local supply in key reference markets and rural markets. For example, quarterly import volumes of sorghum grain from Sudan were 93 percent below the 2018-2019 average from April to June; however, monthly import volumes from May to June increased by 19-28 percent, exhibiting some recovery. Similarly, import volumes of sorghum from Uganda via the Nimule cross-border entry point sharply declined between the first and second quarters of 2020, but have now stabilized. From April to June 2020, quarterly import volumes were four percent higher than the same period of 2019.

    The depreciation of the value of the SSP and inflation of essential commodities, low market supply levels, and impacts of inter-communal violence and COVID-19 screening procedures on trade flows are all contributing to rising staple food prices amid declining food and income sources. Long-term inflation is the main driver of high food prices, though some atypical prices increases occurred in some markets from March to May, likely due to the effects of the slowdown in cross-border and domestic trade flows on market supply. Based on price data collected in May in reference markets across the country and available in the CLiMIS portal, the retail price of a malwa (3.5 kg) of white sorghum grain ranged from 45 to 66 percent above the five-year average in Torit (Central Equatoria) and Rumbek Centre (Lakes) and was approximately 135 percent above the five-year average in Wau (Western Bahr el Ghazal), Aweil Centre (Northern Bahr el Ghazal), and Juba. After the onset of COVID-19, prices in Wau, Aweil Centre, and Juba rose by 5-33 percent from April to May, resulting in prices 30-115 percent above last year in May. On the other hand, there are preliminary indications that a decline in effective demand due to lower household purchasing power in urban areas and/or recent large-scale humanitarian food assistance distributions could be stabilizing or driving short-term price declines in some markets. In Rumbek Centre, prices are stable compared to April as well as May 2019. In Torit, prices are 25 percent below April as well as May 2019.

    Lower labor demand in urban areas due to the economic impacts of recent COVID-19 movement restrictions, coupled with high food prices, is driving a decline in household purchasing power in some urban areas – particularly in Juba, but also in smaller towns such as Wau and Yei. Some businesses do not have the capital to re-open, while the public is unable to patronize businesses at previous levels. Combined with high staple food prices, purchasing power among labor-dependent households has declined since March. The terms of trade for a kilogram (kg) of sorghum against the casual labor daily wage from March to mid-June is 12-58 percent below the same time last year in Wau and Juba (Figure 3). In Juba, the quantity of sorghum that a household could buy with a day’s wage sharply declined from 12 kg in March to 5 kg in May. While 5 kg is sufficient to cover one day of minimum kilocalorie needs for an average household of seven, the number of days in which a poor household may find work per week varies.

    Agricultural production: Cumulative March to May rainfall in bimodal Greater Equatoria ranged from average to above average, which broadly supported good cropping conditions but led to some flash flood events. In late May, flash floods in parts of Terekeka and Juba of Central Equatoria destroyed roads, homes, and household property. Crop damage was also reported, though the scale of damage has not yet been assessed. Similarly, flash floods in Bor Town in early June destroyed homes and displaced an estimated 54,000 people. By June, households that planted on time are now consuming green leafy vegetables and beginning to harvest first season maize. However, despite large-scale seed distributions by FAO to at least 90,000 farmers in Greater Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal, key informants report that many farmers in Kapoeta and Yei counties faced difficulty accessing seeds during the planting season. A slowdown in commercial agricultural input supply flows from Uganda led to atypically high seed prices after the onset of COVID-19.

    In unimodal areas that are dependent on main season rainfall from June to September, the start of season ranged from early to timely. In the east, rainfall in June ranges from average to 150 percent above average. In the west, early-season rainfall is 70-95 percent of normal; however, cumulative rainfall amounts are sufficient to support crop water requirements according to satellite-derived crop modeling data (Figure 4). According to field reports and key informants, households have completed land preparation. However, many face difficulty accessing seeds due to delayed seed distributions in remote villages, localized insecurity, and inter-communal fighting. Despite these challenges, planting has begun in Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr el Ghazal. In areas where households planted maize crops, remote-sensing data indicates maize crops are now in the reproductive stage, particularly in Ikwoto, Magwi, Nzara, Yambio, and some areas of Pochalla. In contrast, in the rest of the areas where maize was planted, remote-sensing data shows crops are still in their vegetative stage.

