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Presence Country
Food Security Outlook

Significant risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will persist into 2018

October 2017 to May 2018

October 2017 - January 2018

February - May 2018

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Widespread food insecurity occurred during the peak of the 2017 lean season (July/August), with some households experiencing an extreme lack of food equivalent to Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). Data from Round 20 of the Food Security and Nutrition Monitoring Systems (FSNMS) and corroborating evidence from key informants suggests Greater Baggari of Wau, Leer of Unity, Ayod and Nyirol of Jonglei, Tonj North and Tonj South of Warrap, Rumbek North and Yirol West of Lakes, and Kapoeta East of Eastern Equatoria were the most likely locations of significant Phase 5 populations during this period. However, data suggest that Phase 5 populations may have been present in as many as 19 counties.

  • Based on the recently released IPC analysis, an estimated 4.8 million people are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse. Though it is the harvest period, worst affected households, particularly IDPs who were unable to plant, likely remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). The area of greatest current concern is Greater Baggari of Wau where two rapid assessments have suggested levels of acute malnutrition above the Famine (IPC Phase 5) threshold, but little corroborating evidence is available.

  • Food insecurity is expected to be more severe during 2018 than during 2017, as conflict persists, macroeconomic conditions further deteriorate, and households’ capacity to cope continues to erode. By the middle of 2018, more than 6 million people are likely to require emergency food assistance. Even if assistance continues at current levels (reaching roughly half of the food insecure population), Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains possible in 2018 given the severity of outcomes during 2017, the expected deterioration in underlying conditions over the coming year, and the possibility of conflict-related restrictions on assistance delivery and population movement. In a worst-case scenario, characterized by the extended absence of humanitarian assistance, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely in many areas of the country. Areas of concern include Central Unity, northwest Jonglei, and Wau of Western Bahr El Ghazel. Conditions in Lakes and Warrap are also increasingly of concern.

  • Given the continued risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5), large-scale, multi-sector assistance, above 2017 levels, is needed urgently to save lives. These assistance flows should be complemented by commitments by all parties to facilitate humanitarian access. Further, urgent action to end the conflict is needed.  

Some households currently in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) and a credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains in 2018

Data from the FSNMS collected in July/August 2017 indicate some households in several counties of South Sudan were likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) at the peak of the lean season. Although moderate improvements are expected with the ongoing harvest, food security will again decline in early 2018, and the upcoming lean season is likely to be more severe than in 2017. Some households are expected to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) throughout the projection period and Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains possible even in a scenario of continued assistance at current levels. Areas of greatest concern include Wau, northwestern Jonglei, and central Unity, though given the severity of food insecurity across South Sudan and unpredictable nature of conflict, the possibility of Famine (IPC Phase 5) should be considered in many states of the country. In a worst-case scenario of a complete absence of humanitarian assistance, Famine (IPC Phase 5)[1] is likely.

FSNMS data showed that households across the country faced large food consumption gaps, and in some cases an extreme lack of food in July/August 2017. In nearly every county, more than 20 percent of the population reported a Poor Food Consumption Score (FCS) indicating that very few food groups had been consumed in the past week. In 19 counties more than 20 percent of the population reported a Severe Household Hunger Scale (HHS)[2], indicative of large or extreme food consumption gaps (Figure 1). Nutrition data from SMART surveys conducted between June and September also indicate that very high levels of acute malnutrition are wide-spread (Figure 2). In at least 12 counties, the prevalence of Severe Acute Malnutrition (WHZ) was 4 percent or higher. Mortality data show mixed results, though in several counties excess mortality was reported.

In Greater Baggari of Wau, where regular assistance delivery has not been possible since early 2017 due to access constraints, MUAC screenings, from Inter-Agency assessments conducted in August and September, found GAM (MUAC) between 25 and 38 percent, far above the 17 percent Famine threshold for GAM (MUAC). Food security and mortality data are not available for this area, but 25 cases of oedema were observed in August, and 13 cases in September, among an under-five population estimated between 4,000 and 7,600 children. There is an Elevated Risk that a Famine (IPC Phase 5) is ongoing in this area, but available evidence is insufficient to confirm or disprove.[3]

According to IPC protocols, humanitarian assistance must be planned, funded, and likely in order to be considered in the projection of food security. Given that humanitarian assistance plans for 2018 are not yet known, this evidence is not currently available. In a worst-case scenario where no humanitarian assistance is provided, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely in many areas of the country. Many households would be unable to meet their basic food needs through own production or market purchases, as many have depleted livelihood assets over the past four years, eroding the capacity to cope further. Some households would likely face restrictions to moving in search of alternative food sources. These limitations in accessing food, in combination with the impacts of four years on conflict on the nutritional and health status of many households in the country, would likely result in extreme food gaps, high levels of acute malnutrition, and significant excess mortality.

