Assessing food security in war-torn South Sudan

03 November 2015 by Sterling

Internal conflict has led to severe food and nutrition insecurity for approximately one third of South Sudan’s population – 3.1 million people – according to the latest IPC report released in October 2015. This is an 80% increase compared to the same period last year.

Of extreme concern is the estimated 30,000 people in Unity State who are experiencing Catastrophe (IPC Classification Phase 5). According to the multi-agency IPC, there is an increased likelihood of famine occurring in Unity State, particularly in four counties – Leer, Guit, Koch and Mayendit – if urgent humanitarian access and assistance is not provided in the most affected areas.

Tomnod is partnering with the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) to improve population information in the four counties where humanitarian assistance is urgently needed. FEWS NET is a leading provider of evidence-based food security analysis. For more than 30 years, its reporting has helped the world respond to acute food insecurity.

Children in Unity state, South Sudan
Children in Unity state, South Sudan

Population information in the four counties is incomplete. Better information will allow providers of humanitarian assistance to plan response, provide an improved sampling frame for assessment planning and help those delivering assistance to know where to find those in need.

By searching recent DigitalGlobe satellite imagery of the four counties in South Sudan and placing a tag on every permanent dwelling, every temporary dwellings and every herd of livestock consisting of 10 or more animals, you are helping to create a valuable data set that will improve FEWS NET’s ability to accurately assess the level of food insecurity in South Sudan.

Permanent dwellings include tukuls (circular-shaped local homes) and concrete block buildings.

Temporary dwellings primarily include tents but could also include small lean-tos or other structures made from wood, grasses or other materials that appear to be hastily constructed. Temporary shelters may be found far from established villages or mixed in with more permanent dwellings.

Example of permanent dwellings (aka. Tukuls)
Example of permanent dwellings (aka. Tukuls)

Helping to improve the population information in South Sudan is part of a larger global effort to assess food insecurity in order to deliver assistance as quickly and as effectively as possible. FEWS NET monitors acute food insecurity in 35 countries, publishing regular reports that help humanitarian assistance agencies direct help to those in need.

In South Sudan specifically, limited but reliable evidence from recent assessments shows displaced households facing huge consumption gaps, with some households facing catastrophic food security conditions reducing consumption to as little as one meal per day consisting of only fish and water lilies.

Drying water lily seeds as a source of food
Drying water lily seeds as a source of food

Multiple shocks such as loss of livestock through looting, crop failure and multiple displacements have left these people with no choice but to rely on wild food and/or humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian action is therefore urgently needed to prevent escalating malnutrition and death.

With your help, we can use evidence-based analysis to ensure food security for all.



Click here to start mapping South Sudan



Recent field data collection and training in South Sudan
Recent field data collection and training in South Sudan
Sterling Riber is the Information and Communications Technology Manager at Famine Early Warning Systems Network. FEWS NET is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food security.