FEWS Sudan Monthly Report - Water shortages undermine food security

Originally published



Food security monitoring assessments conducted between January and March concur with food security projections made by various food aid agencies in December 2002. Apart from the recent arrival of returnees from Ethiopia, the food security situation is not significantly different from what was foreseen earlier, even in the highly food insecure areas of Aweil West, Pibor, Latjor, Ruweng, Bieh, Torit, Terekeka, Liech, and Gogrial.

Water shortages have become critical and more widespread as the dry season advances. This has become more evident through increased seasonal migration and could threaten the June-October cropping season as households are likely to extend their stay near the remaining water sources.

At the beginning of this month, a Climate Outlook Forum (COF) forecasted that the Eastern part of southern Sudan would have normal to above normal rainfall during the March to May season, and the Western part would have normal to below normal rainfall.

Assessments have confirmed that sufficient seed is locally available for purchase and distribution before the start of the June -- October cropping season. However, the prices demanded by farmers in some areas are exorbitant.

Interventions in the Southern Blue Nile region were delayed last month because the Government of Sudan denied access to the region. This decision was reversed on March 11, and agencies are preparing for interventions.

1.0 Overview of Current Food Security Status

Recent food security monitoring assessments conducted by food aid and health agencies have found varying food security situations even within seemingly homogenous areas. For instance, in highly food insecure areas, such as Ruweng and Aweil East, some stocks of grain still exist. The main factor compounding food insecurity is a widespread shortage of water, leading to unusually large movements of people, including households that would not move under typical conditions. The movements have been more pronounced in Aweil East, Ruweng, Latjor, Pibor, Bieh, Sobat, and Southern Blue Nile. The main concern is that affected populations will prolong their stay near water and grazing sources at the expense of preparing their land.

Good prospects of normal to above normal rainfall between March and May in the eastern part of southern Sudan do, however, present an incentive for households in these areas to return to their homes in time to prepare their land. With normal to below normal rainfall expected in the western parts of southern Sudan, the reverse is more likely, possibly reducing the amount of land which will be cleared this year, particularly in Bahr El Gazal region. Although water shortages are typical during the dry season (January-May), the magnitude of this shortage and subsequent extent of the seasonal migrations have been increasing over time due to consecutive years of poor and erratic rainfall, consistent with most countries in the greater Horn of Africa. While agencies have recognized the need to strengthen water-related interventions, chances of success are low in areas with recurrent insecurity. Peace talks between the Sudan Government and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army resumed in March and are currently focusing on the administration of the key disputed areas of Abyei, Nuba and southern Blue Nile. It is believed that the success of these talks is essential to future peace and the food security of people in Sudan.

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