Context & Methodology
The October-November 2020 Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis determined that an estimated 50% of the population in Northern Bahr el Ghazal (NBeG) state were classified in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity (AFI), with over 46% of children facing global acute malnutrition (GAM). Field reports and satellite data indicated that the high level of food insecurity and malnutrition encountered in NBeG was likely caused by a series of climate shocks, namely a combination of drought-like conditions in July followed by flooding in August/September 2020, both of which affected the harvest. Field reports also indicated atypical movement into Sudan in response to deteriorating food security conditions.
To support understanding of food insecurity and the status of distress migration in the area, REACH conducted a qualitative assessment in NBeG state to better understand the intricacies and impacts of the climate shocks as well as investigate reports of atypical displacement. From 2nd to 5th December 2020, REACH conducted 5 focus group discussions (FGDs) on climate impacts and 11 FGDs on climate displacement, which included participatory mapping exercises, covering Aweil Centre, Aweil South, Aweil West, Aweil East, and Aweil North counties. FGDs were divided into male and female groups for each respective county. For Aweil Centre, Aweil West, Aweil East, and Aweil South, FGDs were conducted with residents of settlements in these counties, yet in close proximity to Aweil Town. For Aweil North, FGDs were conducted with residents of settlements near Gok Machar. This assessment used a qualitative methodology that did not assess all potentially relevant locations, and as such, findings are indicative only.
Findings suggest that in 2020, a combination of climate shocks together had a severe impact on food production. Delayed rains and drought-like conditions between May-July, followed by flooding from July-September interrupted the typical cultivation calendar. Atypically dry conditions meant households had to delay land preparation and seed planting, which led to reduced crop health and growth. Subsequent flooding meant that a large amount of crops were destroyed, with many that could be salvaged uncultivable due to delayed planting.
Access to food appears to be of existing and impending humanitarian concern. It was reported in all FGDs that households were frequently using food-based coping strategies such as skipping meals, with foodstocks reportedly almost exhausted. This level of food insecurity is uncommon for this time of year, with the lean season usually between May - June before the harvest in July, suggesting food security conditions may deteriorate further before the next harvest.
Current humanitarian conditions cannot be viewed in isolation from extreme flooding in 2019. Flooding in 2019 reduced food availability, which was then exacerbated by a second year of climate shocks. This has meant many households have faced protracted food insecurity.
Although movement of individuals seeking seasonal livelihood opportunities in Sudan is normal for parts of NBeG, atypical movement intentions of entire households to Sudan or areas on the border were commonly reported for the three months following data collection, and many households were already moving. Such atypical movements were reportedly due to food insecurity, which was compounded by high market prices, driving movements to access livelihoods such as fishing or casual labour, or humanitarian assistance. Movements of entire households were reported to likely take longer than typical seasonal movements.
Most of the households engaging in movement to Sudan or the Sudanese border were reported to be vulnerable in some way, primarily in having less wealth/ fewer assets that would enable them to cope with food insecurity in NBeG. Those travelling as whole households also seemed more likely to be female-headed households.
Households that are not moving appeared to be divided among the relatively well-off and the most vulnerable. Households with wealth or assets (including cattle) are reportedly not engaging in movement as their resources allow them to mitigate shocks. On the other hand, some of the households remaining are those that cannot make the journey, especially those with household members who are elderly or Persons with Disabilities and those who do not have the financial means to afford transportation by vehicle.
While beliefs about changes in climate as a long-term trend were unclear, most participants felt that rainfall had become more irregular in recent years. Many said that, if they were to experience climate shocks driving food insecurity similar to those in 2020 several years in a row, they would pursue longer-term relocation from their area.