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South Sudan: Dire food security situation could worsen with COVID-19

22 Apr 2020


Sudanese refugees practice social distancing as they wait to wash their hands and collect a food distribution at Pamir camp in Jamjang, north-east South Sudan. Credit: UNHCR/Bith Bol Ayuel Dau

The already dire food security situation in South Sudan could worsen with the adverse economic impacts of COVID-19, including a slowdown in the importation of basic commodities.

Markets are under significant stress, as evidenced in sharp price increases. The price of a 50 kg bag of maize grain, for example, increased by 36 per cent in March.

The removal of non-essential staff from the workforce and the closure of nonessential businesses, coupled with the lingering impact of the devastating 2019 flooding, desert locust invasion and rapidly rising food prices will likely increase food insecurity and humanitarian needs. 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 6.5 million people – or 55 per cent of the population – were expected to face severe food insecurity at the height of the May to July annual hunger season.

The urban population is likely to be more vulnerable because of the dependence on markets for food and a higher population density, which exposes them to greater risk of disease transmission.

In the absence of large-scale national safety nets, additional efforts, beyond those in the Humanitarian Response Plan are required to prevent already extremely vulnerable households from becoming impoverished.

Humanitarian partners have been adapting the response to deliver safely, responsibly and effectively in this COVID-19 environment.

Double ration food distributions – as a transmission reduction measure – have been undertaken in high-risk locations such as camps for refugees and internally displaced people and areas already facing severe levels of food insecurity.

Ways of working, including how humanitarian partners distribute goods and offer services, are also being adapted to reduce risk.