Cablegate: Usaid Assessment of Abyei Idps in Agok

DE RUEHKH #0807/01 1480756
P 270756Z MAY 08 ZDK




E.O. 12958: N/A


KHARTOUM 00000807 001.2 OF 004

1. Begin Summary: On May 24, a USAID team including officers from
USAID's Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) and Office of U.S.
Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) conducted a one-day
assessment of the humanitarian situation in and around Agok in
southern Abyei Area. The Agok area is currently hosting an
estimated 50,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Abyei who
fled fighting beginning May 14. The USAID team found that the
situation of the IDPs is precarious due to the rapidity with which
they fled, an unpredictable security situation, and the encroaching
rainy season. UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
have rapidly responded to the immediate humanitarian needs,
providing three-day food rations and some relief items, and working
to transport sufficient quantities of food and relief items to Agok
for distribution in the coming days. USAID partners -- Mercy Corps,
Save the Children (SC/US), PACT, GOAL, the UN Resident Coordinator's
Office (UN/RCO), and UN World Food Program (WFP) -- are all on the
ground in Agok and providing emergency response assistance to the
IDP population. End Summary.

IDPs and Host Communities

2. According to the UN/RCO, an estimated 50,000 people have fled
fighting in Abyei town and are gathered in 18 villages south of
Abyei and the River Kiir in the Agok area. At the onset of the
crisis, the UN activated its contingency plan, which had factored in
both the rapid displacement of as many as 75,000 people fleeing to
the south and the blockage of critical northern supply routes to the
North. The UN agencies, along with the local government, have
agreed on five distribution sites in the area, in order to better
organize relief operations while ensuring coverage to at least 80
percent of the IDPs. On May 25, humanitarian agencies in Agok
organized a headcount of the entire IDP and host community
population, which will provide a more accurate estimate of numbers
displaced and the assistance required.

3. Prior to the recent fighting, Abyei town and the surrounding area
was estimated to have 100,000 people residing there. Approximately
70,000 of these are returnees who came from the north since the
signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), after many years
of displacement, including 10,000 who arrived in March and early
April, just before the census. The remaining 30,000 people were
residents who never left Abyei during the war. Many returnees
depended heavily on urban livelihoods. The recent returnees had not
had a chance to establish livelihoods or households in Abyei before
fighting displaced them to the Agok area. According to the UN/RCO,
5,000 Twic Dinka who fled violence in Southern Kordofan State and
arrived in Abyei in early 2008 were the most vulnerable group in
Abyei before this recent crisis. Most Twic Dinka have returned to
their home areas in Twic County, bordering Abyei Area to the
southwest. (Note: Reporting on the USAID team's trip to Northern
Bahr el Ghazal and Warrab states, including Twic County, will follow
septel. End note.)

4. The USAID team drove along the main roads near Agok and observed
the roads crowded with families carrying items, including suitcases,
bags of food, and small household items. Along the road the team
observed that families have gathered their household items under
trees and are attempting to set up shelters with plastic sheeting
distributed by relief agencies. According to relief workers, many
Abyei IDP families have found family or friends to stay with in the
Agok area. Crowding in the host community tukals (huts) is clearly

5. At Abatok, one of the original five IDP distribution sites, the
team noted that lack of grinding mills had created long lines of
people waiting to grind the sorghum distributed in the food ration.
OFDA funds the GOAL health unit which is directly across from this
IDP gathering area. The clinic is functioning on its regular

KHARTOUM 00000807 002.2 OF 004

schedule, and GOAL is working to resupply medicines to its rural
clinics before the rains impede access. GOAL also operates a clinic
near Agok town, which the USAID team visited and noted that the
clinic's caseload now includes IDPs. The GOAL area coordinator
informed the team that they are monitoring the health situation and,
so far, the clinics operating in IDP areas have not reported an
uptick in consultations. (Note: the team expects this situation to
change, as the still fluid population movements stabilize and IDPs
'settle' in an area for a longer period of time. End note.)

6. At the IDP site at Madingjok-Thiang, an OFDA-funded Mercy Corps
school that is not fully constructed is now serving as a shelter for
IDPs. The USAID team met with several IDP families and surveyed the
households' assets. Many families here were preparing sorghum from
the food distribution and had cooking pots and other small household
items. Many IDP families observed at this site, and along the road,
had managed to carry baby goats with them as they fled. Several
groups of children at this site were making clay/mud statues,
including figures of commanders, tanks, trucks, and helicopters.
Most of the IDPs observed by the team are women and children.

