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Cablegate: Djibouti - Somali Refugee Influx Exacerbates Food

VZCZCXRO2635
PP RUEHDE RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHDJ #0550/01 1770918
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 250918Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9337
INFO RUCNSOM/SOMALIA COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DJIBOUTI 000550

STATE FOR AF/E, PRM/AFR, S/CRS AND USAID
ADDIS ABABA FOR REFCOORD
NAIROBI FOR RDRAPCHO AND REFCOORD
GENEVA FOR KPERKINS
CJTF-HOA FOR POLAD

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF EAID EAGR SMIG SO ET DJ XA
SUBJECT: DJIBOUTI - SOMALI REFUGEE INFLUX EXACERBATES FOOD
INSECURITY

REF: A) DJIBOUTI 535
B) DJIBOUTI 439
C) DJIBOUTI 437
D) DJIBOUTI 425 (NOTAL)
E) DJIBOUTI 223
F) 07 DJIBOUTI 1004


1. SUMMARY: The unforeseen influx of refugees since November 2007
from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea has strained the capacity of the
Government of Djibouti (GoDJ) and the two primary international
organizations supporting refugees in Djibouti. World Food Program
(WFP) struggles to meet the demand of Djibouti's Food shortage. The
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the
National Office of Assistance to Refugees and Disaster Stricken
People (ONARS) lack sufficient registration arrangements, including
a structured plan to provide new arrivals with complete 15-day food
rations, and enough water. The UNHCR has recognized this problem
and expressed its needs to improve the situation. They also
continue to keep a strong stand on returning repatriated refugees.
END SUMMARY.

---------------
FOOD INSECURITY
---------------

2. On February 13, the Regional Refugee Coordinator (REFCOORD) and
post's Refugee Officer met with World Food Program (WFP)
Representative Benoit Thiry and UNHCR to discuss WFP's food pipeline
in Djibouti. Mr. Thiry explained that the WFP supply was sufficient
to feed the current unforeseen refugee influx; however, if problems
arise, he plans to borrow food from Ethiopia and/or Yemen. He
underscored the need for advance coordination between ONARS and
UNHCR with WFP, when food is needed and used at the refugee camp.

3. During the April 1 visit of Washington-based Refugee Officer for
the Horn of Africa (HOA Refoff), Mr. Thiry changed his assessment of
the food supply. He reported that WFP currently awaits a major cash
donation from Brussels promised since October, but does not know
when to expect the donation to arrive. He blamed himself for not
pressuring Brussels for funds. Since it is difficult to store food
in Djibouti due to the heat, he decided to give Brussels some time
to deliver the money to purchase the food. Mr. Thiry is afraid the
funds will not arrive in sufficient time to purchase from regional
sources, and unfortunately, WFP does not purchase food from the
local market.

4. Since November 2007, Djibouti has experienced an influx in
refugees and migrants from southern and central Somalia (refs C,
E-F), as well as from Ethiopia and Eritrea. This unforeseen influx
has strained the GoDJ and UNHCR. Djibouti is a small country that
receives aid and assistance from several international donors. Its
food security, always fragile because of the dry climate and
terrain, has been further jeopardized due to a poor rainy season,
and a 35 percent increase in staple food prices (ref E). The
combined forces have had substantial negative consequences on
pastoral livelihood.

----------------------------
INCOMPLETE FOOD DISTRIBUTION
----------------------------

5. During a March 31 visit to the refugee camp, HOA Refoff witnessed
new arrivals receiving incomplete food packages and expressed
concerns to the WFP. Although the WFP Country Director was not
surprised at this report, he was unaware even that the food
distribution was taking place. As he has on previous occasions, Mr.
Thiry requested advance notice and proper communication from UNHCR
and ONARS to WFP, regarding food distribution for new arrivals. He
explained that if UNHCR and ONARS provide WFP with the number of new
arrivals expected at the camp, food can be delivered to the camp
within 12 hours, prior to their arrival. HOA Refoff also inquired
about the possibility of WFP pre-positioning a supply of food at the
refugee camp for new arrivals. Mr. Thiry stated that a small buffer
of food remains at the camp that could feed up to 200 people. WFP
concurred that this food could be used for new arrivals, but that
ONARS needs to inform WFP prior to distribution and properly log the
use of the food stored in the camp warehouse. WFP is adamantly
opposed to a larger buffer stock, since food distribution is
controlled by the GoDJ, which lacks proper inventory control to
prevent diversion of food assistance. Prompted by the HOA Refoff,
UNHCR agreed to take the lead in establishing a working group to
improve communication among UNHCR, WFP, and ONARS to ensure that
proper levels of food are available and distributed in Ali Addeh
camp.

