FEWS Southern Sudan Food Security Warning: 11 Feb 2003

Originally published
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) and the WFP Technical Support Unit (WFP TSU), in association with Save the Children (SC UK) and FAO, issue periodic warnings when population groups are now, or about to become, highly food insecure, unable to meet their own food needs during the given consumption period. These groups will be forced to reduce consumption, dispose of their productive assets and take increasingly irreversible actions that undermine their future food security.

Southern Sudan Continues to Face Critical Food Deficits

According to the Southern Sudan Annual Needs Assessment conducted in October-November 2002, nearly one-third of the estimated total population is highly food insecure in Gogrial, Aweil West, Pibor, Torit, Latjor, Bieh, Ruweng and Liech after suffering crop failure and inadequate access to food. An average of 572,000 people will require food aid every month during 2003. Most of the food will be provided through general distributions. Total food requirements for these people will reach 46,000 MT, exactly double the amount required in 2002. About 70 percent of the 46,000 MT will be needed during the hungry period between April and August.

Figure 1: Southern Sudan Food Aid Requirements for Highly Food Insecure Areas in 2003

Food aid needs are expected to drastically decrease in October when the next crops are harvested. However, it is expected that food requirements will continue after October in Liech and Ruweng if conflict disrupts this year's cultivation cycle, as it has in the last four years. As of January 2003, 35,000 MT of cereals were available with the main food aid agency, World Food Programme (WFP). Though the cereal stocks are expected to last until July, likely interventions in newly accessed food insecure areas such as Southern Blue Nile would exhaust the cereal pipe line by May. Other commodities such as oil and blended food will run out by the end of April and pulses by the end of May.

Nature of the Problem

The food security situation remains similar to that projected in November 2002 in Gogrial, Aweil West, Torit, Ruweng and Latjor due to continued impact erratic rainfall and insecurity during last year's June-October cropping season. An additional area of concern is Terekeka where food security has deteriorated rapidly as a result of a very poor harvest (Figure 2). Poor rains, dry spell and pests adversely affected sorghum during the flowering and grain filling stages, reducing yields and delaying the harvest by one to one and a half months. Current household food stocks are only expected to last until mid-February.

Click here to see Figure 2: Highly Food Insecure Areas of Southern Sudan

The situation in Pibor has slightly deteriorated for agricultural households following a poor second cropping harvest in December. The poor harvest led to increased consumption of cassava leaves towards end of last year, seriously affecting cassava yields and making the roots bitter, more difficult to prepare and unsuitable for children. As a result, households have increased the slaughtering and consumption of small livestock such as chickens and shoats. Desperate households have also started claiming ownership of common-access fruit trees, a sign that food security of these households is reaching critical levels.

The situation has been worsened by the return of 2,000 refugees from Pinyudo camp in Ethiopia. The ANA had projected a high likelihood of above normal movement of population into Ethiopia during the current dry season (December-April) in search of food in refugee camps, but the recent wave of insecurity in the refugee camps has made this option much less attractive. A WFP team conducting a rapid assessment in the area observed and reported cases of malnutrition among children less than five years of age in January. Similar observations were made during annual needs assessment in October last year. Currently, WFP is urging that a nutritional survey to be conducted in the area. The WFP team also reported increased movement of pastoralists out of the county towards the southern part of Bor in search of pasture and water.

Fighting and insecurity have escalated in the northern parts of Liech since the start of January, cutting off access to populations in the area. Although the preliminary ANA had projected a very poor harvest, final results revealed that there were small pockets where households had a reasonable harvest that would last until the start of March. However, ongoing fighting has resulted to displacement of 50,000 people and this could lead to accelerated consumption or loss of the small amount of grain that may be available.

Recommendations for Action

Given the highly food insecure scenario that is expected to continue until the next harvest in September, FEWS NET and WFP highly recommend that agencies dealing with food security and food aid:

  • Monitor the situation in their respective areas closely on a regular basis and pay particular attention to identification and analysis of distress signals and timely sharing of findings among all agencies and decision makers.

  • Address food pipeline management issues now to ensure that food stocks do not run out during crucial times of the year, as in the last four years. The consequences of not carrying out these recommendations would seriously hamper the ability of the affected po