The food security situation in South Sudan continues to deteriorate, with 4.9 million (about 42% of population) estimated to be severely food insecure (IPC Phases 3, 4, and 5), from February to April 2017. This is projected to increase to 5.5 million people, (47% of the national population) at the height of the 2017 lean season in July. The magnitude of these food insecure populations is unprecedented across all periods.
In Greater Unity, some counties are classified in Famine or high likelihood/risk of Famine. In the absence of full quantitative data sets (food consumption, livelihoods changes, nutrition and mortality), analyses were complemented with professional judgment of the Global IPC Emergency Review Committee and South Sudan IPC Technical Working Group (SS IPC TWG) members. The available data are consistent with Phase 5 (Famine) classification and include available humanitarian assistance plans at the time of the analysis. In January 2017, Leer County was classified in Famine, Koch at elevated likelihood that Famine was happening and Mayendit had avoided Famine through delivery of humanitarian assistance. From February to July 2017, Leer and Mayendit are classified in Famine, while Koch is classified as Famine likely to happen. Panyijiar was in Phase 4 (Emergency) in January and is likely to avoid a Famine if the humanitarian assistance is delivered as planned from February to July 2017. With consistent, adequate, and timely humanitarian interventions, the Famine classification could be reversed with many lives saved.
Acute malnutrition remains a major public health emergency in South Sudan. Out of 23 counties with recent data, 14 have Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) at or above 15%. GAM of above 30% is observed in Leer and Panyijiar while Mayendit had GAM levels of 27.3%. Similarly, a worsening nutrition situation atypical to the post-harvest season is observed in the Greater Equatoria region – particularly in Greater Central Equatoria – a deterioration associated with widespread insecurity, lack of physical access, disruption of the 2016 agricultural season and the ongoing economic crisis. Areas in the Greater Bahr el Ghazal show higher than usual levels of acute malnutrition expected for the post-harvest season, indicating a worsening situation. Insecurity, displacement, poor access to services, extremely poor diet (in terms of both quality and quantity), low coverage of sanitation facilities and deplorable hygiene practices are underlying the high levels of acute malnutrition.
Humanitarian assistance throughout 2016 not only sustained but also improved food security in many areas. It is of paramount importance that assistance not only continues in 2017, but scales up in the face of mounting food insecurity across the country. The expected response to Famine-affected areas in former Unity must not sacrifice much needed assistance to the other severely food insecure areas of the country. There exists a narrow window of opportunity during the dry season to pre-position and deliver humanitarian assistance to prevent drastic increases in food insecurity through the lean season that peaks in July. The overstretching of current humanitarian resources and capabilities during the projected worsening of food insecurity is a distinct possibility, raising the risk of an insufficient response to further deterioration.
Humanitarian access remains a major challenge in implementing lifesaving interventions and critical assessments of the situation in the worst affected areas. It is imperative that unconditional humanitarian access from all parties involved in the ongoing political conflict is granted to facilitate delivery of assistance to the populations in need. The most food insecure areas show high levels of insecurity, displacement, loss of livelihoods, market failure, and constrained humanitarian access for assistance delivery and monitoring. The key areas to monitor are central and southern Greater Unity, Greater Northern Bahr el Ghazal, drought-affected Greater Pibor and Greater counties of Kapoeta, Malakal, Fashoda, Manyo, Nasir, Kajo-Keji, Yei, Morobo, and Lainya.