Despite, the lack of current evidence on 2018 humanitarian assistance delivery plans and funding, past experience suggests that significant deliveries of food aid will continue. In recent years, large-scale humanitarian assistance has been delivered to South Sudan on a monthly basis, increasing from approximately 1 million beneficiaries a month in 2015 to roughly 2.5-3.0 million beneficiaries a month in 2017. Although the number of beneficiaries reached is still far below the 6 million people estimated to be in need, it is likely that assistance is preventing more extreme outcomes in many areas.

However, even in a scenario of continued assistance at current levels, Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains possible, as evidenced by extreme outcomes observed at various points during 2017. In several counties where humanitarian assistance was present, one or more of the food security and nutrition indicators approached or surpassed its Famine (IPC Phase 5) threshold. In other areas, like Central Unity in early 2017, though assistance programs were present in the country, conflict prevented food aid delivery in specific areas, contributing to a rapid decline in food access. In 2018, outcomes could be even worse given the persistence of conflict, further deterioration in macroeconomic conditions and the exhaustion of households’ coping capacity. Given the continued possibility of Famine (IPC Phase 5), large-scale assistance above 2017 levels is needed urgently to save lives. Furthermore, commitments to facilitate humanitarian access and urgent action to end the conflict are also needed.  

National Overview

Current Situation

For nearly four years, conflict has persisted throughout South Sudan and its impacts continue to limit household access to food and income. Households’ capacity to cope is noticeably declining, and recent assessments indicate many areas of the country are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), and some households are in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). According to an analysis of FSNMS data from the lean season, Phase 5 populations may have been present in as many as 19 counties. Among these, corroborating evidence including key informant information indicates Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) likely occurred in Greater Baggari of Wau, Leer of Unity, Ayod and Nyirol of Jonglei, Tonj North and Tonj South of Warrap, Rumbek North and Yirol West of Lakes, and Kapoeta East of Eastern Equatoria. It is likely Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is still occurring in some of these counties.

Levels of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM), as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ), observed during the lean season were ‘Critical’ (GAM (WHZ)>=15%) in nearly all areas of the country, and in some places mortality rates, measured by Crude Death Rate (CDR), exceeded 1/10,000/day. In Twic of Warrap, for example, GAM (WHZ) was 35.9 percent (31.7-40.4), above the 30 percent Famine threshold, Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) (WHZ) was 11.4 percent (8.4-15.2), and the non-trauma CDR was 1.29, indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. In Greater Baggari of Wau County, where food security data is unavailable but MUAC screenings found GAM (MUAC) between 25 and 38 percent in August and September, far above the 17 percent Famine threshold for GAM (MUAC), and 25 cases of oedema were observed in August and 13 cases in September, among an under 5 population estimated between 4,000-7,600.

In October, food security has improved somewhat with the harvest and seasonal increases in natural food sources. However, many households did not plant and conflict continues to limit food security improvements even during the harvest.

Conflict-related events have occurred in all states in recent months (Figure 3). In Jonglei, insecurity in Ayod and armed clashes in parts of Nyirol and Aboko East are limiting households’ ability to move in search of natural foods and the ability of humanitarian actors to deliver assistance. Armed conflict in Pagak in Maiwut of Upper Nile and Nhialdiu in Rubkona of Unity State has disrupted trade flows and the delivery of assistance to both areas. Of extreme concern is Greater Baggari in Wau of Western Bahr el Ghazal where an estimated 20,000-38,000 people face severe restrictions to movement due to insecurity, limiting their ability to cultivate, search for wild foods, or moved towards Wau town for assistance. Insecurity is also preventing the regular delivery of assistance in many other areas. In Warrap and Lakes, inter-communal conflict persists and has been relatively higher in recent months than in early 2017.

In addition to limiting trade flows and delivery of assistance, conflict has limited the capacity of many households to produce their own food. Conflict continues to drive large-scale displacement, and the majority of those fleeing the country are leaving Greater Equatoria for Uganda (Figure 4). This drastically limits the production capacity in South Sudan’s grain basket. Furthermore, conflict has limited household level production by restricting access to farms for the fourth consecutive season. This impact has been greatest in Yei, Lainya, and Kajo-Keji of Central Equatoria, Torit and Magwi of Eastern Equatoria, and Greater Mundri and Mvolo of Western Equatoria. Cultivation for the main season in Greater Bahr el Ghazal and Greater Upper Nile has also been impacted by insecurity and it is estimated that production is well below pre-crisis levels in many areas. FSNMS data indicate most households in conflict-affected areas are harvesting less than three months of cereal, and only slightly more in relatively stable areas. Furthermore, infestations of Fall Armyworms (FAW) were reported in all regions and are likely resulting in some crop losses, though the scale of the impact has not been assessed.

