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Cablegate: Abyei Idps: Humanitarian Update

VZCZCXRO2825
PP RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #0945/01 1771329
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251329Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1161
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0072
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0249
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS 0081
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0240

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 KHARTOUM 000945

AIDAC
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/SPG, S/CRS, PRM, AF SE WILLIAMSON
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SP, USAID/W DCHA SUDAN
NAIROBI FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA, USAID/REDSO
FAS GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
NAIROBI FOR SFO
NSC FOR PMARCHAM, MMAGAN, AND BPITTMAN
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
NEW YORK FOR FSHANKS
BRUSSELS FOR PBROWN
USMISSION UN ROME FOR RNEWBERG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREF PGOV PHUM SOCI UN SU
SUBJECT: ABYEI IDPS: HUMANITARIAN UPDATE

REFS: A) KHARTOUM 0540 B) KHARTOUM 0807

KHARTOUM 00000945 001.2 OF 003


1. Begin Summary: On June 20 and 21, a team from USAID's Office of
U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) conducted a follow-up
assessment of Agok area, where an estimated 27,000 internally
displaced persons (IDPs) from Abyei have been displaced to since
mid-May. The USAID team reported an improvement in the living
situation for the majority of the Abyei IDPs due to the provision of
relief commodities including plastic sheeting and household items.
While the humanitarian response has met the immediate needs of the
IDPs through the provision of food aid, relief commodities, and safe
drinking water, the USAID team noted that the malnutrition problem
reported during the first USAID assessment (REF B) has not been
resolved and is now particularly worrisome. Despite the recent
signing of the Abyei roadmap agreement, relief agencies, community
leaders, and IDPs do not believe that the IDPs in Agok town will
return to Abyei very soon. IDPs and community leaders listed
several preconditions for voluntary IDP return to Abyei, including a
stable security situation, the presence of UN and non-governmental
organizations (NGOs), and instructions to return from the
government. End Summary.

--------------------------------------
THE HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE ONE MONTH ON
--------------------------------------

2. During the USAID team's visits to IDP sites around the Agok area,
the team noted that most displaced families had constructed shelters
using plastic sheets, poles, and other locally available materials.
NGOs reported that all IDP families had received at least one
package of relief commodities, including mats, cooking pots,
blankets, water containers, and mosquito nets. However, a second
distribution of key items, particularly plastic sheeting, would
assist the households in strengthening and expanding the shelters to
withstand heavy seasonal rains. With USAID/OFDA funding, Mercy
Corps is constructing approximately 400 semi-permanent shelters for
vulnerable families, using poles and plastic sheeting donated from
the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). In addition, GOAL is planning to
construct a household latrine for each new shelter.

3. The USAID team visited two food distribution sites where relief
workers were distributing one-month rations that included
USAID-donated sorghum, pulses, and vegetable oil. The food
distribution is managed by Save the Children/US (SC/US) and the UN
World Food Program (WFP). USAID staff report that the observed food
distributions were orderly and well organized. Because the roads are
already muddy and will become impassable due to the seasonal rains,
implementing partners plan to distribute two-month food rations to
remote IDP sites.

4. Relief agencies have made progress in constructing emergency
latrines and increasing access to safe drinking water. However,
additional latrines are needed to ensure improved sanitation in the
overcrowded IDP sites. Health services provided by the Ministry of
Health, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), and USAID partner GOAL are
meeting the needs of the population. SC/US is actively assisting
unaccompanied children to locate families and is planning to
establish three child-friendly spaces in and around Agok, with USAID
support.

5. Although coordination is strong among NGOs in Agok, coordination
between UN agencies and NGOs needs strengthening. (Note: Rapid
turnover of key UN agency staff that are technical sector leads, has
frustrated NGO staff who have to brief incoming UN staff and
repeatedly provide information on their activities. End Note.)

6. In addition to meeting the most urgent, immediate needs of the
Abyei IDPs, relief agencies have initiated additional projects,
including livelihood programs and activities for children and youth,
to help normalize the lives of the Abyei IDPs. Dry spells during
June enabled relief agencies to access all IDP sites and
pre-position food and medicine for the upcoming rainy season.

