South Sudan

South Sudan Key Message Update: Severe flooding, conflict, and macroeconomic crisis drive Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and high assistance needs, September 2020

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Key Messages

  • Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely in 35 counties, with areas of greatest concern concentrated in Jonglei, Unity, Lakes, Warrap, and Upper Nile. Due to the impact of devastating floods, conflict, and worsening macroeconomic conditions, most households are still facing large food consumption gaps or using extreme livelihoods coping strategies to mitigate them. Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is likely among households in Jonglei and Greater Pibor Administrative Area, where recent conflict and two consecutive years of severe floods are exhausting coping capacity. Humanitarian food assistance needs remain very high in September, when the start of the green harvest would normally begin to lead to marginal improvement in outcomes.

  • Although significant food assistance is supporting Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes in some areas, acute food insecurity could quickly deteriorate if flooding or insecurity significantly delay deliveries. A scale-up in food assistance beyond planned levels, as well as unimpeded access for delivery, is required to save lives and protect livelihoods throughout 2020. In a worst-case scenario, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible if at least 20 percent of the population in a given area is isolated from accessing food sources or assistance for a prolonged time.

  • Armed conflict and insecurity persist in Jonglei, Warrap, and parts of Lakes and Central Equatoria, causing significant displacement, disrupting harvesting activities, market access, and food assistance delivery, and resulting in livestock losses. According to UN estimates, approximately 157,000 people across South Sudan have been displaced by conflict in 2020. In September, hot spots of conflict include Lainya and Juba counties of Central Equatoria, where nearly 40,000 people have been internally displaced since August. Overall, Greater Pibor Administrative Area (GPAA) and Tonj East of Warrap are areas of greatest concern, where active conflict and the threat of retaliatory violence extremely limit households’ ability to engage in productive livelihood activities. Severe flooding in GPAA is compounding these impacts by periodically restricting household movement and contributing to disruptions in food assistance delivery and trade flows. Key informants report that although some displaced persons returned to their place of origin in GPAA due to relative calm in September, flooding is preventing other households from returning.

  • More than 700,000 people in 34 counties have been affected by flooding. Nearly 90 percent of the flood-affected population is in Jonglei, Lakes, and Unity, particularly along the White Nile River. Taverage he river has reached record-high levels due to above-rainfall locally and in upstream countries since late 2019. Based on partner field information, the most severely affected counties include Bor South, GPAA, Ayod, Twic East, and Duk of Jonglei; Mayendit, Panyijiar, Koch, and Leer of Unity; and Awerial, Cueibet, and Rumbek East of Lakes. Although households have moved to higher ground or displacement sites, floods are destroying newly harvested food stocks, damaging standing crops, and killing livestock. Households also face difficulty accessing markets or food assistance distribution points. Based on the scale of flooding at the start of the green harvest, coupled with conflict-related impacts, harvests in flood-affected areas are likely to be similar to or worse than 2019. According to FAO, total crop production in Jonglei is projected to be seven percent below 2019; however, county-level production is projected to be 20-40 percent below 2019 in Ayod, Twic East, Pibor, and Pochalla.

  • Bor South and GPAA of Jonglei and Mayendit of Unity are among the flood-affected areas that are currently of greatest concern. Floods have caused large-scale displacement and destroyed health and sanitation facilities and market infrastructure. Displaced populations are in urgent need of humanitarian food and non-food assistance, and partners report heightened concern for increased levels of disease prevalence and acute malnutrition. Three consecutive flood events in Bor South since June have affected 33,000 people, with additional cross-county displacement occurring from Duk, Twic East, and Bor South into Awerial. UNOCHA estimates around 21,000 people from these counties have been displaced to Mingkaman town in Awerial. In Pibor, the floods continue to worsen an already dire humanitarian situation. In Mayendit, floods have affected about 10,000 people in 12 payams, forcing most people to relocate to higher ground in Mayendit North and Leer and leading humanitarian workers to evacuate temporarily.

