Poor macroeconomic conditions and coronavirus to escalate Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes by mid-2020
In early 2020, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes were already pervasive as a result of household asset erosion during the conflict, complete depletion of 2019/20 cereal stocks, and poor macroeconomic conditions. In April, measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, an uptick in intercommunal conflict, and an increased likelihood of desert locust damage to crops are expected to increase the magnitude and severity of acute food insecurity within South Sudan by mid-2020. After accounting for planned humanitarian food assistance, FEWS NET anticipates that the population still in need of humanitarian food assistance from June to September 2020 will exceed previous projections of 6.48 million people. The total population in need of food assistance will likely be similar to or higher than in 2019.
From April to September, household access to food is anticipated to become increasingly constrained due to current and anticipated declines in household purchasing power. The impacts of movement restrictions due to COVID-19 and a likely decline in oil export earnings are expected to exacerbate prevailing poor macroeconomic conditions, with negative consequences for market-dependent households during the ongoing lean season. In key reference markets in Bor South, Wau, and Juba, the retail price of white sorghum will likely be 54-180 percent above the five-year average.
Food insecurity will be most severe in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Lakes, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states and in parts of Greater Equatoria. Populations at the greatest risk of food insecurity include rural households with no livestock who face difficulty in accessing physical markets, food assistance, or fish due to insecurity or seasonal access constraints; newly returned IDPs and refugees; and poor, urban market-dependent households with few diversified income sources. Some households in Akobo and Duk of Jonglei are likely still in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), which is associated with an extreme lack of food even after exhausting potential coping strategies. Based on declining access to food and income sources through the July/August peak of the lean season, it is possible that additional vulnerable households could also deteriorate to Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5), especially in areas affected by seasonal floods or insecurity.
Humanitarian food assistance will remain critical to preventing more extreme outcomes. However, the monthly number of beneficiaries reached ranges from 1 to 2 million on average, remaining below the total population in need. Available distribution data on actual and planned beneficiaries in early 2020 indicate Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are most likely in parts of Greater Bahr el Ghazal as well as in parts of Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Eastern Equatoria. In April, WFP is targeting more than 2 million people with two-month food distributions and pre-positioning supplies prior to the rainfall season, but there are concerns that the indirect effects of COVID-19 could slow down implementation and delivery.
While movement restrictions related to COVID-19 do not currently restrict physical access to markets, household access to food and income sources will likely be affected to varying degrees as long as the restrictions remain in place. In the event that a resurgence of political conflict or more severe movement restrictions prevent populations from accessing food sources or restrict humanitarian access for a prolonged period, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible in South Sudan. Urgent humanitarian assistance beyond currently planned levels will be required to save lives and protect livelihoods and prevent further occurrence of more extreme food insecurity outcomes.