Food security to deteriorate further in Bahr El Gazal as hunger season enters second month
Food deficits at the household level, especially in northern Bahr El Gazal (all counties of Aweil) are steadily increasing as the hunger season enters its second month. Some households ran out of food two months before the hunger season began, mainly due to last year's poor harvest in combination with significant reductions in the availability of fish, wild foods and milk. The signature of a final peace accord between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) on January 9, 2005 triggered increased arrivals of empty-handed returnees, exacerbating the already significant local food insecurity. The majority of the 87,000 people who have returned to Bahr El Gazal are now settled in the Aweil counties.
The negative effects of reduced food access and returnee competition on household food security became increasingly evident in March, particularly among poor households. Wild foods and fish were exhausted at that time, and sorghum became increasingly scarce in local markets, forcing local households to travel long distances to secure whatever foods that were available and affordable.
At the same time, food aid requirements from January through May were not adequately met due to pipeline breaks. Less than 60 percent of the food aid required in northern Bahr El Gazal (including Wau) during this time was provided. In May, only 44 percent of the required food aid was provided in this region. The consequences of this year's dry season food deficits, combined with a lack of sufficient food aid, have resulted in extreme food insecurity during this year's hunger season between June and August. The evidence of a deteriorating situation can already be seen in some areas, where therapeutic feeding centre (TFC) admissions have almost doubled in the last two months, and malnutrition rates have risen above 20 percent (GAM). Assessments made by agencies operating TFC programs suggest that sufficient food aid is not reaching the neediest households.
Although the food aid pipeline improved slightly in May, the current pipeline is still insufficient to meet increased hunger season shortfalls. Despite plans for significant additional food aid arrivals in July, transportation and other operational constraints could pose serious limitations to getting this food to the areas that need it during the wet season. By the time the food arrives where it is most needed, the most critical productive cultivation activity (weeding) may have passed. In order to meet the most urgent and life threatening needs, it may be necessary to reduce or suspend food deliveries to less affected areas. Given that many needy households may not be receiving sufficient food aid amounts, efforts to improve targeting are also needed.