7. The UN/RCO reported that Abyei IDP families have reported 80
children missing. At least 10 children have been reunited with
their families through the efforts of the UN Children's Fund

8. Malnutrition is suspected to be high among the IDPs. According
to the UN/RCO, 20 percent global acute malnutrition (GAM) is not
unusual for the Abyei area at this time of year, as people's food
stocks run low and the rains bring water-related illness, such as
malaria and cholera. Agencies expect the GAM is higher, perhaps
significantly, among the IDPs. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) plans
to conduct a nutrition survey in the coming week to identify trends
in malnutrition among the displaced population. MSF is also
establishing a therapeutic feeding center in Agok to treat severely
malnourished cases.

Food Aid

9. Earlier in the week, WFP, along with its NGO partners,
distributed three-day emergency rations to the IDPs and host
community, as a stop-gap measure until IDPs settle in an area and
can be counted. Upon completion of the headcount on May 25, WFP
will organize a 15-day distribution of a full-ration (ie 2100
kilocalories/person/day) to both the IDPs and host community, which
was already deemed to be in need of increased food assistance this
year due to last year's severe flooding. WFP is mobilizing staff
and transport assets from around the region, including as far as
from Juba and Wau, to assist in this operation. 1000 MT of
commodities intended for Bentiu in Unity State is being diverted to
Agok, though delivery there has not been received as yet. With
transport routes from the north either closed or insecure,
effectively cutting off resupply from WFP's main hub in El Obeid,
and the rains beginning to cut off areas in the south, WFP will need
to manage the complex logistics extremely effectively. Already WFP
is mobilizing to send additional commodities up to this area from
its Mombasa pipeline, which has not been necessary for the past two
years due to more effective and cost-efficient transport options
from the north.

10. It remains to be seen what the longer-term food assistance
response will look like, given the uncertainty of the situation at
this point. Without a clear picture of the duration of the
displacement, it is difficult to predict the amount and type of food
assistance needed. What is clear, however, is that people's
livelihoods have been disrupted, most probably for a significant
period of time; a large percentage of the IDPs can not easily adapt
to farming, having lived in urban areas much or most of their lives;
and that the host community is already in a fragile food security
situation themselves. (Note: In addition, it appears there will

KHARTOUM 00000807 003.2 OF 004

likely be movement of IDPs further away from Abyei and Agok, as this
population is extremely nervous about the prospect of continued
fighting as well as the threat lingering in their minds of the
return of the Antonov. WFP is considering bolstering its storage
capacity in areas like Turalei and Wunrok in Twic County for this
reason. End note).

Humanitarian Response

11. The USAID team met with the UN coordination team on site in
Agok. The team reported that most sectors are covered and
sufficient relief items are en route or able to be dispatched as
needed. The May 25 headcount will enable the UN to establish a
realistic planning figure for food and NFIs. The agencies are
currently planning a three-stage response and are focusing on
meeting the immediate emergency needs of the Abyei IDPs.

--IMMEDIATE RESPONSE: In the next two weeks, agencies aim to provide
a 15-day food ration to both IDPs and host families, and NFI kits to
IDPs. At the time of the USAID team's visit, the UN coordination
team reported that it was not possible to plan for a longer range
response because it remained uncertain if the IDPs would continue
moving south, particularly if Sudanese military airplanes circle
again over IDP sites and terrorize the population. (Note: UN and
NGO staff on the ground in Agok reported witnessing an Antonov drop
ordnance near the River Kiir on May 19. Representatives from the
UN, NGOs, and the local authorities told the USAID team that the
IDPs were extremely scared by the circling of the Antonov. End
Note.) Further military aircraft activity could drive the IDPs
further south. Agencies expressed concern that relief structures,
such as the white WFP rubbhall stores, could become targets and put
the population at risk of aerial attack.

--MEDIUM-TERM RESPONSE: As additional information on the security
situation and IDP intentions is gained, the organizations will
address food security, education, sanitation, protection, nutrition,
and water needs through longer-term solutions. The USAID team noted
that provision of seeds and agricultural tools will be essential to
assist the population in the medium term, if it becomes clear that
IDPs will remain in their current locations, which are suitable for
farming and gardening. Investing in public latrines and water
points will be needed to prevent the deterioration in the health of
the population.