DJIBOUTI 00000550 002 OF 002

------------------------
UNHCR RESPONSE AND NEEDS
------------------------

6. UNHCR has developed a favorable working relationship with ONARS.
Together, they successfully repatriated many Somaliland refugees in
December 2007. UNHCR reports an estimated 1,000 refugees from
Somaliland remain at Ali Addeh camp, including over 600 from the ex
Hol-Holl camp. These refugees signed up for voluntary repatriation
after the end of the aforementioned repatriation; however, UNHCR now
lacks the resources to undertake a new repatriation while also
handling the current influx.

7. During a meeting with UNHCR, REFCOORD highlighted UNHCR's
shortfall on protection--the lack of daily presence at Ali Addeh
camp. The UNHCR Representative and Senior Protection Officer agreed
to come up with a solution. Three weeks later, HOA Refoff witnessed
the corrective action taken, as two UNHCR-newly hired master's
degree-holders stationed 45 minutes from the camp at Ali Sabieh,
have started commuting daily to the camp to work on refugee
protection and assistance, with the supervision of the protection
unit. (COMMENT: While this is commendable, UNHCR requires support
from its regional office to hire at least two more persons for the
understaffed protection unit. Furthermore, there is no office
available in the camp where protection cases can meet with
protection officers in a private setting. END COMMENT.)

--------------------------------------
PROBLEMS WITH REGISTRATION OF REFUGEES
--------------------------------------

8. Registration of new arrivals poses a challenge to UNHCR
Djibouti. In addition to a staffing shortage, they have technical
constraints with the registration software. There are not enough
ProGres-loaded laptops to operate the registration, and no technical
tools to consolidate the two databases on which this software
operates: one based in the City of Djibouti (for registration at the
ONARS office), and one at Ali Addeh. With sufficient funding, UNHCR
also intends to set up registration facilities at the border point
of Loyada, where southern Somali refugees arrive, although no
concrete plans have been developed.

9. Transportation of refugees from Loyada to Djibouti city and then
to Ali Addeh is an added problem. ONARS currently uses two old
trucks given by WFP to cover the 130-kilometer distance. As these
same trucks are also used to transport food and non-food items from
the WFP warehouse to the Ali Addeh camp, extensive use has caused
substantial wear and tear on the vehicles, making them increasingly
unsafe for human transport. All the refugee agencies and partner
organizations would welcome two replacement trucks.

--------------------------------------------- ------
FORMERLY REPATRIATED REFUGEES RETURNING TO DJIBOUTI
--------------------------------------------- ------

10. During the February food distribution, the refugee camp's
refugee leaders reported the presence of Somalilander refugees who
had previously been repatriated attempting to collect food. When
the Somalilanders were denied access to the distribution, they
responded by throwing stones at the protection team. The
individuals were removed from the camp by Djiboutian police. UNHCR
filed formal charges against the repatriated refugees and the
Djiboutian courts prosecuted the main agitators and warned the
remainder.

11. COMMENTS: Given the influx of refugees in Djibouti, it is
critical for the USG to send an assessment team from the USAID and
the Population, Refugee, and Migration to develop a strategy for
feeding and supporting the international organizations and the GoDJ
in relieving the situation. Meanwhile, UNHCR Djibouti needs to
ensure that the recently started daily camp presence of protection
staff at Ali Addeh continues through regular visits by staff from
the capital. It needs to arrange with the regional office in
Nairobi or headquarters in Geneva to receive qualified additional
personnel to resolve its staffing issues in the protection and other
sections. Additional manpower would also enable UNHCR to screen and
register new arrivals faster and allow it to catch up with existing
registration backlogs at Ali Addeh camp. END COMMENT.

LIST

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