KHARTOUM 00000945 002.2 OF 003

----------------------------------
MALNUTRITION CONTINUES TO INCREASE
----------------------------------

7. The humanitarian community's major concern remains the high
levels of malnutrition among the Abyei IDPs. Fully understanding
the causes and extent of the malnutrition problem is difficult
because a general nutrition survey has not yet been conducted. At
the onset of the Abyei crisis, malnutrition was already a concern
for humanitarian agencies (REF B). However, most humanitarian staff
believed that once the food aid reached the affected communities,
the nutrition situation would improve. Despite successful food
distributions, the trend in malnutrition has not improved, according
to MSF and GOAL.

8. MSF staff have confirmed a significant malnutrition problem
among Abyei IDPs, even though no official survey is available. The
three GOAL clinics that are currently serving IDPs are referring 2
to 3 cases of severe malnutrition to MSF each day, a trend that was
not present before the arrival of the IDPs. For cases of moderate
malnutrition, GOAL and MSF, the primary health NGOs in Agok, provide
plumpy nut, a peanut butter-like ready-to-use product that is high
in calories and nutritional value. During the week of June 30, MSF
is planning to conduct a nutrition survey among the population to
identify the underlying causes of the increased malnutrition. Prior
to the results of the survey, MSF plans to assist the severely
malnourished by opening a 100-bed therapeutic feeding center in
Agok. In addition, GOAL and MSF have increased outreach to IDP
households and active screening for children under the age of five.
MSF reports that many malnourished children are not being brought to
the health facilities, making house-to-house outreach and screening
important.

9. Currently, humanitarian agencies do not know the exact cause of
the malnutrition problem among Abyei IDPs. Field staff noted that
the origin of the continuing deterioration of the nutrition
situation it is uncertain, particularly as NGOs report that
communities are getting food assistance. MSF and GOAL have not seen
high levels of diarrhea or measles among the population, factors
that often contribute to malnutrition. Health agencies on the
ground concur about the existence of a problem and are scaling up
emergency response programs to treat the malnutrition cases, but
still have not identified the root cause of the problem. WFP is
considering providing a blanket supplementary feeding for children
under five years of age. Finding a way to reverse the increasing
trend in malnutrition among the population will require further
analysis and attention.

-------------------------
RETURN TO ABYEI UNCERTAIN
-------------------------

10. USAID interviewed UN and NGO staff, community leaders, and
several IDPs in the Agok area, who all told the team the IDPs in
Agok are not planning on returning to Abyei in the near future.
Despite the signing of the Abyei Road Map, Abyei IDPs are wary of
the nascent agreement and plan to wait and see if security returns
and if the Sudanese Armed Forces withdraw from the town. The IDP
community is still traumatized from the fighting and the subsequent
displacement.

11. Aid agencies report that some IDPs, mostly men, have made
go-and-see visits to areas north of the River Kiir to check on the
status of their communities. At the time of the USAID visit, there
was no indication that a large-scale voluntary return by the IDP
community was likely to occur in the coming weeks or months. Relief
workers predict that some of the villages south of Abyei and north
of the River Kiir will be the first sites of return, as the villages
south of Abyei are believed to be less damaged and potentially
easier for community returns. In addition, IDPs who initially fled
to Turalei, Wau, or Bentiu have returned to Agok to await the time

KHARTOUM 00000945 003.2 OF 003


that return to Abyei is possible, according to relief agencies.

12. The humanitarian community awaits a UN-led interagency
humanitarian assessment to Abyei before NGOs can make decisions
about whether to return and how to position humanitarian operations
in the new context. Humanitarian agencies, including GOAL, SC/US,
MSF, Mercy Corps, and the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs, plan to position themselves where the IDPs are
and focus on meeting the needs of IDPs. Even if Abyei opens up to
aid agencies, many humanitarian organizations may remain positioned
in Agok if that is where the IDP populations opt to remain.

--------
Comments
--------

13. The political pressure for Abyei IDPs to return to Abyei quickly
is likely to be high in the coming weeks, particularly if the peace
agreement continues to progress. As the way forward on Abyei is
planned, humanitarian agencies and donors must keep the
international principles of return in mind. International
principles stipulate that returns must be voluntary and dignified
and return to destinations safe and suitable for habitation.

14. Embassy Khartoum will continue to closely follow the
humanitarian response and continue working with partners on the
ground to ensure that IDP needs are met. USAID will remain engaged
on the Khartoum-based UN planning process for reconstruction and
return to Abyei. Post is concerned about the elevated malnutrition
rates among Abyei IDPs and will continue to investigate the
underlying causes. We will continue to urge early progress on the
full implementation of the Abyei Road Map agreement and monitor the
political context in which the humanitarian response to the needs of
Abyei IDPs operates.

FERNANDEZ

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