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South Sudan: More than 6.35 million people severely food insecure in August despite large scale humanitarian assistance

26 Sep 2019

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map of projected IPC acute food insecurity for august 2019
IPC acute food insecurity for August 2019. Source: IPC

More than 6.35 million people – 54 per cent of the South Sudanese population – were severely food insecure in August, despite large scale humanitarian assistance, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis released jointly by three United Nations agencies and the Government on 11 September.

Among these people, an estimated 1.7 million people faced Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity and 10,000 people faced catastrophic conditions (IPC Phase 5). The analysis showed a 5 per cent reduction in the proportion of severely food insecure people compared to the same period last year.

Decreased armed conflict and people’s improved access to livelihoods and markets are some of the reasons why the food security situation improved, said the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The availability of seasonal harvests from September in most parts of the country, which have been relatively secure, was also a factor. Between September and December 2019, 4.54 million people – 39 per cent of the population – are projected to be severely food insecure.

With improved security, some internally displaced persons and refugee returnees have returned to their homes to cultivate their land and increase their own food production. According to FAO, South Sudan’s cereal production has increased by 150,000 metric tons in the last year, attributed to the improved security in most parts of the country. A more stable political environment has also allowed for improved delivery of humanitarian assistance to previously hard to reach areas.

However, in the post-harvest period of January to April 2020, the food security situation will deteriorate again as households begin depleting their supply of food as they enter the lean season, when there is not enough food for them to eat. Some 5.50 million people – 47 per cent of the population – are projected to be severely food insecure in the January to April 2020 projection period.

Despite slight improvements in food security, the number of acutely malnourished children was estimated to reach 1.3 million. This is the highest number recorded since independence.

Jointly releasing the nutrition analysis, UNICEF called for a shift from treatment of malnutrition to prevention, including not only food assistance, promotion of breastfeeding and nutrition counselling, but also access to clean water, proper hygiene and health care. Humanitarians have also called for a speedy implementation of the revitalized peace agreement to facilitate people’s access to livelihoods, markets and humanitarian assistance.