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Cablegate: Cameroon Regional Food for Peace Officer

VZCZCXRO5406
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #0566/01 1361613
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 151613Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0491
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHNJ/AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 2244
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 1294
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0833
RHMFIUU/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 DAKAR 000566

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/W, AF/EPS, EEP/TPP/ABT/ATP
STATE FOR PRM, IO, CRS
STATE ALSO PASS TO USAID/W
USAID/W FOR AFR/AA, DCHA/AA, DCHA/FFP, DCHA/CMM,
DCHA/OTI, DCHA/DG, AFR/WA
USAID/DCHA FOR JDWORKEN, CLAURENT, CHUGHES,
DSKORIC, PMORRIS, CABLA, SROGERS, TMCRAE
AFR/WA FOR NFREEMAN
ACCRA FOR HPATRICK, FAWANTANG, MKNIGHT
NAIROBI FOR OFDA/ECARO RDRAPCHO
PRETORIA FOR PDISKIN
ABIDJAN FOR PRM
BRUSSELS FOR USAID
GENEVA FOR RMA
ROME FOR FODAG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL WFP SOCI NG EAGR MR ECON
ETRD, EFIN, PGOV, SG
SUBJECT: CAMEROON REGIONAL FOOD FOR PEACE OFFICER
TRIP REPORT

DAKAR 00000566 001.2 OF 004


1. Summary: Dakar-based Regional Food for
Peace Officer (RFFPO) traveled to Cameroon from
March 31 to April 11, 2008 to assess progress of
the humanitarian programs and the living
conditions of Central African Republic (CAR) and
Chadian refugees in the country. Visits to
various refugee sites and discussions with
partners revealed that refugees in Cameroon,
particularly CAR refugees in the East and Northern
Provinces, are getting inadequate humanitarian
assistance. Because of significant funding
problems, very few humanitarian organizations are
present in the field. The UN World Food Program
faces frequent pipeline breaks and mainly operates
on commodities borrowed from its programs in
neighboring countries. Most CAR refugees reside
in remote sites scattered over 50,000 square
kilometers and many of them are receiving
insufficient services such as health care,
education, and water/sanitation. As a result,
malnutrition is high among CAR refugees and many
are suffering from preventable diseases such as
konzo--a crippling disease caused by prolonged
consumption of unprocessed red cassava. To
improve the living conditions of the refugees and
avert a further deterioration of their situation,
donors including relevant USG agencies are
encouraged to increase contributions to
humanitarian operations in Cameroon. End summary.

BACKGROUND

2. A Senegal-based Regional Food for Peace Officer
(RFFPO) traveled to Cameroon from March 31 to
April 11, 2008 to assess progress of humanitarian
programs and the living conditions of refugees
from the Central African Republic (CAR) and Chad.
During his mission, the RFFPO met with partners
and colleagues associated with humanitarian
operations in Cameroon as well as those working in
Chad and CAR. He met with counterparts from the
US Embassy in Yaounde and representatives of
United Nations agencies such as the World Food
Program (WFP), the UN High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR), and the Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) as well as Non-governmental
Organization staff, regional authorities
representing the Government of Cameroon, and
community groups representing the Chadian and CAR
refugees. In addition, the RFFPO visited
CAR/Chadian refugee sites, feeding/health centers,
and WFP warehouses in the Eastern, Adamaoua and
Extreme North (areas bordering CAR and Chad)
provinces and witnessed provision of food and
medical assistance to refugees and local
populations.

3. According to UNHCR and WFP records, a total of
57,200 refugees are currently officially
registered in Cameroon. However, new refugees
continue to arrive on a daily basis, particularly
from CAR. The majority of the registered refugees
(48,000) are from the CAR and the rest (9,200) are
from Chad. The Chadian refugees-most of whom were
displaced by the February 2008 rebel attacks in

DAKAR 00000566 002.2 OF 004


Ndjamena (Chadian capital)--are currently residing
in a transit camp (Maltam) 32 km from the border.
The camp in Maltam is fully equipped with
humanitarian personnel and services such as food,
water, and health care. In May 2008, these
refugees will be moved to a more permanent site
near the city of Garoua-- a camp over 500 km from
Cameroon/Chad border which was built for Rwandan
refugees in the mid 1990s.

