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Compounding shocks and consequences for food security, coping capacity, and social stratification in Leer and Mayendit counties, Unity State, South Sudan, June 2021

Sudán del Sur
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Key Findings

  • A series of compounding shocks, particularly the 2013-2019 civil war and atypical flooding in 2020, have restricted the viability of traditional livelihood activities in Leer and Mayendit counties. Cultivation and cattle keeping have been particularly affected, resulting in substantial food consumption gaps, especially for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees.

  • Access to food is expected to be atypically low during the upcoming lean season (May-July), especially in Mayendit, as cattle will likely remain far from settlements until early 2022. Availability of food is unlikely to increase substantially after July, as host community households have little access to land for cultivation, due to flooding. Populations reportedly face substantial barriers to adapting livelihood activities, and consequently primarily consume wild foods and humanitarian food assistance (HFA). Existing barriers to food, such as a lack of access to livestock and land, and time poverty, may be further exacerbated by a third year of atypical rainfall.

  • In the coming months, the risk of malnutrition and morbidity could be further compounded by increasingly limited provision of, and access to, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health and nutrition services.

  • Since the start of the civil war, social stratification in Leer and Mayendit counties has changed significantly. Due to the aforementioned shocks and subsequent displacement of the most affluent residents, the remaining population consists primarily of poor households with few assets.

  • Findings suggest that traditional methods of resource redistribution have eroded. As a result of the civil war, mechanisms of power have shifted away from chiefs and community elders towards youth groups, who have different priorities for the distribution of resources.

  • Chiefs’ courts, which are traditionally relied upon by the poorest in society to access food and resources during times of need, have been especially negatively affected by changing power dynamics, as well as by a lack of resources to redistribute.

  • As a result of the erosion of traditional community-level coping mechanisms, resource distribution appears to have become increasingly dependent on familial and social networks, which may result in highly vulnerable groups without connections, such as IDPs and returnees, having reduced access to support. These dynamics may cause future periods of food insecurity to be more severe and to develop faster than before.