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South Sudan Key Message Update: Food assistance declines further, reaching only 1-in-6 people in Crisis or worse in April (May 2022)

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South Sudan
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FEWS NET
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Key Messages

  • The share of the South Sudan population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes is rising as the 2022 lean season progresses. The severity and magnitude of acute food insecurity are highest within Jonglei, Unity, Warrap, Upper Nile, and parts of Lakes. Furthermore, tens of thousands of households face extreme hunger indicative of Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in several areas where conflict, insecurity, and/or floodwaters continue to impede household access to food and income sources, including: Fangak, Canal/Pigi, Uror, and Ayod counties of Jonglei; Greater Pibor Administrative Area; Cueibet and Rumbek North counties of Lakes; Leer and Mayendit counties of Unity; Tonj East County of Warrap; and Tambura County of Western Equatoria. Although humanitarian food assistance mitigated the severity of acute food insecurity for around 1.2 million people in April, needs far outstrip funding for food assistance plans.

  • Household capacity to produce or purchase food or cope with new shocks is extremely low, driven by the compounding, long-term impacts of conflict and insecurity, successive years of widespread floods, and macroeconomic challenges. These drivers will persist throughout 2022, with concern that global food and fuel price shocks linked to the Ukraine crisis will exacerbate local staple food prices and sharply increase the costs of food assistance delivery. As a result, FEWS NET continues to assess that the Risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains credible – particularly in areas with large populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse – if a new conflict or flood shock were to isolate households from food and income sources for an extended time.

  • Based on WFP’s April distribution report, only 1.2 million people – or approximately 1-in-6 people in need – received General Food Distribution or Food for Assets assistance in April. Beneficiaries were mainly located in areas with households in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) and large populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in Jonglei, Lakes, Unity, Warrap, and Upper Nile. This figure is around half the number of beneficiaries that received food assistance in April of last year (2.35 million people). The reduction is mainly attributed to inadequate funds and the rising costs of procuring and delivering food commodities, which has increased the shortfall value by approximately 2.8 million USD/month, according to WFP. The food security and livelihoods response under the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan is only 30 percent funded.

  • Conflict and insecurity significantly disrupted farming, livestock, and trade activities in multiple areas in May, namely in Unity, the Eastern-Central Equatoria border region, and northern Warrap. In Leer and Mayendit counties in Unity, the earlier conflict between government and opposition forces has given way to clashes and raids along inter-communal lines, resulting in loss of life, displacement, and barriers to household access to food. In Magwi, western Torit, and Juba (Lokiliri payam) counties in the Equatorias, the prolonged occupation of farmland by Dinka Bor herders and ensuing herder-farmer conflicts have reduced first-season cropping levels and caused large cattle losses among the herders. Key informants report many farmers have abandoned their fields and migrated to Juba, Bor, or Uganda in search of food and income. Territorial conflict among Dinka communities in Twic County of Warrap and Abyei Administrative Area and inter-communal clashes in Gogrial East County of Warrap and Mayom County of Unity are also driving high levels of food insecurity, resulting from displacement, the loss of household cattle assets, and low trade and market functioning.

  • Tensions remain high between the Dinka and Nuer communities in Jonglei and the Murle community of Pibor, marked by sporadic attacks – allegedly carried out by the Murle – on Dinka and Nuer communities. In Duk, for example, attackers killed 13 people and raided an unconfirmed number of cattle in May, illustrating the vulnerability of households to the loss of their livelihoods. However, coordinated peacebuilding efforts by local authorities and humanitarians have so far discouraged the large-scale mobilization of armed groups. Notably, WFP re-gained access to the Bor-Pibor road after months of negotiation, permitting an inflow of humanitarian supplies to Pibor before the start of the rainy season.

  • Flood extent in the Sudd Wetland remains atypically high for this time of year, which is not only continuing to constrain household access to food and income but is also resulting in poor health and sanitation conditions in displacement sites. The worst affected areas include parts of Fangak, Canal/Pigi, and Duk counties of Jonglei; Mayom, Rubkona, Koch, Panyijiar, Leer, and Mayendit counties of Unity; Tonj East and Tonj North counties of Warrap; Cueibet and Rumbek North counties of Lakes, and low-lying areas of Fashoda County of Upper Nile. Key informants widely report an increase in cases of acute watery diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, and pneumonia, especially in displacement camps, due to limited health services and poor living conditions. Even in areas where floodwaters have receded, households have not returned home, given the high risk of losing their investments in crop and livestock production during the upcoming rainy season.

  • Among the flood-affected areas, the outbreak of cholera in Bentiu in Rubkona County of Unity is of very high concern given the vulnerability of children suffering from hunger-related acute malnutrition to disease. The outbreak was declared on May 7 and is concentrated in IDP sites. Additionally, the government and the WHO assess a high risk of transmission to Guit, Mayom, Pariang, Leer, Mayendit, and Panyijiar counties due to population movement, the density of the IDP population, and low access to clean water and other WASH services. All of these areas already face acute food insecurity indicative of Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes and have Critical (GAM 15-29.9 percent) levels of acute malnutrition. If the outbreak worsens and spreads, there is a risk of sharp increases in GAM and mortality.

  • In April, the retail price of sorghum generally trended 20-140 percent above the five-year average in the four reference markets of Juba, Rumbek, Aweil, and Wau, reflecting the long-term constraints on household purchasing power. Furthermore, there remains significant concern that the impacts of the Ukraine crisis on grain, edible oil, and fuel prices will exacerbate food prices at a time when household purchasing power is already low. At this time, however, the exchange rate has remained stable, facilitating stability in the price of sorghum in Juba and a 60-85 percent decline in Rumbek, Aweil, and Wau compared to April of last year. Nevertheless, food prices may yet accelerate as the lean season progresses and regional and global supply further tightens, especially given South Sudan’s high import dependence.

  • FEWS NET broadly expects the first-season harvest in southern and western bimodal areas in June/July will be lower than last year, driven by elevated conflict and poor rainfall. The impact on crop yields will widely vary by county, however, depending on local conflict dynamics, rainfall distribution, and pest incidence. Bad winds, which are difficult for weather scientists to forecast, resulted in erratically distributed rainfall and cumulative rainfall deficits of 15-45 percent during the March to May season. However, total cumulative rainfall still exceeded 200 mm in most locations – the minimum requirement for maize – and satellite-derived measurements of water requirements (WRSI) indicate average growing conditions. Another negative factor is Fall and African Armyworm incidence, which has caused crop damage in Mundri West (465 farms affected) and Mundri East counties of Western Equatoria and Lofan County of Eastern Equatoria.

  • Livestock health and production outcomes remain very poor in flood- and conflict-affected areas. Although pasture and browse availability has improved due to the rains and high residual soil moisture, floodwaters, conflict, and raids create barriers to access. As a result, field monitoring information and key informant reports indicate instances of livestock emaciation – resulting in very low milk production and reduced salability – are commonplace, especially in parts of Warrap and the Sudd Wetland. In addition, water scarcity has emerged in some eastern areas that previously attracted an influx of livestock from flooded locations during the dry season, such as in Uror County of Jonglei.

  • Seasonal weather forecasts for the main June to September rainy season continue to indicate high chances of above-average rainfall, driving high concern for a fourth consecutive year of atypically extensive floods. However, ECMWF weekly rainfall anomaly forecasts suggest the start of season will likely be uneven before rainfall distribution and amounts increase from July onward. For instance, the onset of the rains reflects an early to timely start in parts of eastern and western South Sudan, but a false or delayed start in central South Sudan, especially in central and northern Unity.