(Circulated only for countries where foodcrops or supply conditions give rise to concern)


DATE: 15 MAY 1998


The food supply situation in southern Sudan gives cause for serious concern. Intensified civil conflict since January, particularly in Bahr El Ghazal, has resulted in fresh waves of population displacement aggravating an already precarious food situation following the 1997 drought-reduced harvest. This, together with difficulties in distribution of relief assistance, has led to severe malnutrition in Bahr El Ghazal, Western Upper Nile and Eastern Equatoria States, with starvation-related deaths reported from some areas. Food prices have risen sharply throughout the region and are too high for the majority of the population. Coping mechanisms have been largely exhausted. Reflecting serious food shortages people have resorted to the consumption of wild fruits and plants. In Bahr El Ghazal region alone 350 0000 people, including 150 000 recently displaced, are at risk of starvation unless adequate relief assistance is distributed urgently. Nutrition surveys carried out by UNICEF on children under five in Wau, the capital of West Bahr El Ghazal, indicate an overall malnutrition rate of 29 percent of which some 9 percent are severely malnourished.

Fifteen years of civil strife has dealt a serious blow to southern Sudanís economy and damaged much of the regionís infrastructure. Economic and agricultural activities, as well as traditional trading and exchange patterns, have been seriously disrupted. Agriculture has suffered from physical damage to infrastructure, population displacement, disruption of marketing networks and input delivery mechanisms. Frequent weather hazards have hampered production. A combination of these factors has significantly reduced productivity and food supplies, jeopardizing the food security of the population. The December 1997 FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission estimated that the cereal production in Southern Sudan (excluding the mechanized area of Renk) was 45 percent lower than in 1996. Eastern Equatoria, Lakes, Bahr El Jebel and Bahr El Ghazal were the most affected States, with widespread crop failures due to the prolonged dry weather. Last yearís drought also resulted in poor conditions of livestock and pastures.

Fifteen years ago, two-thirds of the population of southern Sudan derived their living from pastoralism. However, the prolonged civil conflict has resulted in incessant looting and cattle raiding. Even in areas where localized surpluses of grain are available in good years, poor infrastructure and insecurity renders the transport of these surpluses to deficit areas almost impossible. The disruption of economic activity has resulted in high unemployment, which has limited the access to food for many. As a result, large sections of the population have become dependent on food aid and are highly vulnerable to even small reductions in production. Some 60 to 70 per cent of the population in Eastern Equatoria, Bahr El Ghazal, Lakes, parts of Jonglei State and the transitional zones are currently in need of emergency food aid.

Difficulties in transporting relief food aid by land due to insecurity and poor road conditions, as well as restrictions on distribution since early February, have meant that only limited quantities of assistance have reached the affected population. The situation is expected to improve following the Governmentís agreement with the UN Secretary-General in early May to allow additional relief flights into most areas of the South. However, flights have recently been interrupted by heavy rains in northern Kenya, which have also washed away vital bridges.

Prospects for the 1998 main season food crops, to be harvested from July, will depend largely on rainfall in the next two months. However, early indications are not encouraging. Plantings, which normally take place in April, have been reduced. Large areas have remained uncultivated because of population displacement. Latest satellite images indicate late, erratic and generally insufficient rainfall from late March to the first dekad of May, with precipitation well below normal in Bahr El Gazal, the state most affected by the civil strife, and in areas of Western Equatoria. Severe shortages of seeds, following last yearís poor harvest, have also compromised plantings. As a result, prospects so far for this yearís harvest are unfavourable. Another poor harvest this year would have serious implications for the food security of the population and widespread starvation may occur unless adequate relief assistance is mobilized to the affected population.

Donors are urged to make additional food aid pledges and to provide financial support for seeds and tools for the next cropping season. Support for the distribution of relief assistance to the affected population is also needed.

This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO Secretariat with information from official and unofficial sources. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact Mr. Abdur Rashid, Chief, ESCG, FAO, (Telex 610181 FAO I; Fax: 0039-6-5705-4495, E-Mail (INTERNET): [email protected]) for further information if required.
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