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Cablegate: Ethiopia Disaster Declaration: Imminent

VZCZCXRO2065
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #2566/01 2281114
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 161114Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7471
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 2964
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 4005
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 ADDIS ABABA 002566

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

USAID/W DCHA/AA MHESS, GGOTTLIEB
AFR/AA KALMQUIST, WWARREN, JBORNS
DCHA/OFDA KLUU, ACONVERY, PMORRIS, KCHANNELL
AFR/EA KNELSON, BDUNFORD
DCHA/FFP WHAMMINK, JDWORKEN, PMOHAN, MANDERSON, PBERTOLIN
STATE DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E AND PRM/AFR
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER
CJTF-HOA AND USCENTCOM FOR POLAD
USDA/FAS FOR U/S PENN, MCHAMBLISS, RTILSWORTH, AND LPANASUK
NAIROBI FOR OFDA/ECARO JMYER, GPLATT, RFFPO NCOX, USAID/EA
ROME FOR OHA
BRUSSELS FOR USEU PBROWN
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH, RMA
USUN FOR TMALY
NSC FOR PMARCHAN, TSHORTLEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID EAGR ET PHUM PGOV PREF MOPS
REF: ADDIS ABABA 3226

SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA DISASTER DECLARATION: IMMINENT
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN SOMALI REGION

1. ACTION REQUEST: Ambassador requests Department's
concurrence to announce disaster declaration from Addis
Ababa, rather than from Washington. If Department concurs,
Post seeks to make this announcement on Friday, August 17.
END ACTION REQUEST.

2. SUMMARY. Concerns that a severe humanitarian crisis may
be imminent in Ethiopia's Somali Region are growing. The
confluence of Government of Ethiopia (GOE) policies in the
Region's Ogaden area are contributing elements to the
increasingly man-made crisis along with actions in the
region by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).
These three policies are: a) restricting commercial trade
to these areas as part of the ongoing security campaign; b)
allowing bureaucratic reorganizations to delay delivery of
emergency food assistance; and c) the movement of
pastoralist populations and their herds into designated
settlement areas. ONLF elements have also targeted
civilians, harassed and threatened NGOs, and may be placing
landmines on roads in the Ogaden.

3. In light of the deteriorating humanitarian conditions,
coupled with projected humanitarian needs in food, water,
nutrition and health interventions, the U.S. Ambassador
hereby declares that a complex emergency exists in the
Somali Region of Ethiopia. Accordingly, activities that
address urgent humanitarian needs should be eligible for
funding under USAID's International Disaster Assistance.

4. This disaster declaration for the Somali Region
supplements the general disaster re-declaration for
Ethiopia (reftel) made at the beginning of the fiscal year
for ongoing humanitarian assistance in other areas.
Updated humanitarian reporting for Ethiopia on emerging
humanitarian hotspots and flood-affected areas will be
forthcoming (septel) as additional information becomes
available. END SUMMARY.

---------------------------------------
OVERALL SITUATION - JUST HOW BAD IS IT?
---------------------------------------

5. The conflict-related situation is greatly affecting the
humanitarian outlook in the Ogaden. GOE policies in
response to increased attacks by the ONLF restrict the
movement of people and trade, and humanitarian assistance
in the Ogaden areas of the region remain a concern.
Despite recent good rains, the convergence of multiple
shocks have strained livestock herds and resulted in
increased vulnerability to famine and destitution through
loss of livelihoods. The cumulative shocks affecting this
area includes a decade of drought, conflict, high rates of
malnutrition, steadily increasing food prices, floods, and
Rift Valley fever. The household economy studies of the
area indicate 100 percent of the population depends on
commercial markets for the majority of their food. For all
groups, and particularly pastoralists, the biggest
expenditure items are staple foods. Prior to the current
military operations, food prices were already high;
informal market surveys now indicate tripling of many of
the already high prices since June. The prevention of
almost all commercial imports to the area and associated
price increases on food and non-food commodities, the
suspension of food distributions until recently, and the

ADDIS ABAB 00002566 002 OF 005


forced/restricted movement of pastoralists, threaten to
completely exhaust fragile coping mechanisms in areas of
Somali Region. Preliminary assessments from joint GOE-UN-
NGO teams of parts of the area (Korahe, Warder, Gode)
indicate pre-famine conditions (consumption of livestock,
exceedingly high food grain prices, consumption of wild
grasses/grains, etc.).

