South Sudan continues to face enormous developmental challenges as it embarks on socio-economic transformation after the protracted civil war. Some 4.1 million people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity—with some 10 percent of the population (about 1 million) being severely food insecure and find it difficult to meet the daily food needs especially during the lean season. A further 30 percent of the population (3.1 million) are moderately food insecure—a decline from 37 percent recorded in 2011, although still quite high. This marginal improvement in food security in 2012 is attributed to: good harvest prospects; increased market availability as a result of normal harvest in Uganda (currently a major exporter of food commodities to South Sudan) and improved household resilience to shocks (as revealed by declining coping strategy indices).
Nutrition surveys in 2012 also shows poor nutrition situation in South Sudan in all states (except WES), having global acute malnutrition rates ranging from 17.5 percent to 30.2 percent, above the WHO emergency threshold of 15 percent.
Overall, the structural factors such as low agricultural production and productivity, erratic climatic patterns characterized by droughts and floods, poor road connections, low dietary diversity; poor access to basic social services (such as basic health services, immunisation, poor sanitary practices) undermine people’s purchasing power and their ability to adequately feed their families and attain adequate nutrition. These are compounded by displacement, loss of assets, high food prices compared to five-year average and 2012 border closure with Sudan and precarious economic conditions associated with the austerity measures adopted after the oil shutdown.
Households still allocate nearly half (48 percent) of their expenditures on food, usually at the expense of essential services like health, education and water. Furthermore similar proportions depend on markets as a source of food making households particularly vulnerable to market price volatilities. Over two-thirds of all households indicate price hikes as the leading shock during the year. Strengthening income and livelihood base and increasing household food production and productivity is critical in mitigating the impacts of these price shocks.
Even though households applying medium to high coping strategies has reduced from 7 percent in 2011 to 2 percent in 2012, it is still noticeable that approximately one-third of the households that engage in low coping strategies use dietary adjustments such as reducing meal sizes, switching to less preferred food sources. This, among other factors, makes households vulnerable to malnutrition. The current rate expansion of cultivated area and productivity cannot keep pace with the population growth and the existing food gap is likely to continue increasing unless the structural problems of agriculture are addressed. Interventions like expanding irrigation schemes, high quality seed and efficient tools are essential for the growth of the agricultural sector. The proportion of households that engage in cultivation increased from 80 percent in 2011 to 88 percent, which partly explains the increase in net production from 545,000 Mt in 2011 to a current 761,000 MT to 2012. However, per capita yields still remains low (at less than 1mt/ha) partly accounting to annual cereal deficits, which in 2013 is estimated at 371,000 Mt.
South Sudan has huge potential for livestock production. Livestock needs to be transformed to a more productive enterprise from its current predominant socio-cultural orientation. Increased investment in water points, introducing better range management interventions and general increased investment in the sector would boost the food security of pastoral households.
The FSMS MUAC-based nutrition monitoring shows high risk of malnutrition peaking during the ‘lean’ season, when food availability is at its lowest, childhood illnesses are prevalent and there is increased demand on care takers to attend to farming activities. Programmes and strategies to reduce the risk of malnutrition such as blanket Supplementary feeding (BSFP) should be integrated with context-specific innovative programmes that maximise carer’s time for child care during the critical periods of the year and expanded health care services.