    According to key informants, desert locusts are still present in Magwi, Torit, Lopa/Lafon, Budi, and Ikotos of Eastern Equatoria and recently spread to Kapoeta North county of Eastern Equatoria. In Kapeota East, desert locust swarms previously spotted in May have reportedly migrated back into Kenya, while swarms spotted in Renk of Upper Nile have reportedly migrated onward to Sudan. An FAO-led assessment of crop damage caused by desert locust in bimodal cropping areas is underway in Eastern Equatoria. County agriculture departments report crop damage ranges from moderate to severe, while damage in Magwi and Lopa is very low. As of late June, desert locusts have not been reported in any other states, though the likelihood that swarms current in Kenya will transit through eastern South Sudan toward breeding areas in Sudan is imminent, according to FAO’s Desert Locust Watch. Although 87 percent of the FAO’s appeal for the desert locust response in South Sudan has been obtained, control operational capacity is limited by heavy rainfall and intercommunal conflict. Other challenges include COVID-19 social distancing guidelines for training local staff in surveillance and monitoring activities and quarantine guidelines for international pilots who to carry out the aerial control response.

    Livestock production: Following above-average rainfall and floods in 2019 and rainfall from March to June 2020, pasture and browse conditions generally range from average to above average and key informants report livestock body conditions generally range from fair to good. However, according to the satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), negative vegetation anomalies are present in northern areas of Greater Bahr el Ghazal due to early-season rainfall deficits. In Greater Equatoria, while FAO’s assessment of desert locust damage is still ongoing, positive NDVI anomalies in locust-infested areas suggest recent rainfall has likely led to regeneration of pasture. At this time of year, livestock are gradually leaving dry season grazing areas to return to homesteads, but insecurity and cattle raids are disrupting these activities in parts of Jonglei, Warrap, and Lakes. Additionally, anecdotal information from key informants suggests atypically high livestock disease incidence and death is still occurring in Jonglei, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes, and Warrap. After the 2019 floods, livestock were weak during the dry season and are still recovering with the recent onset of the rainy season.

    Humanitarian food assistance: Given persistently low food and income sources among more than half of the national population, food assistance continues to be critical to mitigating food consumption gaps at the household level and preventing more extreme food security outcomes at the county level. However, COVID-19, insecurity, and the onset of the main rainfall season present challenges to humanitarian operational capacity, logistics, and access. While WFP has successfully prepositioned 75 percent of planned food assistance to areas that will be inaccessible during the rainy season, the closure of the Sudan-South Sudan border at Aweil and Bentiu crossing points due to insecurity is causing delays in the arrival of cargo from Sudan. In some conflict-affected areas, conflict may temporarily delay access or delivery of assistance. In April and May, WFP distribution reports show that 2.06 million and 1.23 million people, respectively, received food assistance each month. On the national level, recipients received a full ration on average; however, this is driven by double distributions to areas of high concern. Areas experiencing the highest risk of severe food insecurity were prioritized, including Akobo and Duk, where approximately 25-30 percent of the population received food assistance in April/May, and Ayod, where 25-50 percent of the population received monthly food assistance distributions from March to May.

