Press Release: South Sudan is Facing One of the Worst Food Security and Nutrition Crises Globally

May 2021
  • 7.2 million people, representing 60% of the country’s population, are expected to face high levels of acute food insecurity.
  • Around 108,000 people are expected to be in Catastrophe level (IPC Phase 5) by July 2021 mainly in Jonglei, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, and Warrap States. 
  • An immediate scaled-up humanitarian response is required to save lives and protect livelihoods.   

Nairobi, 10th of May, 2021. South Sudan is facing one of the worst food security and nutrition crises globally, as an estimated 7.2 million people, representing 60% of the country’s population, are expected to face high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3+) between now and the peak of the next lean season in July 2021. Of these, around 108,000 people are expected to be in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) by July mainly in Jonglei, Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap States, according to IPC Global Support Unit’s consolidated findings from the South Sudan IPC Technical Working Group analysis and two external reviews (Quality Review and Famine Review).    

Of particular concern is Pibor county where, according to the Famine Review Committee, Gumuruk, Pibor, Lekuangole, and Verteth payams are projected to face a “Famine Likely” situation (IPC Phase 5) while Kizongora and Maruwa payams will be at “Risk of Famine”. The main drivers of food insecurity in the country are conflict, widespread flooding, COVID-19, and a protracted macroeconomic crisis.  

The nutrition situation also remains critical, as an estimated 1.4 million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition through 2021. Of these, about 313,000 are expected to suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), and therefore face an increased risk of death. As per recent nutrition SMART surveys conducted by UNICEF in Pibor, Akobo West and Tonj North counties, the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) was estimated at 21.6%, 19.0%, and 18.4% respectively, which are far above the internationally agreed emergency threshold (15%). 

Despite life-threatening levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in South Sudan, the humanitarian response remains largely underfunded. As of April 29, 2021, just 19% (USD 313.5 million of UDS 1.7 billion) of the funding requirement for the 2021 humanitarian response plan had been met, according to UNOCHA.  

Immediate, scaled-up humanitarian action to save lives and protect livelihoods is therefore required.  

In particular, FSNWG calls for:  

  • Immediate and adequate life-saving food, livelihood and nutrition support for populations projected to face high levels of food insecurity and acute malnutrition. Initiatives such as providing food and cash assistance, strengthening social protection systems, improving availability of and access to quality curative and preventive nutrition services should all be scaled up. 
  • Sustained advocacy to ensure continuity of essential health, nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation services.  
  • Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to end the conflict, which is the primary driver of acute food insecurity and malnutrition in South Sudan. High-level advocacy on access must also be immediately pursued. 
  • Interventions to protect and increase agricultural production, strengthen transport and trade links, ensure safe pastoral livestock movements, build strategic grain reserves, reduce post-harvest losses and support small and medium enterprises along key crop, livestock, and fishing value chains. 
  • Strengthen collaborations between government, humanitarian and development actors, so as to ensure collective advocacy and mobilization of resources to provide immediate assistance that saves lives and protects the livelihoods of vulnerable populations in South Sudan. 
  • Close multi-agency response to humanitarian needs of affected populations and monitoring of the food security and nutrition situation, including the continued collection of data to inform analyses. 
  • Establish and/or strengthen food security and nutrition information and early warning systems given the increasing frequency and severity of food security and nutrition shocks in the country. 

Media Requests   

  • Wawira Njoka,, +254 721 799 767 
  • Marta Baraibar,, +254 742 368 532 


Note: Based on IPC Global Support Unit’s consolidated findings from the South Sudan IPC Technical Working Group and external reviews (Famine Review and Quality Review), following a breakdown in technical consensus in the estimation of populations in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) in six counties. According to the South Sudan IPC Technical Working Group, 3,144,000 people were in Stress (IPC Phase 2), 4,743,000 in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), 2,467,000 in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and 31,000 in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) is a set of standardized tools used to classify the severity of food insecurity using a widely accepted five-phase scale, that is, Minimal (IPC Phase 1), Stressed (IPC Phase 2), Crisis (IPC Phase 3), Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Catastrophe/Famine (IPC Phase 5).   Share Tweet ForwardNote to editors: Note to editors on the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group: The Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG) is a regional platform, currently co-chaired by IGAD and FAO. Its goal is twofold: Providing an up-to-date food security and nutrition situation analysis (early warning) and offering a forum to build consensus on critical issues facing policy and interventions. The FNSWG has served regional governments, donors, and non-governmental agencies since the early 2000’s. Current membership includes approximately 80 organizations (IGAD, UN agencies, NGOs, donors and research institutions) who contribute to the operation and content of the working group and its nutrition, markets, food security information, livestock and pastoralist subgroups. 

Tags: South Sudan , Food Security , Food Crisis