Impact of COVID-19 on food security and agriculture
Despite a period of relative stability since the signing of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) in September 2018, more than 6.5 million people remain in severe acute food insecurity across the country (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification [IPC], January 2020). This is due to the cumulative effects of years of conflict and asset depletion, low crop production, climatic and economic shocks, limited access to basic services and the resultant increase in vulnerability and reduction in resilience. Almost 4 million people remain displaced, both internally and as refugees in neighbouring countries. This situation is exacerbated by COVID-19, as well as the surging and re-surging desert locust outbreak in the Horn of Africa, all of which are threatening the already fragile food security and nutrition situation in South Sudan.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has recently completed a COVID-19 impact survey across all ten states. Vulnerable households, traders, key informants, and humanitarian and resource partner organizations were interviewed, uncovering a number of significant impacts of COVID-19 on rural livelihoods, including the following:
• Food availability has visibly been disrupted, particularly supplies of imported fresh food, by transport restrictions. This is anticipated to decline further during the July–September period due to limited cross-border movement. Particularly negative impacts are observed in the cross-border areas of Aweil, Nazara and Yei, further threatening peace and stability in these areas.
• Significant price increases (as much as 75 percent higher than normal in four months) and limits in access to transportation due to conflict and COVID-19 related movement restrictions are affecting households’ access to food. Whilst food prices had already been increasing, the situation has undoubtedly been exacerbated.
• Strict restrictions on movement are also reducing access to animal health and vaccination facilities while increasing tension and the risk of conflict. Consequently, South Sudan’s already vulnerable livestock sector, which was significantly affected by flooding in 2019, will likely be further impacted. Households that rely on fishing as a major source of livelihood are also reporting a significant decline in income.
• South Sudan imports considerable quantities of cereals and other foods from neighbouring countries, particularly the Sudan and Uganda. COVID-19 related border closures and prevention and control measures have led to the disruption of commercial supply chains, severely slowing commercial traffic and limiting road and river entry points into the country. Humanitarian supply chains are also being affected by these same slowdowns.