Extreme food insecurity in Northern Bahr El Gazal's to persist until after harvest in September
Food deficits at the household level, especially in northern Bahr El Gazal (all counties of Aweil) are anticipated to be highest during the hunger season peak (end of July through early August). Food deficits started becoming more evident in March and April, especially among poor households, following the negative effects of last year's reduced flood levels that reduced dry season food sources, including wild foods and fish. Also, sorghum became increasingly scarce in local markets, forcing local households to travel long distances to secure whatever foods were available and affordable.
Figure 1. Food insecure areas of Southern Sudan
Since April, the food needs of poor households and returnees have steadily increased in the region, but just over 50 percent of these needs had been met by the end of June. At the same time, informal assessment teams in northern Bahr El Gazal observed that food aid was not reaching the neediest households, including those with malnourished children admitted in Therapeutic Feeding Center (TFC) programs.
Though the progress of the June - September cropping season has so far been positive, affected households will not benefit significantly before the conclusion of the main harvest (October), when all farmers have something to consume and food is freely available and shared. Acute food shortages and hunger may compromise the agricultural productivity of the affected households, implying that quantities they may harvest this year may not be significant. Other implications include:
- Slow recovery of affected households during the post harvest period if the current food aid levels are maintained.
- Premature or over-consumption of this year's green harvest by affected households. This may reduce the harvest's positive impact no matter how good the harvest turns out to be.
- Poor households will have to rely increasingly on off-farm food sources starting the end of this year. The exact time will be largely dependent on flood or water levels.
Given the above scenario, there is need to step up monitoring of all food sources in the northern Bahr El Gazal region in the next two months (August-September) in order to determine how the food security situation will be after October to enable advance planning. Considering this year's January-June food aid intervention levels, and the uncertainty of how the ongoing season will unfold, it's plausible that food interventions for most affected households in the region will be needed until the harvest is completed in October. In addition, targeting mechanisms need to be strengthened again to ensure that affected households receive sufficient food aid even during the harvest. These will complement current efforts by WFP to double the number of food aid beneficiaries in Bahr El Gazal's affected areas.