In Brief: South Sudan facing highest ever levels of food insecurity

Displaced residents carry relief food as they wade through flood waters in Gumuruk, Boma state, in the Greater Upper Nile region of South Sudan in Nov. 2019. Photo by: Samir Bol / Reuters

South Sudan is facing the highest levels of food insecurity and malnutrition since it declared independence 10 years ago. An estimated 7.7 million people will need food assistance.

The country’s 2021 humanitarian response plan, released Tuesday by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, states that “the latest food security analysis estimates that the lean season [April to July], will be the worst ... ever.” Approximately 108,000 people are predicted to be in phase 5, which on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, or IPC, scale, indicates catastrophe or famine and is the highest possible classification.

Why it matters: In a statement, Anthony Rama, Tearfund’s South Sudan country director, said, “about half the population is in dire need of food assistance. We have endured years of intercommunal conflicts and now COVID has ... weakened our fragile health system’s ability to treat people.”

Rama added that there are severe food shortages in all the geographical areas where his organization works and that it is now targeting relief only in those regions for which the IPC has classified the severity of food insecurity as phase 4 or phase 5.

Earlier this year, Devex reported that the government’s refusal to endorse the findings of food security experts was creating a rift with humanitarian groups.

What’s next: OCHA is requesting $1.7 billion to reach 6.6 million people with urgent life-saving assistance and protection by the end of the year.

“Our immediate priorities include sustaining our response in the most food insecure areas and preparing for the upcoming rainy season, which is forecasted to lead once again to major floods,” said Alain Noudéhou, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan. “But we need urgent funding to prevent a further deterioration of the situation.”

About the author

  • Rumbi Chakamba

    Rumbi Chakamba is an Associate Editor at Devex based in Botswana, who has worked with regional and international publications including News Deeply, The Zambezian, Outriders Network, and Global Sisters Report. She holds a bachelor's degree in international relations from the University of South Africa.