Cablegate: Southern Sudan Food Security Crisis Spurs International

Published: Mon 7 Sep 2009 03:34 PM
DE RUEHKH #1030/01 2501534
O 071534Z SEP 09
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Southern Sudan Food Security Crisis Spurs International
Donor Response
1. (U) Summary: Parts of Southern Sudan are experiencing severe food
insecurity as a result of: (1) high levels of physical insecurity
and resulting displacements; (2) high food prices; and (3) late
rains that have extended the hunger gap three months longer than
normal. According to the Annual Needs and Livelihood Assessment
(ANLA) conducted in 2008, 1.2 million individuals in Southern Sudan
may be severely food insecure until the end of 2009. During the
week of August 15, the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) and the
UN issued appeals to address the southern Sudan food security
crisis. USAID has granted WFP the flexibility to shift substantial
pre-positioned U.S. food aid to meet these needs. Additional
disaster resources may be required to avert a widespread crisis.
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ANLA: 1.2 Million Severely Food Insecure in 2009
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2. (U) In October 2008, the Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation
Commission (SSRRC), Food Security Technical Secretariat/Southern
Sudan Commission for Census, Statistics and Evaluation, World Food
Program (WFP), UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO), GoSS Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), and the
Ministry of Health (MoH) conducted an Annual Needs and Livelihood
Assessment (ANLA) to project food security and nutrition needs for
2009. The assessment encompassed interviews of 4,500 households and
anthropometric measurements of 5,600 children under five years of
age. The October 2008 ANLA found that 1.2 million people in
Southern Sudan were vulnerable to becoming severely food insecure
during 2009. The survey also determined that Southern Sudan would
need approximately 96,000 metric tons (MT) of food aid to mitigate
the potential crisis.
3. (U) In July 2009, the GoSS and UN agencies conducted a mid-year
ANLA to update calculations of food needs for the remainder of 2009.
At the August 15 Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly, GoSS Vice
President Dr. Riek Machar Teny presented the Food Security and
Disaster Risk Reduction plan, requesting that donors support a UN
appeal for an additional USD 44 million for food assistance, USD 9.3
million for emergency health and nutrition assistance, and USD 3.9
million for a livelihood response. USAID plans for current partners
to respond to the recent emergency with contingency resources
already prepositioned around the south, although additional
international donors may support the UN appeal.
4. (U) The joint assessment team conducted a rapid assessment in
Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Northern Bahr El-Ghazal, Upper Nile, and
Warrab states. The team chose the five states based on pre-existing
levels of food security and other aggravating factors existing in
2009. Using primary and secondary data, the team analyzed relevant
2009 assessments, satellite images of rainfall, internally displaced
person (IDP) numbers, and market prices. The assessment found that
the combinations of: (1) high levels of physical insecurity and
displacements; (2) late rains; and (3) high food prices have lead to
a massive food deficit in Southern Sudan.
IDPs in South More Than Doubles
5. (U) According to the assessment and the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), since January 2009
Southern Sudan has experienced increased levels of physical
insecurity and displacement. As of mid-July, Southern Sudan hosted
250,000 IDPs, many resulting from inter-ethnic conflict in Jonglei
and Upper Nile states as well as attacks by the Lord's Resistance
Army (LRA) in Western and Central Equatoria states. (NOTE: This
figure is almost two and a half times higher than that for the whole
of 2008. END NOTE.) Typically, inter-ethnic conflict subsides with
the beginning of the rainy season due to decreased access; however,
because the rains failed to arrive in May and June, movement
remained unrestricted and fighting continued. According to OCHA,
Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Western Equatoria have been the most
affected by the recent conflicts, resulting in 45,000, 59,000, and
78,000 IDPs, respectively.
6. (SBU) WFP and GoSS officials are particularly concerned about the
humanitarian situation in Akobo County, Jonglei State, following the
June 12 attack outside of Nassir Town, Upper Nile State. This
attack closed the river corridor, hampering the UN's ability to
transport food into the area and to respond to the Akobo IDP needs
without airlifts. Following earlier displacement, the 20,000 IDPs
in Akobo remain dependent on WFP general food distributions. The
landing strip in Akobo can only accommodate a small Buffalo (5 to 7
MT capacity) aircraft, severely limiting the delivery capacity of
WFP to the area. WFP continues to work on opening the river and in
late August was able to send a barge from Malakal to Akobo and back,
using a UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) escort to Nassir. However, food
is urgently needed in the area and thus some portion of the food
will be airdropped to avert a major crisis.
Food Airlifts Necessary to Meet Need
7. (SBU) Airlifting food increases delivery costs and decreases the
amount of food delivered, making it increasingly difficult to
respond to needs. Airdropping will vastly increase the tonnage
delivered as WFP could deploy large aircrafts. For example, an
Ilyushin 76 can carry 30 MT from El Obeid, Northern Kordofan State,
to the drop zone. (NOTE: The cost of airdropping food into the area
is three to four times more expensive than transporting food aid via
river transport due to the cost of the plane rental and the
re-bagging of commodities that is required to protect the bags from
breaking upon hitting the ground. END NOTE). In the UN and GoSS
appeal, WFP requested USD 16.4 million to cover the costs of
airdrops through the end of 2009. According to WFP, the proposed
combination of interventions will reduce the announced airdrop
budget but the organization will still require at least USD 12
Hunger Season to Last Through October
8. (U) The late rains have significantly affected the households
relying on subsistence agriculture. Farmers plant three varieties
of sorghum in Southern Sudan to harvest cereals at different times
of the year and help mitigate crop failure risks. In a typical
year, the hunger season ends in August following the harvest of
short variety sorghum; however, poor rainfall in May and June
significantly impacted the August harvest, ruining crops and
extending the hunger season through at least October. According to
the ANLA review, assuming a continuation of good rains that finally
started in July in most states, the next harvest expected between
October and November may be at or moderately below average.
However, with poor rainfall and insecurity continuing in Upper Nile
and Jonglei, this will not be the case as most people have not
resumed agriculture activities. According to the August 2009 UN
Emergency Action Plan, the next harvest in these two states is
expected to be below normal or may fail altogether, putting hundreds
of thousands of already weakened people at serious risk of
starvation. In addition, excessive rainfall between August and
October might cause flooding that could further negatively impact
the later harvest.
Food Prices Rise
9. (U) Since February, food prices have increased and livestock
prices have decreased in urban markets per the ANLA review. The
rising food prices are a result of a combination of factors
including: (1)the impact of the 2008 global food price crisis; (2)
poor harvests in Eastern Africa; (3) new food import taxes imposed
by the GoSS; (4) hoarding of food by traders; and (5) disruption of
trade due to insecurity. Due to the higher food prices, the ANLA
review observed individual coping mechanisms, including the selling
of livestock, which subsequently drove down its value and altered
the markets' terms of trade (ToT). The ToT measurement of how much
sorghum a household can buy in the market by selling an adult bull
has also dropped considerably throughout Southern Sudan. In Aweil,
Northern Bahr El-Ghazal State, in July 2008, one adult bull could
buy 700kg of sorghum. In July 2009, the proceeds from one bull
could only purchase 200 kg of sorghum. (NOTE: The ToT is a key
indicator for agro-pastoral households, as such behavior tracks key
coping mechanisms during the hunger season and in times of abnormal
stress. END NOTE.)
10. (U) On August 15, at the Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly,
GoSS Vice President Machar outlined the Food Security and Disaster
Risk Reduction plan for GoSS officials, National Congress Party
representatives, and the international donor community, asking
international donors to increase funding in order to respond to the
current situation. During the meeting, SSRRC and WFP
representatives presented the results of the mid-year review
including the projected requirements to respond to the food security
crisis. Currently, the UN Emergency Action Plan includes requests
for USD 44 million for food security to WFP, of which USD 12 million
would be for the cost of airdrops, USD 9.3 million for health and
nutrition to UNICEF, and USD 3.9 million for livelihood activities
for FAO. USAID staff provided details of USAID's Office of Food for
Peace (USAID/FFP) support to WFP each year, announced USAID/FFP's
USD 250 million contribution for WFP's 2010 operation and reiterated
the USG's support to the people of Sudan.
11. (U) USAID is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to
Sudan. In recent years, USAID/FFP has provided WFP with
approximately 50 percent of their annual emergency food aid needs.
For fiscal year 2009, USAID/FFP's contribution to WFP's operation
has an estimated value of USD 367 million. In addition, in
preparation for WFP's 2010 emergency operation and in order to fill
the food pipeline so that WFP can preposition food starting in
January before the rains arrive and access is compromised, USAID/FFP
has provided an early contribution of 218,760 MT, valued at USD 250
million. To assist WFP with the emergency food distributions,
USAID/FFP partner, Catholic Relief Services, plans to use 1,450 MT
of their contingency stocks prepositioned in Southern Sudan to
respond to this crisis. USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster
Assistance (USAID/OFDA) implements a FY 2009 USD 28 million dollar
emergency program in the south, including recent funding for
partners in Jonglei and Upper Nile to respond to the conflict and
food security crisis. USAID/OFDA partners provide health,
nutrition, food security, safe water and non-food item distribution
activities throughout the south and remain well-positioned to
provide a response in this crisis. Because USAID programs are able
to respond to the situation using existing partners and funding,
USAID does not anticipate allocating additional funds at this time
to support the UN appeal.
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12. (SBU) In light of the GoSS's commitment to spend USD 2.7 billion
for a strategic food reserve and grain contracts (REFTEL), many
international donors are frustrated with the current situation and
the GoSS's inability to respond. The GoSS has little to show for
the off-budget grain purchases, according to WFP and international
donors. In addition, WFP and international humanitarian agencies
note that due to inadequate storage facilities, much of the food
that was purchased is now unfit for human consumption. Given this
situation, strengthening the GoSS's ability to mitigate risk and
coordinate an appropriate response will be essential. In addition
to any emergency assistance given, international donors should
continue to engage the GoSS on early warning and disaster mitigation
efforts to build GoSS capacity.
13. (SBU) Other international donors will likely address portions of
the UN appeal, particularly the airdrop costs.
In preliminary conversations with other donors, it appears that
DFID, the Joint Donor Team, European Commission's Humanitarian Aid
Office, and the Common Humanitarian Fund will likely provide funds
for the UN appeal. The UN and donors met during the week of August
24 to discuss and coordinate an appropriate response.
14. (SBU) Although WFP has adequate food stocks in Sudan to respond
to the 22,000 MT needed to address the crisis by shifting food from
less-urgent, development-oriented food aid projects, the
organization is currently looking for additional funding to ensure
that these programs can continue for the remainder of the year.
Some international donors, including USAID and DFID, fear that the
appeal has underestimated needs because the UN assessment team
assumed normal rainfall for the remainder of 2009 and normal
harvests between October and December. In addition, USAID believes
that further inter-ethnic clashes may increase IDP numbers and
needs. The Mission will continue to monitor the situation, and
USAID will work with its partners to ensure that USG programs are
responding to the most urgent needs. At the same time, USAID will
continue recovery activities that are designed to stabilize areas of
return and support food security. The briefing from the GoSS and
meetings with the UN indicated, however, that the situation could
require additional emergency resources.
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