Sudan: Rapid food security assessment of IDP locations in White Nile state - Mar 2009


1. Summary

White Nile state, situated just south of Khartoum state, on the border to South Sudan, was a large recipient of displaced persons in the 1980s. A devastating famine stuck large parts of Sudan in 1983, forcing hundreds of thousands to leave their homes. Soon thereafter, the second civil war erupted between the federal government and the South Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), resulting in additional displacement. For some, White Nile was a point of transit, commonly a stop on the way to urban centers, most popular of which was Khartoum; some stayed in White Nile until rainfall returned to normal around 1986; others still remain, made reluctant to return by poor social services and infrastructure in their places of origin. Most displaced persons in White Nile reside in and around the state capital of Kosti.

The economy of White Nile is dominated by the agricultural sector (together with transportation). The agricultural season affects directly the agricultural industry and thus indirectly most facets of economic life in the area through lower demand of goods and services. Following an unusually poor season in 2008/09 for the large agricultural schemes that account for much of the employment opportunities for IDPs, and for agricultural activities in general, the WFP sub-office in Kosti requested that an assessment should be undertaken in order to better understand the food security situation of the IDP population. In an effort to build capacity, all VAM officers of the CETA sub-offices participated, together with VAM staff from Khartoum. The assessment was conducted 3-16 March.

This food security assessment aimed at estimating the prevalence of food security among the WFP-assisted population of White Nile, with a focus on the IDP population. The goal was to estimate the level and type of needs in this population - drawing for a wide range of primary and secondary data. Assessment methodology included household interviews, interviews of community leaders and key informants, and collection of market prices. Six locations were visited by the assessment team, selected to be the major IDP locations in White Nile state.

Analysis of data from the assessment shows that although income is low - IDP households earn approximately 2.2 SDGs per person per day, while the cost of a healthy food basket is 1.1 SDGs per person per day - a large majority of households (93 percent) have an acceptable diet.

However, many of the common income generating activities - such as domestic work and agricultural wage labor - are plagued by poor profitable and the impact of the poor agricultural season on the entire agriculture-based economy of White Nile, mainly manifested as below average demand for labor, resulting in low wages. Nonetheless, most IDPs living in and around Kosti seem to be sufficiently integrated into the urban economy to sustain a viable livelihood.

Households living far away from Kosti appear to have a considerably worse diet and also a somewhat lower income compared to households in and around Kosti. The relatively poor performance of the households outside Kosti is not compensated by a corresponding overperformance in land cultivation or livestock rearing, as high land-prices prevent these livelihoods to be widely adopted. This suggests that the food security divide between urban and rural households is as least as important as that between residents and IDP households.

Of the assessed population, 79 percent are food secure, 18 percent moderately food insecure, and 3 percent severely food insecure. However, despite widespread food security, malnutrition continues to be a problem for a small segment of the population. The assessment concludes that poor feeding practices for young children are common, that water sources are almost exclusively unsafe, and that latrine coverage is inadequate. These are all possible explanations for the nutritional situation.

The assessment supports WFP's strategic decision of transforming general food distributions in the IDP into development-type assistance (food for work, food for training etc.) and safety nets (supplementary feeding programs). Food assistance could play a role in community development, such as latrine construction or water safety interventions (for example construction of filter stations). Of particular promise is the income generating projects of Fellowship of African Relief (FAR) which assists farmers to grow their own food. WFP's collaboration with FAR should continue and the possibility of extending the project to more households should be explored.

For provision of safety nets, if it recommended that all persons meeting the anthropometric screening criteria at supplementary feeding stations are given assistance, and that the program is closely monitored as the recent cut in ration could increase drop-out rates.