    Current outcomes

    After an early start to the lean season in February, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes are widespread in June. Driven by the loss of productive assets from conflict, poor macroeconomic conditions, and crop and livestock losses during the 2019 floods and exacerbated by the indirect impacts of COVID-19, the severity and scale of acute food insecurity remains high. Most households currently purchase most of their food from the market, yet their access to food is increasingly constrained by low purchasing power. As a result, many poor households are reliant on food assistance and/or the use of crisis or emergency coping strategies to mitigate widening food consumption gaps. Acute food insecurity, coupled with a seasonal increase in water-borne disease incidence and the reduced operational capacity of partners to deliver nutrition, WASH, and health services in the context of COVID-19, is likely driving deterioration in acute malnutrition. During the post-harvest period in January, 48 counties were already classified as ‘Serious’ (GAM WHZ 10.0-14.9 percent) or ‘Critical’ (GAM WHZ 15-29.9 percent). Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are most likely in 31 counties across the country, including but not limited to parts of Jonglei, Warrap, Lakes, and Upper Nile states. In areas where large-scale food assistance is likely preventing more severe acute food insecurity, Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are most likely. Populations with the highest risk of food insecurity include rural households with no livestock who face difficulty in accessing physical markets, food assistance, or fishing grounds due to conflict or seasonal access constraints; IDP and newly returned refugee populations; and poor, urban households with few diversified income sources. Conversely, food insecurity is less severe in parts of Western Equatoria and Lakes, due to the start of the first season harvest, low levels of conflict, and relatively better market functioning.

    In Jonglei, Lakes, and Warrap, food insecurity outcomes are among the most severe in the country due to high levels of inter-communal conflict that have reduced households’ capacity to engage in productive livelihood activities or recover from the 2019 floods. In April, SMART survey data collected by Action Against Hunger in Ayod and Duk in Jonglei showed most households face food consumption gaps and poor dietary quality while using negative livelihoods coping strategies, which is indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4). In Ayod, pockets of at-risk households reported severe hunger (HHS of 5-6) indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Despite large-scale food assistance reaching up to 50 percent of the Ayod population, a combination of high disease prevalence two weeks prior to data collection, low access to water and nutrition services, and low dietary diversity and quality drove up the prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) to 30.9 percent (CI: 25.8-36.6), which is above the Extremely Critical threshold (GAM weight-for-height z-score (WHZ) ≥30 percent). In Duk, the SMART survey data indicated a ‘Critical’ level of GAM (WHZ) of 21.9 percent (CI: 17.7-26.8).

    Conflict, amid high food prices and seasonally low food availability, is also a main driver of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in eastern Upper Nile, Central Equatoria, and Unity. In Upper Nile, localized political conflict and cattle raids limit household physical access to market, fishing grounds, and wild food gatherings. For instance, armed activity in Maiwut in early May disrupted trade flows from Gambella of Ethiopia, the principal source market. In parts of Central Equatoria, field reports and key informant information indicate that political conflict between the government forces and hold-out groups continues to displace households, disrupt first-season crop management, trade flows, and market functioning, and limit household movement in search of food and income sources. In addition, high proportions of newly returned IDP or refugees in Central Equatoria are at-risk of food consumption gaps as they re-establish their livelihoods and re-connect to social support.

    In other areas, the indirect impacts of COVID-19 and the localized damage from desert locust have exacerbated pre-existing food insecurity. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, where floods occurred in 2019, many households lost the opportunity to earn seasonal casual labor income in Sudan due to COVID-19-related border closures, which occurred during the peak annual migration period of January to May. Lower demand for livestock sales due to the absence of cross-border Arab traders in northern areas is also contributing to lower household income. In several urban centers such as Juba, Wau, and Yei, the loss or reduction of key income sources during and in the aftermath of recent COVID-19 movement restrictions is contributing to elevated food insecurity among poor urban households. In Kajo-Keji county, border closures have prevented recent refugee returnees from accessing markets and assistance in neighboring Uganda. In parts of Eastern Equatoria, first season crop losses from desert locusts have affected household food access in the lean season.


