The June-August hunger season sets in
Food deficits at the household level, especially in northern Bahr El Gazal, are set to increase as the hunger season starts in June. During the January to May period, fish and wild food quantities were far below normal, and other dry season livelihood options, such as milk, were also limited. Thus, this year's hunger season is likely to be worse than usual.
The worst-off areas will be northern Bahr El Gazal and select areas of Jonglei, Upper Nile, Lakes and Unity States. (See Figure 1.) Better-off households have sufficient food in the form of sorghum, groundnuts and milk to last them until the next harvest, but poor households and returnees will face significant food gaps between June and August 2005.
Shortfalls in humanitarian assistance (both food and non-food aid) have occurred during the first half of 2005 in southern Sudan. In particular, the food aid pipeline was inadequate for 1-2 months during the dry season. Therefore, it is likely that people who needed food aid but did not receive it are already at increased nutritional and livelihood risk, and will carry this over into the hunger season.
In March, the Livelihoods Analysis Forum (LAF) conducted an analysis of food aid needs and concluded that at least 22,000 MT of food would be required for Bahr El Gazal in 2005, with most of it needed during the June - August hunger season. By the end of April, WFP had distributed about 8,000 MT in Bahr El Gazal, leaving at least 14,000 MT in addition required through August. Though food aid availability is expected to improve in May with the anticipated arrival of close to 13,000 MT by WFP, this input is unlikely to meet increased hunger season shortfalls and mitigate the knock-on effects of the dry season shortfalls throughout southern Sudan. Given that June to August is the critical agricultural season in the food insecure areas (Bahr El Gazal, Upper Nile, and Jonglei), it is essential that sufficient quantities of food aid are available to help meet increased energy requirements at this time.
Lack of sufficient response may result in the failure of returnees to cultivate, a reduction in cultivation among some of the host population, poor weeding, reduced capacity of host populations to support current and future returnees, and tension between the host and returnee populations. In addition, recent returnees may be forced to go back to northern Sudan if they can not survive in their old home areas.