Presence Country
Food Security Outlook Update

Over one million people displaced, disruptions to agricultural activities expected to prolong lean season

March 28, 2014

Current Situation

Note: This report updates the February 19 South Sudan Crisis Monitoring Report

  • Fighting continues in Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Unity states between government and opposition forces. Peace talks between the government and the SPLM-in-Opposition, scheduled for March 20, 2014 in Addis Ababa have not yet resumed. Neither side has honored the cessation of hostilities agreement signed on January 23, 2014.
  • Production of South Sudan crude oil fell by nearly 29 percent since the outbreak of the conflict last December. Production in Unity State remains halted. Production in Upper Nile State decreased from 245,000 barrels per day since the conflict began and has remained at about 160,000 barrels per day since January. Further escalation of the conflict threatens the continuity of oil production in Paloich, in Upper Nile state. The oil fields in Upper Nile account for 80 percent of South Sudan’s total production. With 98 percent of national revenue from oil, continued production deficits will have drastic consequences for the macroeconomic situation in the country.

Markets and Trade

  • Cross-border trade has resumed in some parts of the country. In February, 607 metric tons (MT) of sorghum from Uganda was recorded at Nimule border post compared to 139 MT in January and 378 MT in December. Maize imports from Uganda have remained steady keeping maize prices stable across the country. Further increases in trade flows with Uganda are expected to accompany relative stability in the southern part of the country in the coming months but will remain below pre-crisis levels. Sustained conflict in Western Upper Nile, near Malakal has disrupted cereal trade flows from Sudan.
  • Markets in Bentiu, Malakal and Bor were destroyed by conflict between the government and opposition forces. These markets were important sources of food supply for populations in Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile states as historically people in these areas are highly market dependent. Traders have started to return to Bor but availability of staple commodities remains limited. Grains are for the most part unavailable, but some maize flour was observed in the Bor market in March. Traders have not returned to Bentiu or Malakal.
  • In functioning rural markets in conflict areas including parts of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states, it is highly likely that grain and pulse prices remain unseasonably high and volatile. Increased market demand from growing internally displaced populations (IDP) and constrained market supply will exert further upward pressure on food prices. The breakdown in the supply chain to Nyirol, Uror and Akobo counties of Jonglei state, coupled with production shortfalls from the previous season has resulted in food scarcity and high prices. In Lankien, Nyirol County for instance, the price of a 50 kilogram bag of sorghum increased 150 percent from SSP 200 to SSP 500 in March compared to December 2013.
  • Sorghum prices fell by 14 percent in Juba from January to February and increased by 3 percent in Wau and 7 percent in Aweil. Sorghum prices in Wau are 40 percent higher than last year and double the five-year average. Maize prices remained stable in Juba and decreased by 8 percent in Aweil. In Kapoeta, where the conflict has not disrupted seasonal sorghum imports from Uganda and Kenya, sorghum prices continued to decline. Wheat prices decreased in Wau, Aweil, Juba, and Kapoeta markets.
  • Fighting continues to disrupt key trade and transportation routes between Renk and Malakal, Juba and Bor and Rumbek and Bentiu, drastically reducing food supply inflows to Malakal and Bentiu. In a normal year, traders typically preposition commodity stocks, including agricultural inputs, in advance of the April to October rainy season. Continued fighting and uncertainty about security will cause long-term market instability in the conflict-affected areas of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei states.

IDP and Refugees

  • An additional 100,000 people were reported internally displaced in March. An estimated 803,200 are displaced within South Sudan as of March 27, 2014, while some 254,600 people are believed to have crossed into the neighboring countries. The number of IDPs has spiked in Jonglei and Unity states but decreased in Upper Nile and Central Equatoria reflecting increased outmigration to neighboring countries. The largest number of IDPs remains in Unity State (240,800), followed by Jonglei State (198,800), Lakes State (104,600) and Upper Nile State (88,500). Displaced communities are concentrated in an estimated 174 sites.
  • Over 86,000 refugees have fled to Uganda, followed by Ethiopia with over 75,000 refugees.  Sudan and Kenya currently host 58,000 and 28,000 refugees respectively. The prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) among South Sudanese refugees in Adjumani, Arua, and Kirandongo districts in Uganda is at critical levels.  A March 2014 survey reports that the prevalence of GAM and severe acute malnutrition (SAM), defined according to weight-for-height Z scores <-2 and <-3, among children 6-59 months of age in these three districts are 19.6 percent (95% CI: 17.0 - 22.4) and 4.1 percent (95% CI: 3.0 - 5.7), respectively.  Severe or borderline food consumption is reportedly experienced by two out of three households and the proportion of children under 5 suffering from malaria/fever, diarrhea, and ARI/cough in the two weeks prior to the survey is 69.9 percent, 50.9 percent, and 78.1 percent, respectively.  Over half of mothers 15-49 years of age are underweight (BMI < 18.5 kg/m2) with nearly one-third of them severely underweight (<16.5 kg/m2).