    The most likely scenario from June 2020 to January 2021 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Based on recent trends, levels of political conflict are expected to be similar to 2019 while levels of intercommunal conflict are expected to be higher than 2019. Political conflict is of highest concern in parts of Central Equatoria and Upper Nile. Localized intercommunal conflict and insecurity are anticipated to be highest in parts of Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap, Unity, and Eastern Equatoria, though community and government-led peace and mediation efforts are ongoing. 
    • Based on available information from the Ministry of Health and leading local and international health experts, including the WHO, the number of COVID-19 cases is likely to rise in the near term due to both the spread of the virus and increased testing. Available modeling projections from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine indicate daily case incidence may peak between August and September, though new cases are likely throughout the projection period.
    • While most movement restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 have already been lifted, the remaining movement restrictions are assumed to remain in place through at least September. However, the severity of restrictions may vary by location – such as in hotspot areas like Juba – depending on the daily case incidence trajectory.
    • Based on the assumption that land borders will likely remain closed through at least September, the monthly flow of spontaneous refugee returns is likely to be similar to or lower than levels observed in May 2020. Some returns are anticipated given that unofficial border crossing points remain relatively porous.
    • Based on South Sudan’s commitment to reduce oil production by 30,000 bpd per the OPEC+ agreement and the likelihood of low global crude oil prices through late 2020, the loss of export revenue is projected to contribute to growth in the budget deficit in FY 2020/21. Low foreign exchange reserves and low capacity to service existing debt are expected to lead to continued depreciation of the SSP on the parallel market. However, the World Bank’s June 2020 forecast predicts inflation in FY2021 will be lower than the preceding year.
    • Based on the expiration of most COVID-19 movement restrictions, lower levels of conflict, and persistently poor macroeconomic conditions, the World Bank forecasts that private consumption expenditure is most likely to slightly contract (-1.5 percent) in FY2021 relative to the preceding year. Since household labor income in urban areas is primarily associated with consumption expenditure, it is anticipated that household income from daily casual labor and petty trade in urban centers – such as Juba, Wau, Bor, Torit, Yei, Rumbek, and Aweil – will largely recover compared to the March-May 2020 period and will be slightly lower than last year.
    • Based on cross-border trade monitoring data from January to March and recent trends in weekly cross-border trade volumes since April, cross-border trade flows from Uganda will most likely be similar to 2019 while trade flows from Sudan will most likely be lower than 2019. Assuming that health screening measures remain in place throughout the scenario period, quarterly variations in trade flows are likely given the associated slowdown in cargo movements.
    • Based on current trends, domestic trade flows are most likely to remain below normal levels through at least September due to reduced trader activity to avoid the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission and/or respond to lower consumer demand. Above-average rainfall is also likely to drive a seasonal decline in trading activity. Areas most likely to experience local market supply shortages include Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal. 
    • Retail staple food prices are most likely to rise and remain above the recent five-year average in many markets, especially outside of Juba, based on local currency depreciation and likely fluctuations in the parallel exchange rate; high transportation costs, including formal and informal taxes along routes; and anticipated variations in trade flows. On the other hand, steeper price hikes may be mitigated by food aid distributions and declining consumer demand in some urban areas such as Torit and Rumbek Centre. Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections, the retail price of white sorghum in Bor South, Wau, and Juba is projected to range from 45 to 180 percent above the five-year average and up to 65 percent above prices observed in 2019, peaking in September. In Aweil, prices are projected to range from 10 to 65 percent above the five-year average, while ranging from 32 percent below to 16 percent above 2019 prices.
    • Based on the NOAA/CPC NMME, ECMWF C3S, GHACOF55, and ICPAC forecasts, cumulative rainfall from June to September is most likely to be above average in eastern South Sudan and average in western South Sudan. Based on the rainfall forecast, current river catchment levels and above-average soil moisture, there is an elevated risk of flooding in low-lying, flood-prone areas along the Nile River and in the Pibor-Akobo-Sobat river basin in Jonglei.
    • In unimodal areas of Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr el Ghazal, area planted in 2020 is likely to be lower than 2019. Household access to agricultural inputs is expected to be lower in 2020 than 2019 due to the impact of border closures, high food prices, and intercommunal conflict on the market supply of imported seeds and on household expenditures. Additionally, humanitarian seed distributions may be lower than planned due to operational constraints associated with localized insecurity, COVID-19, and seasonal deterioration in road conditions, though interstate flights have resumed.
    • Based on current desert locust presence, the short-term rainfall and wind  forecasts, and the FAO Desert Locust Watch and ICPAC forecasts, there is a threat of further desert locust spread from northwestern Kenya into eastern South Sudan through late June/early July. However, the locusts are expected to migrate onward to summer breeding areas in Sudan. Control operational capacity is expected to be limited by COVID-19 flight and quarantine restrictions, heavy rainfall, and intercommunal conflict in infested areas. As a result of these factors, damage to crops and pasture from desert locust is anticipated to be broadly limited to Eastern Equatoria, where damage will range from mild to severe across counties.
    • Based on lower levels of conflict but reduced area planted in bimodal areas in 2020, coupled with damage from desert locust in Eastern Equatoria, the first season harvest in 2020 is most likely to be similar to or lower than 2019. Crop losses from desert locust will be highest in Eastern Equatoria. However, some bimodal areas, including Eastern Equatoria, also benefit from main season harvest in September/October. Due to lower area planted, intercommunal conflict, and crop losses in flood-prone areas, the main season harvest is expected to be similar to or lower than 2019.
    • Based on the rainfall forecast and levels of conflict, household access to natural food sources such as fish and wild foods is broadly expected to follow seasonal trends. Fish availability is expected to reach a seasonal peak by October, while wild foods will be available from throughout the scenario period at varying levels depending on the species. However, access to these food sources may be periodically disrupted or limited in areas affected by insecurity and/or flooding.
    • As livestock return near to wet-season grazing areas near homesteads beginning in June/July, milk availability is expected to generally increase from June to November/December. However, access will vary at the household level depending on livestock holdings. Due to the Sudan-South Sudan border closure, however, income from livestock sales is expected to be below-normal since large-scale livestock sales at auction markets in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Lakes, and Warrap states – typically involving Arab traders/buyers – are currently suspended. In urban areas, however, income from livestock sales is likely to recover following the lifting of interstate movement restrictions.  
    • According to WFP, double distributions of food assistance in June and July, targeting 2.8 million people, is ongoing.  Based on the May-July operational plan, an average 26 percent of the country population monthly will receive assistance equivalent to an average 37 percent of their monthly kilocalorie needs. While distributions are so far proceeding as planned, a WFP analysis of the potential impact of COVID-19 on food assistance delivery showed that operational capacity to procure or distribute assistance may be lower this period due to more time spent on planning, beneficiary management, and social distancing at distribution points. WFP’s August-to-January operational plan is not available.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From June to September, food security is expected to deteriorate even further across South Sudan as food prices seasonally rise at the peak of the lean season in July/August, especially in flood-prone and conflict-affected areas where access to markets or food assistance will likely be periodically disrupted. Many households in rural areas will face large consumption gaps, though access to planned assistance and seasonal increases in milk and wild food availability is likely to alleviate or prevent deterioration in some counties. In urban areas, high food prices and below-normal daily income may drive an increase in the number of households experiencing acute food insecurity. At the peak of the lean season, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to expand to 37 counties. Areas of great concern include Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap, and Upper Nile and parts of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Eastern Equatoria, and Central Equatoria. In some areas where outcomes are already severe and household coping capacity has been eroded due to the 2019 floods and/or recent conflict – such as in Ayod, Akobo, and Duk of Jonglei or Ulang, Nasir, Maiwut, and Longochuk of Upper Nile – it is likely that some of the most at-risk households could experience Catastrophic (IPC Phase 5) outcomes at the peak of the lean season, especially in the event of a consecutive season of large-scale floods in 2020. At-risk households are most likely to include residential or displaced households who do not own livestock, have limited or no access to arable land, and have limited to no access to a functioning market or food assistance. During this period, when the daily case incidence of COVID-19 is expected to peak, close monitoring of the direct impacts of COVID-19 in areas vulnerable to COVID-19 entry and spread – such as counties in border regions and counties with higher population density – is needed.