4. The CAR refugees, on the other hand, are
living along the Cameroon/CAR border, in 73 sites
scattered over a 50,000 square km area in various
districts of Adamaoua, East, North and Central
Provinces. The majority of these CAR refugees are
livestock herders of Peulh ethnicity (also known
as Mbororo). Victimized by bandits, rebels, and
government forces and having lost most of their
livestock, these refugees have been continually
fleeing to Cameroon since 2005. Overall, CAR
refugees are not concentrated in distinct and
officially recognized refugee camps, which have
made it difficult to assist them. Because of
inadequate funding, only a few of the humanitarian
organizations (WFP, UNHCR and Doctors without
Borders) are currently assisting the CAR refugees.
As a result, many CAR refugees are suffering from
chronic malnutrition and easily preventable
diseases. For example, the RFFPO observed many
refugees who were suffering from a debilitating
disease known as Konzo, caused by eating
unprocessed red cassava which contains cyanide.
The disease, once it sets in, is irreversible and
those infected--mainly children above 3 years of
age and young women of childbearing ages--remain
crippled for life. During a visit to a health
center operated by Doctors without Borders near
the CAR/Cameroon border, RFFPO observed 70 Konzo
patients (all of them CAR refugees) being
rehabilitated. The disease has been observed only
in CAR refugees, particularly those in Eastern
Province of Cameroon, and so far over 200 konzo
cases have been identified in refugee sites.
(Note: However, since Doctors without Borders
staff were not able to reach many of the refugee
sites that were scattered over 50,000 square
kilometers, the number of Konzo patients among the
CAR population in Eastern Cameroon might be much
higher. End Note.)

5. A May 2007 nutritional survey of CAR refugees
in Cameroon conducted by UNICEF showed a 17.2%
global acute malnutrition rate--a rate well above
the "critical 15%" level as defined by the World
Health Organization--and 3.5% for severe wasting.
A September 2007 follow up study conducted by
Doctors without Borders also found 15.1% and 4.3%
of the CAR refugees suffered from global acute
malnutrition and wasting respectively. The latest
Joint Needs Assessment survey conducted in
November 2007 by UNICEF, WFP, UNHCR, FAO, and
Doctors without Borders also confirmed that the
food security and nutritional status of the CAR
refugees remained quite alarming. Since most of
the CAR refugees are pastoralist, very few of them

DAKAR 00000566 003.2 OF 004


can use gardening to diversify or improve their
diet. According to information provided by the
UNICEF, many CAR refugees used to make significant
household incomes from cutting and selling
firewood. But they lost this source of revenue
after the Department of Forestry stopped the
activity for environmental protection reasons.

6. Since the arrival of the Chadians in February
2008, the refugee caseload (CAR and Chadian
refugees) in Cameroon is covered under WFP's
Emergency Operational Plan (EMOP) #10735.0. Food
needs of this refugee caseload are estimated at
about 1,800 MT/month. However, according to WFP,
only a fraction of the requirements are received.
Although many of the CAR refugees have been in
Eastern Cameroon since 2005, food distribution by
WFP started only in August 2007. Since then, due
to frequent pipeline breaks, refugees continue to
receive food either on a less frequent basis or
below the recommended (2,100 kcal) ration levels.
At the time of the RFFPO's visit to Eastern
Cameroon, about 14,000 CAR refugees were scheduled
to receive their monthly (March) rations which
were estimated at 215 MT. Most of the food being
distributed was borrowed from WFP's programs
within the country, neighboring countries (Chad
and CAR) or purchased with loans from the Urn's
Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). Although
April food distribution was less than two weeks
away, WFP had only 19 MT on hand out of the 1,600
MT required for the month.

7. Because of its capacity to produce enough
surpluses, WFP was able in the past to purchase
important commodities such as sorghum, maize and
beans from Cameroon. Traditionally, WFP purchased
its food needs after harvest (e.g. January -
February) when the prices were lower. However,
with the prices of commodities having doubled as
compared to last year and with no signs of
commodity prices coming down, WFP has had to
suspend its planned food purchases. The soaring
food prices have significantly increased the
levels of food insecurity among many Cameroonian
households, particularly households in urban areas
and across most of the population in the more arid
Northern Provinces. For example, while assessing
performance of WFP-funded community-operated
cereal banks in villages located in northern
Cameroon, the mission was informed that, though
normally paid during harvest, 90% of the loans
made to members in 2007 had not been reimbursed.

---------------
RECOMMENDATIONS
---------------

8. Based on the RFFPO's own observations and
information provided by UN and NGO staff,
humanitarian assistance to CAR and Chadian
refugees in Cameroon is extremely under-resources
and in need of support. CAR refugees are
particularly in need of assistance. To improve
the living conditions of these destitute refugees

DAKAR 00000566 004.2 OF 004


the RFFPO recommends that:

* WFP headquarter staff are encouraged to
request donor funding of the new Cameroon
Emergency Operational Plan (EMOP) #10735.0

* UNHCR coordinate with its partners to regroup
the CAR refugees into 2-3 camps so they can
be better served;

* Donors, including USG agencies such as OFDA
and PRM contribute to the refugee program in
* Cameroon; and

* The Government of Cameroon assists and
encourages the NGOs willing to establish
offices in remote areas where CAR refugees
are located.
SMITH

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