South Sudan is the newest widely recognized country in the world, and is also one of the world’s poorest countries, with over 80% of the population living on under $1 a day. According to the UNDP, 43% of the total population is severely food insecure, however the issues with food security in South Sudan are getting worse. Five years of civil war in the area has left more than half of the country completely reliant on humanitarian aid. According to the World Food Program, at the beginning of 2018 the levels of hunger and malnutrition reported were at a historic high. Although organizations like the World Food Program are working to combat the starvation, there are many challenges to face. Lack of infrastructure and political conflict in the country make it difficult and dangerous to reach communities with life-saving food. Additionally, the approaching rainy season will create more challenges for reaching the starving people in South Sudan with food aid. For these reasons, it is more important than ever to understand the issues with food security in the country.
Given GeoPoll’s experience with conducting food security and agriculture related surveys, in early June 2018 we ran a remote mobile survey to gather information that could help assess food security concerns across South Sudan. Due to high levels of illiteracy in the country, this survey was conducted using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI), in which live interviewers call mobile phones from a call center. In only three days, GeoPoll was able to collect 100 survey responses which shed light on the current food security situation in the country. While this study was exploratory in nature, the results show a high level of food insecurity and demonstrate the need to conduct further research in the area.
GeoPoll utilized CATI surveys to gather on-the-ground data on food insecurity in South Sudan. The survey ran for three days— May 31st, June 4th, and June 5th—of 2018. GeoPoll was able to reach respondents in all of the 10 states of South Sudan. The questionnaire asked respondents to provide information about three different time frames—the past 7 days, the past 30 days, and the past 6 months—as well as general questions about demographics and food security in the respondent’s communities.
The survey data collected indicates high food insecurity in South Sudan. Respondents largely indicated that there are limited food supplies and high food prices. The majority of food markets around the country are operational yet are struggling to provide enough provisions to feed their communities. Results suggest that increased demand for the available fare is driving prices up beyond what is affordable for the majority of the respondents: 96% of the people surveyed reported that in the past six months they have not had enough money to purchase food and other basic needs, and just under half of the respondents reported that more than 80% of their communities are lacking enough food to eat because of widespread loss of food stocks, lack of income, or lack of job opportunities.
Question: How many households in your community are lacking food due to widespread loss of food stocks, lack of income, or lack of livelihood opportunities? Would you say…1) more than 80 percent, 2) between 50 and 80 percent, 3) between 50 and 20 percent, 4) less than 20 percent.
Respondents overwhelmingly reported that people in their communities have insufficient quantities of food due to widespread loss of crops, low income, or low job opportunity. 47% of respondents replied that more than 80% of their communities are suffering. Only 4% of respondents could say that less than 20% of their community was struggling. The results from this study indicate that the majority citizens of South Sudan are currently struggling with hunger.
Question: In the past 30 days, how many days did your household reduce the number of meals eaten in a day due to lack of food/money? (Reply number of days from 0-30).
The majority of the individuals surveyed responded that every day within the past 30 days their household skipped meals due to lack of food sources and money. 11% of respondents reduced the number of meals exactly half of the time period. However, 13% of respondents did not report any reduction of daily meals and 12% of respondents only had to reduce daily meals once within the past thirty days.
The polarized results from this survey question could be due to a small sample size. Further research could allow for more comprehensive understanding of this topic.
Question: What is the food status like in your community? (open ended response).
33% of responses indicate that food is currently very expensive in their community. Only 1% of the people surveyed suggest that the status of food in their community is healthy—and those respondents only see the status of food in their community as okay because they are receiving food from aid organizations.
GeoPoll’s area experts are confident that food insecurity in South Sudan is likely due to on-going conflict and political instability in the country. Respondents to GeoPoll’s recent survey reaffirm that the level of food insecurity in South Sudan is widespread and significantly impacting the lives of the majority of citizens in the area. The results from this recent exploratory survey establish need for future research on food security in the region, and demonstrates that CATI is a worthwhile method for collecting such data remotely.
Due to the conflict and violence that is plaguing South Sudan, remote data collection was essential for this project. Face to face data collection would have been almost impossible. Mobile data collection through CATI was essential because it allowed for information on the country without the need to send on-the-ground researchers into remote and conflict-ridden areas of South Sudan. Fortunately, GeoPoll has vast experience in conducting food security and agriculture-related research across sub-Saharan Africa. To learn more about our experience in food security, please contact us.