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Cablegate: Sadr City Displacement

VZCZCXRO8274
RR RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #1665/01 1531513
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 011513Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7614
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 001665

FOR USAID/ANE/IR, NEA/I, DCHA/OFDA, DCHA/FFP

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: IZ PARM PGOV PHUM PREL
SUBJECT: SADR CITY DISPLACEMENT

1.(SBU) SUMMARY: The conflict between the GOI and
Sadrist militants that ignited in late March led to
fears of a large-scale humanitarian crisis given the
heavy density of the civilian population in the area
and the potential for wide-spread and destructive
engagements. Considering a worse-case scenario, the
GOI developed plans to provide shelter and assistance
for up to 100,000 Sadr City residents that might be
forced from their homes by the fighting. The Ministry
of Displacement and Migration (MoDM) took the lead for
the GOI, and backed by a USAID-supported NGO,
established a camp at the Shaab soccer stadium in
Rusafa that could accommodate 5,000 displaced persons.
END SUMMARY.

2. Estimates of the total families displaced during
the fighting ran to 4,700; however, only 39 families
required shelter and aid at the Shaab stadium. As
anticipated by USAID and other aid agencies, virtually
all of those Sadr City residents displaced by the
conflict stayed with family, friends and neighbors.
In the week since the cease-fire went into effect on
18 May, all families left the Shaab camp and returned
home and it is believed that the majority of others
displaced returned to their residences as well. The
cease-fire and its successful implementation averted a
humanitarian emergency.

Background to Anticipated Displacement Crisis
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (SBU) The GOI anticipated significant displacement
from Sadr City as U.S. and Iraqi forces entered the
area in early April to target militants firing rockets
and mortars at the International Zone (IZ) and
attempting to force Sadr City residents to observe a
general strike. U.S. forces started building a
concrete wall separating the southernmost part of Sadr
City (sectors 1-9 and the Jamila market area) from the
northern 75 percent because militants were launching
daily rocket and mortar volleys at the International
Zone from those areas. Militia elements shot at
civilians not observing the strike and launched
attacks from densely populated civilian areas against
U.S. forces building the wall. Civilians caught in
the crossfire began fleeing their homes, mostly to
stay with friends and relatives elsewhere in Sadr City
or in other neighborhoods in Baghdad. In anticipation
of a push by U.S. or Iraqi forces into areas north of
the walled area, MoDM started planning for the
potential displacement of thousands of civilians from
Sadr City in early May.

4.(SBU) MoDM identified three sites to set up tent
camps to accommodate civilians fleeing Sadr City;
Shaab Stadium in Rusafa, Sinaa Stadium in Nine Nissan,
and the Rashid Airbase in Karada. MoDM determined that
Shaab and Sinaa Stadiums could accommodate several
hundred families each, while the Rashid Airbase could
hold thousands of families if necessary. MoDM said it
had 1,000 tents on hand and that the Iraqi Red
Crescent Organization, a MoDM implementing partner,
had about 15,000 tents on hand and another 15,000
tents inbound. Minister of MoDM, Abdel Samd Rahman
Sultan, told USAID and Baghdad PRT representatives
that he expected most displaced families would stay
with friends or relatives rather than going to camps,
but that the ministry would plan for camps anyway.

5. In an effort to provide an alternative to families
being displaced in Sadr City, the UNHCR initiated a
housing rehabilitation project and a Non Food Items
(NFIs) distribution project through their implementing
partner Mercy Hands. To date, approximately 35 houses
have been returned to a livable state and the families
are living in the houses; by 31 May, 100 houses will
have been returned to a livable state so that the
families can avoid being displaced. In addition,
Mercy Hands has distributed 795 NFI packets to
families in need throughout Sadr City over the last
month in a further effort to prevent displacement.

6. (SBU) Iraqi Army elements reportedly notified
residents by loudspeaker and through community leaders
that people wishing to flee the area could gather at
identified collection points for transport to the
camps. Since there was little demand, MoDM only
opened the Shaab Stadium Camp on 10 May. Note:
Iraqis traditionally eschew camps and see them as only

BAGHDAD 00001665 002 OF 002


a last resort when facing displacement. Preferred
coping strategies include sheltering with family,
friends and neighbors or staying in public buildings
(mosques, schools, etc). In theory, the MoDM planned
the camp sites and set them up. However, a USAID
Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)
implementing partner, International Medical Corps
(IMC), provided significant technical assistance,
water, food, and supplies for the camp.

7.(SBU) The Shaab Stadium Camp was equipped with three
toilet compounds, each of which had 75 toilets, along
with large water storage tanks and ten 5,500 liter
portable tanks that IMC arranged for Amanat Baghdad
(Baghdad Municipality) to fill. According IMC, the
Amanat also agreed to remove trash from the camp. The
camp was equipped with a clinic, but when the
Directorate of Health for Rusafa refused to staff it
with doctors, IMC paid doctors to work at the camp for
two hours per day. The Ministry of Health provided
two ambulances to provide transport for serious
injuries or illnesses.

8.(SBU) Families were required to provide
documentation from either Mudhafar Square or Jazeera
Iraqi Police Stations to prove that they were from
Sadr City and that they were not wanted by either
Iraqi or U.S. security forces before camp personnel
would let them enter and register. The Iraqi Army
provided security for the camp.

9.(SBU) At the height of occupancy, there were 38
families residing in the camp. As of 26 May, all
families had departed Al Shaab and returned to Sadr
City. MoDM staff said most of the families had
returned because of improved security conditions in
Sadr City. MoDM staff noted that of 5,000 families
that were temporarily displaced from or within Sadr
City in recent weeks, about 4,500 families have
returned and about 300 remain displaced outside of
Sadr City. These figures represent rough estimates,
but it is probable that most families have returned to
Sadr City since the cease-fire except for those whose
dwellings were destroyed or badly damaged by the
recent fighting.

10. (SBU) MoDM formed an emergency cell with
representatives from the humanitarian, planning,
administration and information departments to oversee
developments at the camp and monitor the humanitarian
situation inside of Sadr City. The cell continues to
meet daily and has re-focused its works to assess
damage to homes and businesses in Sadr City.


Comment
-------

11. (SBU) The ministry took a clear leadership role in
planning for large scale displacement. However,
MoDM's heavy reliance on IMC in establishing and
maintaining the Shaab Stadium Camp illustrates that
while MoDM is performing at a much higher level than
it was a year ago, it still has limited capacity to
address displacement crises.

12. (SBU) Several international NGOs provided food to
the camp even when it only accommodated a few
families, prompting MoDM staff to tell USAID and
Baghdad PRT representatives during a May 17 visit that
they had "an arsenal" of food. The duplicate effort
on such a small operation illustrates the need for
better interagency coordination on humanitarian
activities.

BUTENIS

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