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Sudan and South Sudan Food Security Alert: July 5, 2012

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Significant food consumption gaps expected across border areas of Sudan and South Sudan

Since the independence of South Sudan from Sudan nearly one year ago, food security conditions in both countries have deteriorated, due to poor 2011/2012 harvests, widespread conflict, macroeconomic instability, and severely disrupted trade flows which have limited market supplies. The impacts are most severe in border areas, where conflict, displacement, and trade restrictions are concentrated. In Sudan, areas of most concern include those controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. In border areas of South Sudan, concerns are greatest in Northern Bahr El Gazal, Warrap, Unity, and Upper Nile states. In both countries, Crisis and Emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC Phases 3 and 4) will persist through at least September. After September, harvests are likely to bring some temporary improvements. Emergency assistance to save both lives and livelihoods is required.

Fighting between SPLM-N and the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) has continued for over a year in South Kordofan and for nearly ten months in Blue Nile, causing massive displacement in both states. There are now at least 200,000 internally displaced people within these two states and more than 200,000 refugees from Blue Nile and South Kordofan in South Sudan and Ethiopia. In areas of Blue Nile and South Kordofan that are controlled by the SPLM-N, poor crop production has been exacerbated by ongoing limitations on trade, movement, and humanitarian access, which severely hinder access to other sources of food (wild foods, market purchases) and income (agricultural labor opportunities, sales of wild foods) as well as limit market supplies, pushing food prices well above average. As a result, the host population in SPLM-N areas of South Kordofan (about 50,000 people) faces food consumption gaps with high or above usual levels of acute malnutrition. IDPs in SPLM-N controlled areas of South Kordofan (150,000 – 200,000 people) are worse off. They face heavy asset losses, large food consumption gaps, very high levels of acute malnutrition, and excess mortality. Therefore, these areas of South Kordofan are classified as Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Those in SPLM-N-controlled areas of Blue Nile have less limitation on movement and better access to food than in South Kordofan and face Crisis levels of food insecurity. In both states, displaced households in Government of Sudan (GoS) controlled areas have better access to markets, labor opportunities, and humanitarian assistance and therefore these areas are classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Between now and August, food security is expected to deteriorate as food prices peak, food stocks are exhausted or drawn to a minimum among both IDPs and the host population, and limitations on trade, movement, and humanitarian assistance continue.

In South Sudan, Crisis levels of food insecurity in border areas are driven by widespread insecurity and pressure from growing returnee, refugee, and displaced populations on both the host population and market supplies. Market flows for grain typically sourced from Sudan remain constrained, forcing reliance on more expensive alternative markets such as Uganda. Prices of sorghum have substantially risen compared to last year. Although households have already turned to coping strategies including increased reliance on wild food, labor, petty trade, support from better-off kin, and movement to fishing areas, these have not been sufficient to compensate for food shortfalls. Humanitarian assistance has prevented a deterioration to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in a number of areas (Figure 1). A Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will continue in border areas through September. While markets are the main option for households to cover food shortfalls, unusually high prices are anticipated, particularly after the onset of the rains. Informal trade from Sudan may be significantly hindered given the recent GoS announcement to declare a state of emergency in border areas to curb smuggling to South Sudan.

In border areas of both countries, improvements in food security are expected following Oct-Dec harvests, but these may be short lived. Although average to above-average rainfall is forecast for the June to September season, area planted on both traditional small-scale and semi-mechanized farms is expected to be significantly reduced given displacement, reduced agricultural labor supply, and security concerns. As a result, if trade, movement and humanitarian assistance remain limited, food security during 2013 could be more severe than this year. However, the GoS recently agreed to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance to affected populations in South Korodofan and Blue Nile per the Tripartite Agreement sponsored by the African Union, Arab League, and U.N. If trade and assistance flows do improve, food security outcomes could improve over the coming six months, particularly once rains end in September and transport conditions improve.

Significant food consumption gaps are expected in many border areas of Sudan and South Sudan through September. Food assistance to meet survival and livelihoods protection needs is most critical for internally displaced, refugee, and returnee populations. FEWS NET will continue to monitor the impacts of conflict on the potential for households to cultivate this season, access key food sources, and reach markets and humanitarian assistance.