South Sudan is facing unprecedented levels of acute food and nutrition insecurity in the wake of a five-year civil war that ended in 2018. This situation has been exacerbated by extreme weather events, periodic outbreaks of subnational violence, and the global impacts driven by the Russian invasion of Ukraine compounded by the ongoing civil war in Sudan which had caused an inflow of more than 100,000 returnees/refugees into South Sudan.
Since gaining independence in 2011, the oil-reliant east African country has contended with civil wars, economic stagnation, the fallout from COVID-19, and a string of devastating floods and droughts. More recently, the wider region has been rocked by the violence that erupted in Sudan in mid-April 2023.
According to recent estimates from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Action, 9.4 million people—or three-quarters of the population—now need humanitarian assistance. That is an increase of half a million people in a year, with women and children most affected. Taken together, these impacts continue to devastate the livelihoods of many South Sudanese.
Against this background, the world’s youngest nation recognizes the need for a well-coordinated and comprehensive program to reverse this trend. To do so, the country is implementing a new strategy to address the current food and nutrition security crisis and take proactive steps to prepare for future crises.
Planning for the future
Encouragingly, South Sudan’s 2018 peace agreement, and the formation of a Transitional Government of National Unity in 2020, has laid the foundation for an appropriate response to the escalating crisis. And a strategy to shore up food security is now in the works.
The government’s national Food Security Crisis Preparedness Plan—which is being developed in close collaboration with food and nutrition security partners across humanitarian and development communities—seeks to mitigate the effects of acute shocks on vulnerable communities. Its implementation comes after the recent Dakar 2 Summit, where South Sudan committed to raising public sector investments in agriculture to 10 percent, while also taking steps to boost productivity.
The Food Security Crisis Preparedness Plan seeks to systematize the collective and early recognition of an emerging and major food and nutrition security crisis in South Sudan and promote the timely mobilization of resources and scaled up action across government and its partners to save lives, protect livelihoods, and build resilience. These efforts are closely tied to the program led by the Global Alliance for Food Security to support greater preparedness for food and nutrition security crises worldwide.
This plan will include time-bound protocols and specify dedicated focal points to enhance technical and senior-level collaborations across the South Sudanese government and its partners, with a strong focus on transparency and accountability. As part of this initiative, a new joint monitoring report is being established to identify emerging and major shocks that could threaten food and nutrition security, which will be led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security with assistance from nongovernmental organizations.
The government also intends to revitalize its Food Security Council in the months ahead to fulfill the plan’s operational arrangements. The council is well placed to coordinate, streamline and link the efforts of all the country’s existing food security programs, which tend to operate independently of one another. A more coordinated program, coupled with the vital need to uphold the peace agreement and strengthen government service-delivery institutions, will be critical to combating current and future food and nutrition security crises in the country. These efforts also link to South Sudan’s ongoing efforts to build a more diversified, inclusive, and sustainable economy.
The right support at the right time
The World Bank Group, which has been engaged in South Sudan since the formation of the autonomous government in 2005, is committed to playing its part, and is working closely with its country partners in government and food and nutrition security to support the development of the Food Security Crisis Preparedness Plan.
As of June 2023, the World Bank Group’s portfolio in the country stands at US$1.2 billion, with a strong focus on health, water, social protection, agriculture, and community resilience. The World Bank has provided about 423,050 individuals with access to temporary income opportunities through direct income support and labor-intensive public works programs, including in agriculture. The International Monetary Fund has supported the country as well via its new Food Shock Window.
The World Bank is currently financing two government-implemented agriculture projects in South Sudan—the Emergency Locust Response Project and the Resilient Agricultural Livelihoods Project—worth US$116.2 million. The projects focus on providing a mix of investments that contribute to reducing food and nutrition insecurity for households and communities affected by the locust and other invasive species upsurge in the country. The projects also aim to help strengthen resilience and restore livelihood in the face of climate, economic, conflict, and other social challenges currently being experienced in South Sudan.
This comes as the World Bank Group continues to ramp up its global support to bolster food and nutrition security. For instance, over the past 15 months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the World Bank Group has been mobilizing a US$30 billion food and nutrition security package to support its clients at greatest risk.
The South Sudan Food Security Crisis Preparedness Plan is being supported by the Global Alliance for Food Security, which was jointly convened by the German Group of Seven (G7) presidency and the World Bank Group in 2022. The alliance is mobilizing support for South Sudan’s preparedness plan, which includes bringing in experts and consultants and hosting in-country technical workshops with government and food and nutrition security partners.
The alliance’s new Global Food and Nutrition Security Dashboard, meanwhile, provides granular and continuously updated data on the global food crisis, and the responses to it, including in South Sudan. The dashboard seeks to improve transparency and enable teams on the ground to make better informed decisions. The dashboard is also monitoring the status of the preparedness plan and will help connect the country to global support and additional resources if the plan is triggered.
Together, the dashboard and Food Security Crisis Preparedness Plan form a knowledge and action platform that will be crucial for food security both now and in the years to come.