National Agrifood Systems and COVID-19 in South Sudan: Effects, Policy Responses and Long-Term Implications – South Sudan


This country profile covers responses and effects up to December 2021


The COVID-19 pandemic has placed significant pressure on health systems around the world. The drastic measures put in place to contain its spread create serious obstacles to economic activity (including agri-food systems) and, therefore, to livelihoods, food security and nutrition.

The COVID-19 outbreak shows both how health and food systems are linked to each other, and how local food systems are linked to global systems. High rates of urbanization and the globalization of trade and travel have contributed to the spread of the virus across countries. Lockdowns and restrictions on movement within countries and across borders have disrupted national and local markets for food and agricultural production and inputs and led to sharp reductions in overall economic activity in the global scale. In the poorest countries, the disruptions have further exacerbated the fragility of systems (including agrifood systems) and livelihoods.

The Global Report on Food Crises 2021 revealed that 155 million people in 55 countries and territories face acute food insecurity at the “crisis” level or above – a situation that requires urgent action. The report further concluded that more than 208 million people were experiencing a “stressed” level of acute food insecurity and were at high risk of slipping into a “crisis” level if faced with additional shocks (FSIN, 2021 ). The situation is particularly concerning given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the situation evolves, the question arises as to how, or if, food, health, financial and economic systems could be better prepared to prevent similar outbreaks from escalating into a separate economic and social crisis. whole.

This report is part of a series of country profiles that describe: (i) the policy measures adopted by governments to contain the spread of the virus; (ii) policies and measures for stabilizing the functioning of agri-food systems; (iii) the potential effects of policies on agri-food systems and vulnerable groups. Finally, the profiles also assess longer-term options for policies and investments in agrifood systems to make them more resilient.


South Sudan is the world’s newest nation and the 55th country in Africa since its independence on July 9, 2011. The country has faced two major conflicts – in 2013 and 2016 – which have undermined the development progress made since independence, causing mass displacement, disrupting livelihoods, and creating a humanitarian crisis. In September 2018, the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) was signed and the Revitalized Transitional National Unity Government (R-TGoNU) was formed in February 2020. 2019 , refugees from neighboring countries began to return as the country enjoyed relative calm. However, since 2020 there has been an increase in sub-national and communal violence that risks reversing the gains made since the signing of the peace accord in 2018.

South Sudan’s economy has historically been vulnerable to extreme weather conditions, oil price fluctuations and conflict-related shocks. In early 2020, COVID-19 joined this list of economic shocks with its negative impacts on oil production, supply chain disruption and interference with the normal functioning of markets and trade. The country’s oil production has plummeted, for example, due to the effect of COVID-19 on global supply chains, lower demand for oil and disruption of transport between Port Sudan and the fields. northern oil fields in Upper Nile and Unity states (Hickens and Doreen, 2020).

Over time, and particularly after the 2013 conflict, food insecurity has trended upwards, with the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) predicting the worst lean season ever, during which an estimated 7.2 million people (60 percent of South Sudan’s total population) would be severely food insecure (IPC Phase 3 or worse) between April and July 2021 (IPC, 2021) . The IPC analysis considered the impacts of COVID-19 on the food security situation in addition to existing factors. According to the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) report, approximately 8.3 million South Sudanese are in need of multi-sector humanitarian assistance in 2021 (OCHA, 2021a).

The World Bank’s economic update for South Sudan indicates that the health impacts of COVID-19 have been less severe than for its regional counterparts; however, the economy has suffered from lower global oil prices and lower global demand for oil due to COVID-19 related restrictions, which have caused a slowdown in economic activities around the world (Bank World, 2021b). Disruptions to global and regional supply chains have also affected markets in South Sudan, leading to high food prices and increased food insecurity, especially among people who are highly dependent on markets for their food purchases. Another World Bank report – based on surveys monitoring the impacts of COVID-19 on households in South Sudan – found that four out of five households reported skipping meals or running out of food – a situation that was consistent across the country. urban and rural areas of South Sudan. , reflecting the severe impacts of the pandemic on the ability of households to meet their daily food needs (Finn et al., 2021).


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