Food assistance needs remain high and Catastrophic (IPC Phase 5) outcomes are possible in 2020
In February, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes remain widespread in South Sudan. According to the January 2020 IPC acute analysis, the acutely food insecure population is expected to reach 6.01 million people in early 2020 even in the presence of humanitarian food assistance. This number includes 20,000 people who are likely in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in Akobo and Duk counties of Jonglei state, where the 2019 floods caused significant crop and livestock losses, destroyed household assets, and cut off pockets of communities from moving in search of other food sources. Of greatest concern are areas in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Lakes states, where the negative impacts on livelihoods from the floods or from periodic intercommunal conflict have been most severe. Urgent food assistance is needed to save lives, protect livelihoods, and prevent more extreme food insecurity outcomes.
1.3 million children 6-59 months of age are acutely malnourished and in need of urgent treatment. The national prevalence of global acute malnutrition, measured by weight-for-height z-score among children 6-59 months of age, increased from 11.7 percent in December 2018 to 12.6 percent in December 2019 due to very high disease incidence and morbidity in flood-affected areas and poor dietary quality and diversity. A ‘Critical’ level of acute malnutrition is expected in over half of the 36 flood-affected counties through April.
Humanitarian food assistance remains pivotal in preventing more extreme food insecurity outcomes in parts of Upper Nile, Jonglei, Unity, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal, where Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are present. However, the reach of food assistance remains well below the population in need, particularly in areas where large food gaps or extreme depletion of livelihood assets are indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. In January, WFP reached .89 million people with food assistance, which is 40 percent below the number of people assisted in January 2019.
According to FAO’s Desert Locust Watch, there is a risk that desert locust swarms may arrive in Eastern Equatoria from Kenya in March, coinciding with the bimodal planting stage. Given that crops will not have yet emerged, the swarms are expected to travel onward to breeding areas in Sudan. However, in the absence of effective control measures in the East Africa region, new swarms in May/June could pose a risk of damage to crop production and pasture.
An early start to the lean season is anticipated in February/March 2020, due to low household food stocks from the 2019 harvest, high food prices, and seasonal declines in milk, fish, and wild food availability. The population in need of urgent food assistance is expected to rise to at least 6.48 million people by the July/August peak of the lean season. Further, a recent increase in intercommunal conflict may push the food insecure population even higher than estimated.
Although planned food assistance is expected to scale up from May to July, planned levels are likely not sufficient to prevent Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in areas of greatest concern. It is also possible that pockets of highly vulnerable households could face Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in counties where food insecurity is already indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse area-level outcomes. In the event that the peace deal is not implemented and a resurgence of conflict prevents populations from moving in search of food sources or restricts humanitarian access for a prolonged period of time, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible in South Sudan.