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Cablegate: Embassy Sanaa

VZCZCXYZ0018
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHYN #0158 0291053
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 291053Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8860
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 0852

UNCLAS SANAA 000158

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ARP AND PRM
CAIRO FOR REFCOORD MARY DOETSCH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PHUM PREL PGOV YM
SUBJ: INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT IN SAADA: A QUESTION OF DEFINITION AND
STRATEGY

1. (SBU/NF) SUMMARY: According to a recent estimate, the number of
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Saada Governorate who
require food aid has grown to 77,000. This number, however, does not
accurately reflect the complex reality of population movements in
Saada as a result of the conflict there, and true IDPs may represent
only a third of this number. For its part, the ROYG has decided that
active cooperation with international agencies may serve its
interests in Saada. END SUMMARY

2. (SBU) At a January 6 donor community meeting chaired by the World
Food Program (WFP) in Sanaa, WFP's Country Director for Yemen
Mohamed El-Kouhene and the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Yemen Claire Bourgeois discussed
their assistance to IDPs in Saada. WFP began limited nutritional
assistance to approximately 36,000 IDPs in June 2007, and El-Kouhene
encouraged further donor country support for a joint WFP/UNHCR plan
developed in December to provide food aid to 77,000 IDPs in two IDP
camps in Saada city through March 2008. UNHCR also provides non-food
assistance such as tents and blankets to IDPs.

4. (SBU/NF) El-Kouhene admitted that the 77,000 figure for IDPs in
Saada was an approximation, developed in cooperation with UNHCR by
adding 10% to an earlier International Committee of the Red
Cross/Red Crescent (ICRC) estimate. El-Kouhene said perhaps only
one-third of the 77,000 were actually unable to return to their
homes due to the conflict, and that much of the remainder had
returned to their villages but remained reliant on outside
assistance because the conflict had destroyed their assets. He said
WFP and UNHCR had agreed to classify all people receiving food aid
as IDPs both to facilitate planning and to avoid adding controversy
to an already volatile situation.

5. (SBU/NF) In a separate meeting on January 27 in Sanaa, Samer
Haddadin, UNHCR Protection Officer responsible for Saada, lauded
ROYG support for his agency's operations there. While acknowledging
that it had taken almost a year to get initial ROYG approval for a
UNHCR office in Saada, Haddadin said cooperation was now good. The
ROYG currently provides security for UN operations, and has also
expressed interest in UNHCR training on IDP registration.
Additionally, it has encouraged UNHCR to expand its aid, and has
asked the ICRC to construct on its behalf a third camp for IDPs in
Saada city.

6. (SBU/NF) According to Haddadin, Saada Deputy Governor Salem
Al-Wahishi is the key figure in ensuring cooperation. Haddadin said
the contrast between the ROYG's cooperation with UNHCR on the IDP
issue and its general lack of assistance on other issues, such as
East African refugees, derives from the ROYG's desire that
international aid serve its interests. He elaborated that allowing
the UN and NGOs to distribute assistance in Saada is designed to
reduce local opposition to the government. Haddadin added that he
was happy that, instead of constraining UN operations in Saada,
local government has been "complaining that we don't do enough."

7. (SBU/NF) COMMENT: Current figures on IDPs are largely a UN
construct to facilitate aid planning for those affected by the
conflict in Saada. More accurate data is unlikely unless the UNHCR
and ROYG begin a registration process. However, continual flare-ups
of fighting in Saada mean that population movements are likely to
continue, as will the need for outside assistance. Haddadin's
interpretation of the positive role of the ROYG makes sense in the
larger context of ongoing government attempts to negotiate and
co-opt support in Saada. By supporting UNHCR and WFP aid to IDPs in
Saada, the ROYG probably hopes to be associated with these services
and, as a result, bring about a reduction in anti-government
opposition. While the potential for success of this strategy is
unclear, for the time being, the ROYG's unusual level of cooperation
with UN agencies in Saada is helping them provide assistance to
IDPs. END COMMENT.


BRYAN

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