In August 2015, an assessment was conducted in Juba urban areas to understand the food security and nutrition status of the Juba urban population. The assessment would establish the status of the Juba urban population and determine the role of the ongoing economic downturn on household vulnerability. The assessment employed both qualitative and quantitative methods. Key results are as follows:
Overall Food Security and Nutrition situation
Prevalence of food insecurity in Juba urban population is 23%, a considerably high proportion for a population that presumably has better access to markets and basic servicesthan rural areas. Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) among children 6 to 59 months was estimated at 12.2%, whilst wasting among women stood at 10.4%. The evolution of the food security situation is worrying in light of the ongoing economic downturn, since this is a population that depends primarily on markets. The key food security outcomes are linked to food availability, access and utilization, as follows:
- Commodity supply in markets: Traders reported significant reduction in stocking levels of key staple commodities. Though there is still food available in the market, 84% reported that the level of their stocks at the time of the assessment was less than the same time the previous year. Some 50% of people reported that the traded volume of sorghum and wheat flour decreased by more than 50%. Also, the number of traders has reduced compared to the same period in 2014, further affecting flow of supplies. This has an overall impact on the availability of food in the market.
Commodity prices: The prices of the various food items including rice, maize flour, sorghum and wheat flour, were significantly higher at the time of the assessment than the previous year in all surveyed markets. Increased food prices present food access constraints, especially for the urban poor.
Crop and Livestock Production: The Juba urban population accessesfood mainly from the market, with about 98% of households reporting markets as their primary source of food. Only 13% of the Juba urban population cultivated in the last season, while a meagre 4% own livestock. The dependence on markets amidst rising costs of commodities as a result of economic downturn affects households’ ability to secure adequate food.
Wealth: Food access among the poor is constrained. Findings indicate that the poor are significantly more food insecure than wealthier households; denoting the food access difficulties that poor households face. Findings show that 43% of the Juba urban population are poor based on the ownership of a range of assets.
Livelihood sources: Although the majority of households depend on reliable income sources, the disproportionate increase in commodity prices against earnings markedly reduces households’ purchasing power. Additionally, households that depend on unreliable livelihoods mainly constitute the poor. Therefore, the poor may not be able to sustainably secure their access to food.
Expenditure: Despite having a relatively low (8%) proportion of households with high to very high expenditure shares on food, high reliance on borrowing prevails among the Juba urban population. More than half of the households reported borrowing to feed household members. Borrowing is an unsustainable means of coping for a lack of food that leaves households indebted. Households that borrowed money in the last 12 months had a threefold risk of being food insecure compared to those that did not borrow any money.
Household Food Consumption: Some 40% of the population reported indequate food consumption levels. Only 31% met FAO’s minimum recommended intake for South Sudan of 1,717 kilocalorie per person per day.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: Access to drinking water from protected sources was deplorably low at 28%, although the practice of treating drinking water is widespread (among 97% households). However, the majority of he households own a toilet facility (82%), which are mainly traditional/open pit latrines.
Child Illness: Almost half (44.6%) of children in respondents’ households suffered from at least one of the common childhood illnesses. Children that suffered from at least one illness had a higher risk of being wasted than those that suffered from no illness.
Child care and other factors: The proportion of children initiated to breastfeeding within the first hour of birth stood at 54.2% while exclusive breastfeeding for children aged 0 to 5 months is at 34%. Furthermore, only a small proportion of children aged 6 to 23 months are meeting the WHO recommended minimum meal frequency (23.3%), minimium dietary diversity (27.6%) and minimum acceptable diet (8.7%) while the proportion accessing iron rich foods is appallingly low at 3%.
Shocks and coping: Dominant shocks that affected the Juba urban population relate to the ongoing macro-economic challenges. More than half of households experienced shocks related to high food and fuel prices. Experiencing a shock was associated with increased vulnerability. Results indicate worsening household food consumption and nutrition as households regress to more severe coping mechanisms. In the face of the prevailing shocks, vulnerable households struggle to maintain optimal food access.
The food security and nutrition situation of the Juba urban population is concerning and may deteriorate in light of the ongoing economic events. Targeted interventions to avert a likely worsening situation are necessary. Treatment of malnutrition cases in the immediate term is important while measures are put in place to prevent malnutrition. In the medium term, implementing safety net programmes to build the urban population’s resilience is vital.
Interventions should necessarily target the urban poor who are generally characterised as lacking assets, lacking access to basic services/facilities and engaging in unreliable/unsustainable livelihood sources. Targeting households with malnourished children for the safety net programmes may support efforts to improve the overall nutrition status and prevent incidences or reoccurences of malnutrition.