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Widespread Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes anticipated at the peak of 2020 lean season

Key Messages

  • During the 2020 lean season, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes are widespread in South Sudan. The severity and scale of acute food insecurity are high across the country, driven by the loss of productive assets linked to conflict, poor macroeconomic conditions, and large-scale crop and livestock losses during the 2019 floods. At this time of year, the relative importance of food purchased from markets to household food access is seasonally high. Escalating inter-communal conflict in Warrap, Lakes, and Jonglei is also interfering with households’ ability to engage in productive livelihood activities. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) persists in areas most significantly affected by recent or recurrent shocks, especially in Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap, and Upper Nile.

  • Although most COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in May, the overall demand for labor and services remains below normal levels. In urban areas, the decline in daily income coupled with high food prices is likely driving an increase in the number of food insecure households. In rural areas and Protection of Civilian sites, where the known spread of COVID-19 remains low, the direct and indirect impacts on rural households’ health or food security are still low. However, the population’s vulnerability to the health and food security impacts of COVID-19 is very high, based on existing high acute malnutrition prevalence, poor access to health services and WASH infrastructure, and levels of chronic or other illnesses.

  • At the peak of the lean season in July/August, the magnitude and severity of acute food insecurity are expected to increase as household food access becomes increasingly constrained by rising, high food prices. Food insecurity will be most severe in Jonglei, Lakes, Warrap, and Upper Nile, where inter-communal conflict is likely to persist in the near-term and where a forecast of above-average rainfall in eastern South Sudan poses a high risk of flooding. Based on low food availability, high food prices, and limited livelihoods coping options, many households will be extremely vulnerable to disruptions in access to markets, food assistance, or other food and income sources. Under these conditions, Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5)[1] is possible among some households in localized areas in the 2020 lean season. While efforts to distribute double distributions of food assistance to 2.8 million people is underway in June, the effects of insecurity, operational challenges due to COVID-19, and/or seasonal deterioration in road access could delay or impede deliveries.

  • During the post-harvest period, food security is expected to marginally improve to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in most areas. Based on a forecast of favorable rainfall in western South Sudan but offset by poor access to seeds, 2020 harvests are likely to be similar to or lower than last year. Most rural households with access to arable land are expected to harvest several months of stocks, while milk, fish, and wild food availability will be seasonally high. However,Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is expected to persist in conflict-affected or flood-prone areas of Jonglei, Warrap, Upper Nile, and Lakes, where crop and livestock production prospects are most likely to remain below normal. In the event that the scale of flooding in 2020 is severe in Jonglei or Upper Nile and temporarily prevents households from accessing food sources, it is possible that some households could experience Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) during the post-harvest period.

[1] Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) is when a household group has an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even after the full employment of coping strategies. This can occur in the case of a localized situation, or if there is a time-lag between food insecurity, acute malnutrition, and mortality.


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