Conflict and the lower international oil price are both driving extremely poor macroeconomic conditions in South Sudan. The production of oil, South Sudan’s primary export, is now occurring only in Paloich of Upper Nile. Production is estimated at 130,000 barrels/day, down from 160,000 barrels/day in early 2017 and 350,000 barrels/day prior to the outbreak of conflict in 2013. With limited alternative sources of revenue, foreign currency earnings have reduced even further than pre-July 2016 levels. Consequently, the South Sudanese Pound (SSP) has further depreciated against the United States Dollars on the parallel market, from 76 SSP/USD in October 2016 to 182 SSP/USD in October 2017.

Across the country, trade flows and market functioning are occurring at lower levels than normal/pre-December 2013 (Figure 5). This is in part due to limited access to USD, which has made it difficult for traders to import food. In many areas, though, physical insecurity is also limiting trade flows and households’ physical access to markets. Despite military escorts between Juba and Nimule, trade flows to Juba remain below pre-July 2016 levels, and maize flour imports in mid-2017 were roughly 75 percent below last year. In Central Equatoria, the trade route connecting Yei and Kaya was reopened in early October, though trade flows remain minimal. In Western Equatoria, many trade routes remain closed due to insecurity and banditry. In Greater Upper Nile and Greater Bahr el Ghazal, limited activity is occurring on most trade routes due to combination of insecurity and seasonal constraints, as the rainy season limits road functioning.

As a result of low supply, high transportation costs, and the depreciation of the SSP, staple food prices remain extremely high, around seven to ten fold the five-year average, despite the ongoing harvest. In Juba, the retail price of a kilogram of sorghum increased 98.8 percent from the same time last year. In Wau, the price increased 43.7 percent over the same time period. In these markets, prices continue to climb above levels observed during the July 2016 price spike (Figure 6). In Aweil, the retail price of white sorghum has increased slightly compared to last year, though the price declined sharply between August and September due to reduced market dependence with the harvest and the influx of assistance in recent months. Though market dependence is typically lowest at this time of year, given that some households will harvest little to no food, there is still high dependence on markets to access staple foods. High food prices have sharply reduced household purchasing power, and a day’s labor currently purchases under 3 kilograms of sorghum in most markets. An individual needs more than a half a kilogram of cereal to consume daily kilocalorie requirements, and 3 kilograms is insufficient for the daily needs of a typical household size of 7 people. Furthermore, households are not accessing labor opportunities daily. Rapid market assessments conducted by FEWS NET in Yei, Rumbek and Torit indicate that most households are purchasing small quantities of cereal with income earned that day.

Food security has improved slightly compared to outcomes observed during the lean season. It is assumed most households have access to at least some cereals from the harvest. However, some households did not harvest and household ability to produce, purchase, or move in search of sufficient food is still well below average, and given that acute food insecurity has persisted for several years, households’ capacity to cope is declining. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes persist and areas of greatest concern include Western Bahr el Ghazal, central Unity, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Warrap, and Lakes. Among counties where households were likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) during the lean season, it is expected some households are still in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), specifically displaced households who were unable to cultivate and move in search of assistance. In Greater Baggari, there is an elevated risk that Famine (IPC Phase 5) is currently ongoing, but evidence is insufficient to confirm or deny. 

Assumptions

The October 2017 to May 2018 most likely scenario is based on the following national-level assumptions:

  • Despite efforts to revitalize the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS), and the arrival of the first-batch of the Regional Protection Force (RPF) in the capital, intermittent clashes between Government forces and armed opposition groups are likely to continue given past trends that armed clashes continue even as peace negotiations are were being held.
  • Armed clashes will lead to further internal and external displacement. The number of South Sudanese refugees in all neighboring countries is likely to increase, most significantly in Uganda, though the daily rate of arrival to Uganda will likely be lower than in late 2016 and early 2017, in line with recent trends. The number of IDPs is not expected to change significantly despite further displacement as some IDPs will leave the country and become refugees.
  • Given conflict-related disruptions to oil production, South Sudan’s oil production will remain at current level of 130,000 barrels per day. This and continued fluctuations in global oil prices will limit Government earnings of USD from oil exports. Other sources of foreign currency, including proposed World Bank donations, are not guaranteed. With limited USD earnings, it is expected the SSP will continue to depreciate even further against the USD. This will limit access to USD for food and fuel imports, driving higher food prices.
  • Based on FEWS NET price projections in key reference markets of Wau, Juba, Bor, and Aweil, the retail price of staple foods are expected to remain extremely high throughout the outlook period, surpassing prices observed last year and remaining well above their five-year averages. This is driven by the expectation of below-average harvest at national level, volatile trade flows throughout the country, and depreciation of the local currency.
  • The 2017/2018 harvest is expected to be lower than last year and below the five-year average, with significantly below-average production in some counties in Greater Equatoria, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Greater Upper Nile, due to the above mentioned conflict-related disruptions, massive out-migration of the population, and crop losses from the reported Fall Armyworm (FAW) infestations. FAW’s impact is expected to be greatest in Greater Equatoria. Given the nature of the FAW, it is also likely to spread to other areas. 
  • Based on forecasts from NOAA and USGS, the March to May rains in Greater Equatoria are forecasted to start on time and be average. Despite this, area cultivated will be well below pre-crisis levels due to expected conflict related disruptions and low access to seeds and tools, as households have sold some assets to cope with current food insecurity and face high seed prices.
  • WFP plans to distribute emergency food assistance to an average of 3.3 million beneficiaries (roughly 60% of the population in need) a month between October and December, and deliver a total of 22,540 MT. Although assistance is likely to reach many beneficiaries, past trends have shown that insecurity can often disrupt the consistent delivery of assistance and it is therefore assumed that the delivery of this assistance is not guaranteed in conflict-affected areas.
  • Assistance in 2018 is not yet planned or funded. Despite this, past experience suggests that significant deliveries of food aid will continue. It is assumed assistance will continue at similar levels as observed in 2017, though it is also recognized that – following past trends - assistance will likely reach only half of the population in need and will be regularly disrupted by conflict in various areas. 

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Only marginal improvements in food security are expected between October 2017 and January 2018. Most households throughout the country reported planting, though yields are expected to be well below normal and households will remain dependent on markets, fish, and wild foods to meet their basic food needs. In addition, many displaced households were unable to plant and therefore will not benefit from the harvest season. Continued extremely high food prices will limit the ability of households to purchase sufficient food and ongoing conflict will also restrict the frequency with which households can move in search of wild foods and fish. Planned and funded assistance during this time period will likely reach a high number of beneficiaries but will fall far short of the need and many households will continue to face food consumption gaps. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will persist in all regions. In Greater Baggari of Wau, where the worst-affected households are not expected to have access to a harvest and conflict is significantly limiting movement in search of alternative sources of food, most households will remain in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) and an elevated risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists.

Between February and May, food security will deteriorate even further as households deplete their food stocks and are unable to purchase sufficient food at extremely high prices. The exceptions to this are Abeyi and Maban where food security will improve slightly with the long-cycle sorghum harvest. In most areas, continued insecurity will limit some households from accessing wild foods and fish. These food sources will also seasonally decline during this time, and given the expectation that macroeconomic conditions will also further deteriorate, food security outcomes are expected to be more extreme than during the 2017 lean season. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely in all states and households are likely to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Kapoeta East, Yirol West, Ayod, Nyirol, Leer, and Wau, though it is possible such outcomes could exist in additional areas, including Lakes and Warrap where outcomes have consistently deteriorated.

Levels of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM (WHZ)) will remain at ‘Critical’ levels (>=15 percent) in most areas of the country based on assumptions of below-average access to food and nutrition services and trends observed in 2017 that showed the persistence of high levels of GAM during the harvest and lean seasons. Excess mortality, as measured by CDR, is expected throughout the outlook period and as was observed during the 2017 lean season. CDR is expected to exceed 1/10,000/day in some areas between February and May 2018.

Even in a scenario of continued assistance at current levels, Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains possible, as evidenced by extreme outcomes observed at various points during 2017. In several counties where humanitarian assistance was present, one or more of the food security and nutrition indicators approached or surpassed its Famine (IPC Phase 5) threshold. In other areas, like Central Unity in early 2017 or Greater Baggari currently, though assistance programs were present in the country, conflict prevented food aid delivery in specific areas, contributing to a rapid decline in food access. In 2018, outcomes could be even worse given the persistence of conflict, further deterioration in macroeconomic conditions and the exhaustion of household’s coping capacity. Given the continued possibility of Famine (IPC Phase 5), large-scale assistance, above 2017 levels is needed urgently to save lives. In a worst-case scenario, characterized by the extended absence of humanitarian assistance, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be likely in many areas of the country.

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.

[1] According to the IPC, a Famine (IPC Phase 5) has occurred when at least 20 percent of households in a given area have an extreme lack of food, the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence, as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ), exceeds 30 percent, and mortality, as measured by the Crude Death Rate (CDR), is greater than 2 per 10,000 per day. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is when a household group has an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even with full employment of coping strategies.

[2] HHS is an experiential indicator and a strong proxy of diet quantity. A severe HHS is indicative of large or extreme food consumption gaps.

[3] This classification is in concurrence with the professional judgment of the IPC Emergency Review Committee, but not in accordance with the minimal evidence requirements of the IPC Protocols

About Scenario Development

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.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 34 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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