  • Outside of flood-affected areas, key informants report below-average rainfall is contributing to poor crop performance in localized areas in Aweil East and Aweil West of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. Conversely, heavy rain caused some damage to groundnut and sesame crops in Magwi, Ikwoto, and Lafon of Eastern Equatoria. As of late September, no desert locusts are reported in South Sudan; however, key informants report Fall Army Worm damaged second season maize in Magwi, Pageri, and Mugali areas of Eastern Equatoria and Twic, Gogrial East, and Gogrial West of Warrap. In other areas in Greater Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal, favorable rainfall has provided better growth conditions for main season crops. Field reports confirm short-cycle sorghum, maize, and groundnut are in the maturation and harvesting stages, while long-cycle sorghum is in the vegetative and flowering stages.

  • Staple food prices are reaching exorbitant levels in several key reference markets. In August, the average cost of a malwa (3.5 kg) of sorghum was 1,680 SSP in Wau, 1,440 SSP in Aweil, and 900 SSP in Rumbek – equivalent to 215-565 percent above the five-year average. Prices increased less steeply in Juba, but are also quite high at nearly 720 SSP or 125 percent above the five-year average. The sharp depreciation of the SSP from 385 to 500 SSP/USD on the parallel market has compounded the impact of long-term currency depreciation, floods, conflict, high taxation, and COVID-19 preventive measures on the costs of importing and transporting staple foods to local markets.

  • Despite the start of the main season harvest, staple food prices are unlikely to decline significantly in the near-term due to deficit crop production and economic factors. Additionally, a new, mandatory COVID-19 testing fee of 65 USD levied against cargo truck drivers may contribute to higher costs. Drivers are protesting the fee, and traders importing goods from Uganda and Sudan reported delays by a median of six days, according to market data collected by REACH in August. According to FEWS NET’s weekly cross-border monitoring data, weekly trade volumes of maize declined by 22 percent from the second to third week in September, though volumes were 30 percent above the same period of 2019.

  • Based on confirmed cases reported by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the WHO, daily case incidence has remained below 20 cases per day since mid-August. To support the expansion and decentralization of COVID-19 testing capacity, the African Development Bank granted personal protective equipment worth 5.2 million USD to the MoH in September. Meanwhile, the government announced schools and churches may reopen and all businesses and institutions may resume full-time operations under strict adherence to preventive measures. Nevertheless, COVID-19 continues to affect overall economic activity, market supply chains, and food prices in the context of the long-term macroeconomic crisis and current foreign-exchange shortage. Poor, urban households continue to be most affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19, as most small-scale businesses are struggling to operate given reduced demand and higher operating costs.

  • Humanitarian food assistance distribution is critical to preventing large food consumption gaps across South Sudan. However, floods and conflict are hindering food assistance deliveries and impeding household access to food assistance distribution points. In September, WFP had already delivered 88 percent of food assistance allocated for delivery by air to populations in inaccessible areas. Access to lowland GPAA remains very limited due to insecurity and floods and is of urgent concern. In some areas, such as Duk and Twic East, key informants report that the floods have submerged some storage facilities for prepositioned food assistance. In August, 1.44 million people received food assistance nationally, compared to a target of 3.26 million. In September, WFP is prioritizing distributions to flood-affected people – especially in Bor Town, Mangalla, and Mingakaman – in addition to the lean season response.

  • According to NOAA/CPC’s forecasts, above-average rainfall is most likely to continue in southeastern and central South Sudan through October. The risk of flooding will remain high in riverine, wetland, and other low-lying areas in Jonglei, southern Unity, and southern Upper Nile. GPAA is forecast to receive rainfall in excess of 50 mm in late September. As a result, a rainfall ranking model produced by the UC Santa Barbara’s Climate Hazards Center predicts the season could become one of the wettest on record in localized areas of Pibor, with an associated likelihood of further flooding.