Humanitarian Assistance

  • Humanitarian access varies across the conflict-affected states.  IDPs in Central Equatoria, Lakes and Eastern Equatoria have better access to humanitarian assistance compared to those in Northern Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity. IDPs in isolated areas where humanitarian access is restricted continue to face acute food shortages, particularly in Unity State where there is little to no access.  Nearly 40,000 people displaced from Leer when government forces seized the town in February remain extremely vulnerable. A substantial number of IDPs in Duk, Uror and Akobo counties of Jonglei State; Koch, Mayendit, Guit, Pariang and Panyijiar counties of Unity state, and most parts of Upper Nile State do not have access to humanitarian assistance and currently depend on mainly on wild foods for food. Food security outcomes among those households is deteriorating and FEWS NET assumes widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity and severe food shortage in isolated areas is increasingly forcing some IDPs to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food insecurity.
  • As of March 27, aid agencies have provided food assistance to approximately 502,180 people in conflict-affected areas. In March, the World Food Program (WFP) conducted food airdrops and delivered 215 MT of food in Ganyel town, Upper Nile, an area not previously served due to access constraints. 100 MT of food was delivered by airdrops in Maban, Upper Nile. WFP plans to supply food assistance to Upper Nile and Jonglei States through Gambella, Ethiopia. Response operations are underway in Dethoma, Melut County with distributions of food and household supplies to 20,000 displaced and agencies have begun assistance in Akobo, Jonglei State for 30,000 people and for 35,000 people in Nyal, Unity State.

Seasonal Progress

  • Rains have begun on-time in most areas of the country and earlier than normal in some areas including Malakal and Juba. Average to above-average rainfall is forecast for most parts of the country from March to May.  This is a crucial period marking the onset of cultivation in South Sudan. During this period, land preparation takes place in most parts of the country. Planting of maize, groundnuts and various vegetables begins in Greater Equatoria, in the Greenbelt and Hills and Mountains livelihood zones. Land preparation typically starts as early as February in those livelihood zones and March and April in the rest of the country. Conflict will prevent farmers from carrying out these activities in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states and cultivation is expected to be disrupted in many areas. Average to below average rainfalls in the pastoral areas in Greater Kapoeta are expected to prolong livestock stay in the dry season grazing areas.

Food Security Outcomes

  • Widespread insecurity has drastically limited poor households’ income sources including the collection and sale of grass, firewood and charcoal and migration to urban areas for labor opportunities. These activities that people usually engage in before the rainy season and in preparation for the lean season have become impossible for many households. Interruptions in the agricultural season will prolong the current lean season beyond August and the loss of livelihood assets for displaced populations greatly reduces households’ ability to meet food needs during the lean season. Moreover, fishing, hunting and wild food collection—activities that typically help households get through the lean season—will remain limited as long as insecurity persists. Moreover, even if security conditions improve, the effects of disruptions to production and market supply and damage to infrastructure will have a lasting impact on food security outcomes in conflict-affected areas.
  • With the stalled negotiations between the government and the SPLM-In-Opposition, fighting is likely to escalate and humanitarian access will continue to be impeded by the conflict. As a result, IDPs without access to assistance will continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity through April and in coming months with the onset of the typical lean season in May. Widening food consumption gaps due to the impaired humanitarian access, disrupted markets and livelihoods and limited access to wild foods because of persistent insecurity are expected for populations in conflict-affected areas. Without humanitarian assistance, the number of people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is expected to increase in the isolated areas of Duk, Uror and Akobo counties of Jonglei State, Pariang, Panyijiar, Leer and Mayendit counties of Unity State and Nasir, Baliet, Panyikang Fashoda and Manyo counties of Upper Nile State particularly during the peak lean season from June to August.