6. Increased prevalence of acute watery diarrhea (AWD, or
cholera) and corresponding crisis-level case fatality rates
and malnutrition are emerging in locations like Fik and
Jijiga. Comprehensive data on specific rates of AWD has
been difficult to obtain, due to current GOE sensitivities
and limited humanitarian access. However, international
agencies are reporting pockets of growing malnutrition in
both the Ogaden and non-Ogaden areas, with admission rates
doubling in some community therapeutic feeding centers. Of
particular concern are areas that are non-accessible due to
security operations, as minimal information is available.
In this semi-arid region, the capping of water sources
presents an immediate, life-threatening humanitarian
concern for communities affected. Forced, restricted, or
even voluntary mass movement of pastoralists also threatens
to deplete grazing lands and increase livestock disease
transfer rates. [NOTE: Pasture conditions have been able
to sustain livestock in rural areas to date only due to
good 2006 short Deyr rains, but if livestock are moved into
concentrated areas, this will not last. END NOTE.]
Increased population density in urban or settlement areas
is also expected to aggravate AWD conditions already
present in the region. The likelihood of local flooding,
particularly around Gode and Fik, pose an additional
concern.

7. Ongoing GOE security operations and access restrictions
continue to limit detailed reporting and verification of
overall conditions. Humanitarian access is limited, and
recent landmine fatalities underscore the challenges
operational humanitarian agencies are facing.
At the same time, anecdotal reports are increasing by an
array of humanitarian actors of human rights violations
purportedly by both parties to the conflict--the Ethiopian
military and the ONLF--in these areas, including extra-
judicial killings, rape, burning of villages, and forced
relocation of pastoralists and other populations. There
have also been recent reports that certain access to basic
services are being denied in some villages, such as the
capping of water sources and refusing delivery of medical
supplies. Underlying concerns sparked by the increasing
volume of anecdotal reports that the military campaigns are
starving populations and forcing relocation of populations
into designated areas have rendered the GOE increasingly
vulnerable to media, donor, UN, and international NGO
concerns over human rights violations.

----------------------------
HUMANITARIAN FOOD ASSISTANCE
- ONLY A DROP IN THE BUCKET
----------------------------

8. In the Somali Region, 100 percent of the population
relies on commercial food for survival. Almost no
commercial food aid is getting into the five Ogadeni zones
(Fik, Degehabur, Gode, Korahe and Warder) of the Somali

ADDIS ABAB 00002566 003 OF 005


Region where GOE military operations are underway. The
miniscule trickles of commercial goods that may be getting
through to a few urban areas are restricted to the urban
areas only. The GOE has advised the United Nations and
other humanitarian actors that the commercial restrictions
must be enforced to limit contraband, particularly supplies
and weapons going to the ONLF. The general consensus among
aid agencies is that if the commercial restrictions are not
lifted immediately, the humanitarian situation will
eventually deteriorate to pre-famine or famine-like
conditions and affect all communities equally. Emergency
food assistance will not be able to fill this gap, even if
access is permitted. The current coping mechanism for
pastoralists in these areas is to live off the meat and
milk of their animals, but herd size could be rapidly
depleted in rural areas should this continue, as it is
considered the coping mechanism of last resort. In
addition, aid agencies estimate that a large percentage of
the population have moved to urban areas in search of
limited food available commercially in some urban areas
like Jijiga.

9. Although the GOE's federal Disaster Prevention and
Preparedness Agency (DPPA) recently confirmed that 42
trucks are currently en route within the region, no food
aid has actually been distributed in the Ogaden areas of
the Somali Region since December 2006. [NOTE: There have
been recent food distributions to the non-Ogadeni areas of
the Somali Region. END NOTE.] Part of a one-month ration
(1,900 MT out of 4,000 MT) is currently en route to the
Ogaden for the 296,980 beneficiaries identified during the
November 2006 assessment. As of August 9, no food aid from
the 42 trucks had reached actual distribution points,
primarily due to repeated delays at military checkpoints.
The recent household economy assessment, which undertook
field work in limited areas of two of the five zones,
indicates that 100 percent of the population is severely
affected with no access to food. The 1,900 MT underway
represents 6 percent of the total needs in the affected
areas for one month, should the commercial restrictions
remain.

10. In recent meetings, WFP has stressed that significant
tonnage is required for these areas; even if the small
amount of food aid currently en route reaches beneficiary
populations, this represents only a "drop in the bucket"
and is a very temporary stopgap measure. WFP and DPPA
estimate that 30,000 MT per month of commodities in the
restricted zones is required to fully support food needs
should the commercial restrictions continue. [COMMENT: It
is not clear if the magnitude of food required in such a
circumstance would be immediately available in-country, nor
is it likely that operations of this nature can reach the
beneficiaries in a timely manner, given current delay
tactics in the movement of the food. The only solution
that could immediately mitigate the slide into pre-famine
or famine conditions will be the immediate easing of
commercial restrictions in all areas of the region. END
COMMENT.]

-------------------------------------
EXTREMELY LIMITED HUMANITARIAN ACCESS
-------------------------------------


ADDIS ABAB 00002566 004 OF 005


11. Despite recent GOE press statements urging agencies to
work in the Somali Region with unlimited access, the
reality on the ground is much different. Very few NGOs are
operating in the military zones, because almost all
movements are restricted due to security reasons. Access
for UN agencies is virtually non-existent in military
areas. WFP noted that although monitoring food aid
deliveries is critical, it is currently impossible due to
the underlying security conditions. Although WFP has
invited local NGOs to monitor on their behalf, no one has
accepted, due to underlying fears of security implications,
though agencies are willing to share the limited
information they possess.

12. Following the July 29 tragedy in which three staff from
the USAID-supported local NGO partner Ogaden Welfare
Development Agency (OWDA) were killed from a landmine
between Degehamedo and Degehabur towns, concerns for safe
humanitarian access have increased. There are growing
reports, albeit unconfirmed, that additional landmines are
being planted on many of the main roads in the Ogaden
areas, since the underlying assumption is that only the
military are using the roads rather than the usual
commercial traffic and, to a lesser extent, aid agencies.

13. Creating safe humanitarian operational space will
become increasingly important should the conditions
continue to deteriorate. NGOs and UN agencies are working
to determine best entry or re-entry points into the Ogaden
areas to provide health, nutrition and water interventions.
Some Somali Region government ministries have urged aid
agencies to conduct humanitarian operations, recognizing
that the humanitarian needs will surpass local capacities
should the commercial restrictions remain. Agencies are
working on modalities to begin humanitarian interventions
in locations as close to the non-accessible areas as
possible, in the hopes that if/when more widespread access
to the Ogaden areas is possible, agencies can be partially
pre-positioned.

14. Donors, UN agencies, and NGOs continue to meet weekly
to share information on the evolving situation. The U.S.
Ambassador has also convened two meetings for donors and
relevant agencies on the Somali region situation. USAID,
in conjunction with other donors and UNOCHA, is advocating
the formation of a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster
Risk Management working group, which would be a formal
forum in which donors and the UN can engage with each other
and the government on humanitarian and disaster risk
management issues. Currently, information-sharing is
informal, and engagement with the government on disaster
issues is on a bilateral basis, particularly for the Somali
Region.

--------------------
DISASTER DECLARATION
--------------------

15. In light of current and increased projected needs in
Somali Region of Ethiopia, I hereby declare that a complex
emergency situation exists. Ongoing commercial
restrictions, limited operational access due to internal
security operations and population displacement has
exacerbated the plight of the already vulnerable.

ADDIS ABAB 00002566 005 OF 005


Accordingly, activities which address urgent humanitarian
needs should continue to be eligible for funding under
USAID's International Disaster Assistance.

YAMAMOTO

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