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Cablegate: Ethiopia: Flood Warning - Preparing for the Worse

VZCZCXRO5811
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #2265/01 1990834
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180834Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7052
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD QLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 4003

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 002265

SIPDIS

AIDAC
SIPDIS

USAID/DCHA FOR M.HESS, G.GOTTLIEB
DCHA/OFDA FOR K.LUU, A.FERRARA, A.CONVERY, K.CHANNELL
DCHA/FFP FOR W.HAMMINK, J.DWORKEN
AFR/AFR/EA FOR B.DUNFORD
STATE FOR AF/E, AF/F AND PRM
CJTF HOA AND USCENTCOM FOR POLAD
USUN FOR T.MALY
USEU BRUSSELS FOR P.LERNER
USMISSION GENEVA FOR N.KYLOH
USMISSION UN ROME FOR R.NEWBERG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PHUM PREL PREF MASS ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: FLOOD WARNING - PREPARING FOR THE WORSE

1. SUMMARY AND ACTION REQUEST for AF Bureau, USAID-OFDA, DCHA and
DOD/OSD: Early warning for the Horn of Africa forecasts heavy
rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands, great or greater than last
year's, during the July-Sept "kiremt" season with serious floods
likely, especially in major river basins (Omo, Shabelle, Tana,
Gambella.) The omo is already experiencing flooding. The GOE is
taking actions to clear and provide early-warning in flood plains
and to manage reservoir levels; however, its response capabilities
are limited. Last year, the GOE requested emergency assistance for
flood relief, and we expect similar requests this year. The USG
response last year--with tents, supplies and airlift--was highly
effective and lauded in local media. While OFDA and CJTF-HOA are
already initiating action, to avoid any delays in this year's
response, Post formally requests the pre-positioning by USAID and
DOD of emergency response equipment (like small boats and tents) and
relief supplies (such as blankets and water). It also requests
pre-approval by State and DOD of CJTF-HOA military airlift
capability as available. END SUMMARY.

2. NOTE: The EmbQy is already working with CJTF-HOA to
preposition tents, small boats, and water purification equipment in
Addis Ababa to meet anticipated problems from flooding. Airlift
pre-approval by Washington will enable Post to respond quickly once
there is flooding. We wish to avoid the delays of last year. END
NOTE.

----------
BACKGROUND
----------

3. Major floods in 2006 in Ethiopia caused over 1,000 deaths,
especially in the Dire Dawa area in the east, the Wabe Shebelle in
Somali region near the Somalia border, and the south Omo area.
Early warning data indicate that the flooding situation could be
worse in 2007. Apart from forecasts of heavier rain in the
highlands, which feeds the river systems, the level of water in the
major dams on these rivers is higher than in 2006, and projected to
go even higher. There has been one serious flood already, on July
9-10 on the Weito (or Wotio) River in south Omo, with 4,000
pastoralists marooned by the rising river on an island, who needed
rescue by boats. The main flooding did not affect the south Omo
area until mid-August in 2006, indicating that flooding may be
earlier and more serious in 2007.

4. Other flood-prone areas are also being monitored, including:
Gambella, the Lake Tana area, Humera in the northeast, and the Awash
River in the east.

5. Preparedness has improved in Ethiopia in several ways, but still
remains weak. The flood task force has been operating for the last
year, and produced an alert on July 2nd based on the impact on
flood-prone areas of rainfall predictions and levels of water in
dams. Despite improved water flow management at dams, they could
still be overwhelmed by heavy rains.

6. The 2006 floods demonstrated the lack of early warning and
preparedness, leading to the loss of many lives. A flood early
warning system has now been put in place in Dire Dawa (where more
than 300 people died in the 2006 flood) run by local government and
the military to warn city residents when the water is rising
upriver. Similar systems are planned for other areas, but
remoteness and dispersion of populations will make this difficult to
implement.

7. The USG was praised for the flood response in 2006, albeit
delayed, which included supplies and erection of a tent city in Dire
Dawa through DOD/USAID collaboration, and an airlift of needed
supplies to Gode forQe flood-affected in southern Somali Region.
This was followed up with NGO partners involved in health, shelter,
and food support for flood-affected, and the construction of new
homes for many of the victims in Dire Dawa.

8. Needs for the 2006 flood response give a good idea of the
preparedness needed. Large tents were much appreciated, and airlift

ADDIS ABAB 00002265 002 OF 002


support essential. In south Omo, the urgent need was for
boats--preferably, shallow draft large-capacity motorized rubber
boats--to rescue people trapped on islands by rising flood waters
and/or to deliver supplies. The USG was unable to respond to this
last-minute request in 2006. In all areas, emergency shelter,
medical care, and food were all needed for the displaced. Although
the response on this was much better, early State-DOD agreements
could have made the response much quicker and more effective.

--------------------
PREPAREDNESS TO DATE
--------------------

9. The various agencies of the USG in Ethiopia are working on
preparedness. Coordination has been occurring with the Ethiopian
government and other donors through the flood task force.

10. USAID has begun to explore access to the needed supplies in a
timely way: in particular, USAID/OFDA is purchasing motorized rubber
boats. CJTF HOA is checking supplies available and preparing for a
response. USAID/OFDA'S regional office has engaged quickly to
determine the availability of needed supplies and has alerted its
partners operational in high-risk zones to prepare for rapid
response.

11. For south Omo, another complication is ongoing conflict between
the ethnic groups in the area. Fear of conflict affected the
ability of the Desenech people trapped on islands in 2006 to move to
neighboring areas, and contributed to the loss of life. USAID
partner PACT is working on conflict resolution with the Desenech and
four other ethnic groups in the area, and has agreed to pass on the
flood warning, as well as work with the affected groups, to prepare
for movements of people without conflict.

-----------
CONCLUSIONS
-----------

12. Preparation for likely floods in several parts of Ethiopia are
only beginning, but indications are that flooding could be imminent
and very serious. Coordination with the Government of Ethiopia and
other donors has been initiated through the flood task force.

13. Full cooperation and support is needed for location and
stockpiling of emergency goods as needed, especially tents and
motorized rubber boats. Clearance of these materials to come into
Ethiopia can be complicated, so these logistics need to be worked
out as early as possible.

14. Existing stocks of food and non-food emergency goods in
Ethiopia, supported by USAID through the GOE's Disaster Preparedness
and Prevention Agency (DPPA), will need to be accessed on an
emergency basis. There have been some logistical and/or
bureaucratic problems with accessing the non-food supplies, which
will need to contended with as much as possible in advance to
prevent delays.

15. USAID NGO partners[0] operational in vulnerable zones need to be
coordinated and activated to prepare for the response. This has
been set in motion.

16. Most importantly, pre-aproval by State and DOD for airlift with
CJTF-HOA assets, as available, would be most useful.

YAMAMOTO

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