South Sudan + 2 more

Twin peaks: the seasonality of acute malnutrition, conflict and environmental factors in Chad, South Sudan and the Sudan

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Key messages

• Livelihood adaptation to environmental variability in the study areas in Chad, South Sudan and the Sudan has been undermined by a long history of shocks and other externalities. An understanding of this continual threat to resilience must start with an understanding of dryland farming and pastoralism as practiced by specialist producers as part of a wider regional livelihood system that is designed to mitigate and manage shocks.

• The specialist experience of different livelihood producers and their coping response strategies should influence programming and targeting decisions, matching inputs and technical support to specific gaps in knowledge and experience (i.e. it may be the herder who needs advice about farming). Gender roles and responsibilities within the specialization and in relation to diversification of livelihoods are a critical concern.

• Peace does not necessarily bring a dividend.
The impacts of conflict and related shocks may continue at the individual, household and community level for years or even decades, with implications for livelihoods, nutrition and food security.

• Conflict analysis needs to better understand and incorporate the seasonality of conflicts and local mitigation responses and their implications for peace-building. Post-conflict assessments and programming need to take into account that recovery is not uniform. The marked improvements of some groups may mask a decline or stagnation of others.

• The evidence of persistent global acute malnutrition and extreme seasonal peaks illustrated in the first case study challenges widely held views that associate seasonal increases in child malnutrition with the lean season. Current approaches that take a short-term outlook or only undertake surveys once or twice a year risk ignoring seasonality and missing completely the opportunity to sustainably address the root causes of malnutrition in these contexts.

• Local history, perspectives and experiences are central to developing this context-specific understanding and effective programming.
A participatory approach is needed to contextualize programmes aimed at sustainably addressing child malnutrition, livelihoods building, conflict mitigation or recovery.

• Several methodological considerations emerge from this analysis regarding the timing and frequency of data collection, the assumption of causality and the limitation of experimental approaches such as randomized control trials, which have not been sufficiently contextualized.

• Considerations of seasonality and environmental variability must be more deeply ingrained into dryland nutrition programmatic and research thinking. There is no better way to do this than by incorporating these considerations as part of the basic causes of malnutrition.