- COVID-19: Authorities increase preparedness and response.
- COVID-19 measures driving returnees and movement of people
- Market prices for staple items continue to rise
- Continued increase in people on the move puts pressure on scarce resources
FOOD SECURITY AND AGRICULTURE
Poor food security exacerbated by COVID-19 containment measures including closure of cross-line markets
Clearing and preparation of farms for the next planting season is ongoing across all localities of Blue Nile, in response to early food shortages. The food shortages are due to a poor harvest as a result of previous rains, floods, as well as the closure of cross-line markets to minimize the spread of COVID-19. As a result of a poor harvest, farmers were not able get seeds to plant.
Most households across Blue Nile are now food insecure with no food stocks left. In Komo Ganza, for example, over 90% of households depended on markets as a source of food, though only around 5% of them can afford to buy from the market. As a result, the majority are engaged in alternative activities. For example, communities in Damo and Gondolo are trading charcoal, poles and grass as a source of income.
In Deran, Hillat Jadid, Ishkab, Madid and Tukabele, communities collected honey for sale and exchanging some for food. Wild roots locally known as amjoko are also an alternative source of food for this community.
Food insecurity is more severe in Balilla Dawala in Wadaka payam, where only 5 to 8% of households had food stocks in April. The community solely depends on gold mining in exchange for food and income, but gold mining stopped due to low demand following the closure of the border with Ethiopia as well as water shortage used in the mines. It is worth noting that food rations from refugee camps served as a backup, but this will not provide help for very long.
Meanwhile, this year food aid distribution targeted only 8,362 households, which unfortunately does not cover the entire region. Pre-positioning of food is ongoing in Chali, while in Yabus and Komo Ganza it will take place at the beginning of May.
In response to food insecurity, the government formed a special Task Force comprising medical professionals, security apparatus, food security experts that was tasked with mainstreaming food security in COVID-19 response in the region.
Clearing in both traditional and mechanized farms is ongoing. Returnees as well as host communities are struggling to settle while at the same time preparing land for the next planting. Lack of garden tools and seeds is reported. Cross-line markets are closed to contain COVID-19, so it is difficult to secure parts for mechanized schemes.
The food security situation remains poor among the entire population due to previous poor crop production, heavy rain and floods that damaged crops. Pests and birds also worsened crop production. In addition, a high influx of returnees (49,561 in total, of which 22,049 are male and 27,512 are female) in March from government-controlled areas and camps in South Sudan has exacerbated food insecurity. As a result, the population is in dire need of humanitarian aid.
As a result of a poor harvest, 80% households are depending on markets as a source of food resulting into increase in the sale of livestock and labor as a source of income to buy food. However, due to the closure of cross-line markets, it is difficult for households to access labor and better prices for their livestock. All markets closed, and this has significantly affected those families that entirely depended on markets as a source of food.