    From October to January, food security is expected to marginally improve during the post-harvest period in areas where harvest prospects are favorable due to the forecast of average rainfall, particularly in western South Sudan. Based on the expectation that households who plant will have harvest stocks similar to somewhat below last year, own production is likely to provide at least three-to-five months of food from September/October to January/February. Additionally, other food sources such as fish, wild foods, and milk will seasonally be at their highest points, though overall access will vary depending on the level of local insecurity and household livestock holdings. Seasonal food availability, along with the anticipated, gradual recovery of household income from casual labor, is expected to lead to improvement Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in rural and urban areas in many counties. However, most households will likely continue to face at least slight to moderate food consumption gaps over time. However, in conflict-affected and flood-prone areas of Jonglei, Warrap, Upper Nile, and Lakes, where crop and livestock production prospects are most likely to be below normal, most poor households are expected to continue to have large food consumption gaps or will rely on emergency coping strategies during the harvesting period. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected in 12 counties, and while improvement to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is anticipated at the area level in other counties, some households will still likely experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes on the household level. In the event that the scale of flooding in 2020 is similar to 2019, some households will be cut off from accessing markets or will be displaced with limited or reduced livelihood coping options; based on patterns observed in 2019, such households could deteriorate to Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) even during the post-harvest period.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook



    Impact on food security outcomes

    Southern and eastern South Sudan

    Expansion of desert locust infestation

    In the event of erratic rainfall performance or a change in wind patterns that enables the spread of desert locust within South Sudan, more widespread damage to vegetation and unimodal crop losses would be likely. In affected areas, crop losses would lead to earlier depletion of own-produced household food stocks and larger food consumption gaps. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) would be possible in affected areas in the post-harvest period.

    Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap, and Unity

    Lower levels of intercommunal conflict and livestock raids

    In the event that intercommunal violence and cattle raiding events decline in the short- to medium-term, agricultural production, trade flows and market functioning, and food assistance delivery would likely improve. While the interaction with seasonal factors would play a role, improved security would most likely enable gradual improvements in food availability and access for many households. Improvement from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) would be possible in the post-harvest period.


    Non-adherence to peace deal implementation, leading to an uptick in conflict

    A resurgence of political conflict would restrict household movement, disrupt access to food and income sources, cause displacement, and impede food assistance. More widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes would be expected and at-risk households, who are already facing severe outcomes, would be more likely to deteriorate to Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). In the event that at least 20 percent of the population were cut off from accessing food sources for a prolonged period of time, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible.


    Average rainfall with normal distribution from June to September

    In the event of average, normally-distributed rainfall, only typical, seasonal flooding would be likely in flood-prone areas. Consequently, the scale of crop and livestock losses would be minimal, permitting better post-harvest outcomes. Improvement from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes would be possible, though outcomes would also depend on levels of conflict.


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures First harvest in Greenbelt and Hills and Mountains is from June to August. Second harvest in Greenbelt and Hills and Mountain

    Figura 1

    Fonte: FEWS NET

    Map showing market functioning and trade route activity in South Sudan as of June 2020

    Figura 2

    Figure 2

    Fonte: FEWS NET

    Chart showing the evolution of the sorghum-to-labor-wage terms of trade from January 2016 to May 2020 in Juba and Wau

    Figura 3

    Figure 3

    Fonte: data from CLiMIS; some data from Wau is unavailable

    Map of South Sudan showing cumulative rainfall from June 1 to June 25, 2020, as a percent of the long-term average

    Figura 4

    Figure 4

    Fonte: FEWS NET

    Chart comparing the evolution of monthly political conflict events, inter-communal conflict events, and fatalities from Janua

    Figura 5

    Figure 1

    Fonte: data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED)

    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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