Cyclical improvements of food security in South Sudan provide a short window of opportunity

Cyclical improvements of food security in South Sudan provide a short window of opportunity


Humanitarian assistance is having a measurable and significant impact in South Sudan. The combined efforts of the Food Security and Livelihood Cluster (co-led by FAO, WFP and Mercy Corps) and Nutrition Cluster have helped to pull 2 million people back from the brink of famine and severe food insecurity. Since May 2014, some of the worst-affected counties of Unity State reached by humanitarian assistance have improved from IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) to IPC Phase 3 (Crisis). The IPC consists of five phases that classify the levels of food insecurity people are facing, beginning with Phase 1 (Minimal) and Phase 5 (Famine).

This progress, however, is fragile, partial, temporary and expensive. Despite current short-term improvements, 1.5 million people are projected to remain severely food insecure until the end of 2014, which is a fifty percent increase from December 2013. The baseline of people in need is higher than last year and the figure is set to increase as the dry season intensifies in early next year when the number of people in Crisis or Emergency phases of food insecurity is predicted to be 2.5 million people.

FAO has already reached over 1.5 million people (250 000+ households) with more than 400 000 emergency livelihood kits. FAO continues to strengthen its work in less-affected areas to protect food production, availability and access with the aim of boosting national food production in 2015.

There is a short window of opportunity to mitigate a large-scale humanitarian emergency in 2015.  FAO South Sudan is urgently seeking USD 48 million to maintain and expand current operations and to procure and pre-position supplies needed for early 2015. FAO continues to provide crucial food security information, analysis and coordination in South Sudan and is a leading partner in the IPC process.

The newly released IPC analysis highlights that seasonal patterns also have contributed to a temporary improvement in food security across South Sudan, particularly in areas not affected by conflict. The seasonal availability of crops, livestock products, fish and wild foods has improved thanks to normal rainfall, and good crop planting and performance in less affected areas, and owing to the start of the green harvest in late August. At the same time, local communities have relied heavily on their families and neighbours for support, sharing their limited resources. "Ever since the beginning of the crisis, the people of South Sudan have done what they always do, which is work so hard to survive. To find ways of harvesting wild foods, of accessing markets, of selling and slaughtering their livestock”, according to Sue Lautze, FAO Representative and the UN’s Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator.

"Normally this is the season of reduced needs because the rains bring fish, improved pasture and wild foods, and the risk of conflict generally diminishes. The principal concern is to what extent will vulnerability spike again when the land dries and those natural resources diminish and the risk of conflict could return," said Dr Lautze.

FAO has scaled up its resilience-building efforts in South Sudan since March 2014, with a portfolio of emergency and development work that has expanded nearly five times over the past year. FAO promotes a dual-track approach that responds to the immediate needs of crisis-affected populations while increasing food production and protecting livelihoods in less-affected areas.

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