To examine household food insecurity and coping mechanisms in two relatively politically stable states of South Sudan.
Cross-sectional assessment including structured interviews and focus group discussions with food aid programme beneficiaries and staff. Structured interview findings were analysed with descriptive statistics using the statistical software package STATA version 11.
Rural households in four payams (sub-county administrative districts) benefiting from a multi-year assistance programme funded by the US Agency for International Development. The study was conducted in January 2012, six months after independence.
Study subjects included eighty mothers of children aged 6–23 months in structured interviews and eight focus groups, each with six to ten participants, of mothers of children aged 6–23 months.
Ninety-three per cent of households surveyed in Warrap and 100 % of households in Northern Bahr el Ghazal states were severely food access insecure. Nearly all households (97·5 %) surveyed in both states reported there were months in 2011 without enough food to eat. The majority of households (88 %) reported sometimes or often going to bed hungry in the month preceding the study. A number of coping mechanisms were used when households did not have enough food, including reduced meal size, skipping meals, selling assets and engaging in some kind business in order to generate money to buy food.
Given the highly volatile political, economic and humanitarian situation in South Sudan, the priorities of the international community are understandably focused on securing greater stability in South Sudan and preventing humanitarian needs from escalating significantly. There is a need, however, for simultaneous emphasis on food assistance and longer-term development strategies throughout South Sudan, particularly in areas of agriculture, livelihoods and food security.
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