After more than six years of conflict, South Sudan remains one of the most food-insecure countries in the world. Ongoing violence, resultant population displacement, and disrupted trade, markets, and cultivation activities have exacerbated food insecurity and humanitarian needs.
An estimated 5.5 million people—representing approximately 47 percent of South Sudan’s total population of 11.7 million—may face Crisis (IPC 3) or Emergency (IPC 4) levels of acute food insecurity and require urgent food assistance between January and April, according to the most recent IPC analysis.* The population in need of emergency food assistance has increased more than 20 percent since the September-to-December projection, as families begin to deplete their food stocks from recently collected harvests. Relief actors expect the IPC analysis for the first half of 2020 to be released in February.
Many vulnerable families in South Sudan continue to depend on food assistance to meet their basic needs. Key drivers of the high levels of acute food insecurity in the country include the violence’s persistent disruptions to livelihoods activities, poor macroeconomic conditions, cereal production shortages, below-average access to livestock products, and elevated food prices, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) reports. FEWS NET also warns that a risk of Famine (IPC 5) remains in South Sudan if a rise in conflict prevents people from moving to look for food or stops relief actors from delivering food assistance for a prolonged period.
Desert locusts are infesting cropland and pastures in some areas of nearby countries, including Ethiopia and Kenya. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), locust swarms were about 124 miles away from Kenya’s border with South Sudan as of late January, raising concerns that the pests might migrate to South Sudan and exacerbate the country’s food security crisis in the coming months.
Acute malnutrition remains a significant problem in South Sudan. In 2020, approximately 2 million people in the country will require nutrition assistance, including 290,000 children facing severe acute malnutrition, 1 million children facing moderate acute malnutrition, and 470,000 malnourished pregnant and lactating women, according to South Sudan’s 2020 Humanitarian Needs Overview.
* The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is a standardized tool that aims to classify the severity and magnitude of acute food insecurity. The IPC scale, which is comparable across countries, ranges from Minimal (IPC 1) to Famine (IPC 5).
Since the start of the conflict in South Sudan, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) and its partners—including the UN World Food Program (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—have assisted the most vulnerable and conflict-affected populations through emergency food and nutrition interventions across the country.
FFP also partners with Catholic Relief Services to provide emergency food assistance, access to safe drinking water, and livelihoods support in Jonglei State, as well as with FAO to support households with food vouchers and the distribution of seeds, planting tools, and fishing kits for increased food production.