--LONG-TERM RESPONSE: USAID has received several reports that
indicate Abyei town is nearly destroyed. Many USAID partner
compounds have either been destroyed, occupied, or looted. In
addition, many USAID-funded projects in Abyei are assumed to be
damaged or destroyed, including water points, community
infrastructure projects, and health facilities. If and when IDPs
can return to Abyei, NGOs and UN agencies will have to rebuild
compounds and restart programming from scratch. Looking forward to
this possibility, the UN/RCO is advocating for a proper town
planning of Abyei to take place before reconstruction begins.


12. The UN coordination team in Agok reported that the current major
constraint to the humanitarian operation is trucking capacity to
transport relief items from Juba and Wau to Agok and within the Agok
area to distribution sites. In addition, the UN team reported a
limited supply of fuel in Agok. Supply routes from the north have
been closed by insecurity along the border areas, and at present,
the UN is planning to supply the Agok operation from Juba. WFP
reports it is talking with transporters that are already working on
pre-positioning food throughout Southern Sudan to see if it might be
possible for them to increase their deliveries. Another option
would be for these contracted private transporters to take over the

KHARTOUM 00000807 004.2 OF 004

deliveries that WFP-owned trucks are now doing, in order to free
them up for the Abyei response. WFP noted that transporters from
the north, including the drivers of the IOM trucks that delivered
NFI items to Agok recently, are extremely hesitant to be working in
this area right now, and that some of them have actually been
threatened, though no reports of physical harm have been received.

USAID Assistance

13. Mercy Corps, GOAL, PACT, and SC/US are all involved in the
relief effort for Abyei IDPs. All of these NGOs are current
USAID/OFDA partners that had ongoing programs in Abyei and Agok.
GOAL continues to operate the health facilities south of the River
Kiir and has assigned health care staff to assist with the emergency
medical efforts in Agok and Turalei in Twic County. PACT is
drilling 17 new boreholes in the area with USAID/OFDA funding and
reported that all are on schedule to be finished in the coming
weeks. Four of the new boreholes have been relocated to serve the
needs of the IDPs. SC/US is partnering with WFP on the food
distribution and is also providing NFI items, and implementing child
protection activities. Mercy Corps and a local NGO had the only
compounds in Agok. Both compounds are currently serving as
operational and residential bases from which the UN and other relief
organizations manage their response. Mercy Corps trucks, vehicles,
fuel, and staff (many of which are displaced local staff from Abyei
themselves) are supporting the logistics of the Abyei IDP response.
WFP, USAID/FFP's main partner in Southern Sudan, is leading the
transport and distribution of food aid.


14. The full impact of the Abyei crisis will not be known until the
risk of further conflict dissipates or escalates. This is already
the worst humanitarian situation in Southern Sudan since the CPA was
signed. Humanitarian agencies are carefully planning flexible
response modalities, in case another round of fighting here or in
other tense border areas causes another wave of displacement.
Relief agencies have responded quickly and effectively to this
crisis. However, stocks of relief supplies, as well as emergency
response funding, have been depleted in the south, leaving agencies
unable to respond rapidly to another major emergency.

15. One seasoned aid worker, who was in Southern Sudan during the
war and who knows the Three Areas well, said that if conflict starts
again in Abyei, it could lead to a wider conflict in northern Sudan.
Peace is fragile in the Nuba Mountains, southern Blue Nile State,
and eastern Sudan where the CPA did not address the underlying
causes of the 1983-2005 civil war. Aid workers described to the
USAID team the scenarios they were preparing to respond to including
short-term, long-term, and a return to war. A local official told
the USAID team that they were managing the emergency response while
hoping for a political solution, but stated that, "if politics don't
work, maybe military will."

The US Embassy will continue to push for a political solution to the
crisis and work to de-escalate political tensions between the two
parties involved. The US Embassy will also push for UNMIS to assist
in establishing a humanitarian supply cooridor from El Obeid and
Kadugli to Benitu to ensure that needed relief items can reach Agok
quickly. The US commends the rapid response of the UN and NGOs.


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>


Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>


  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC