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Cablegate: Ethiopia - Usaid/Hat - Update On Humanitarian Situation In

O 070626Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1178
INFO AMEMBASSY ASMARA
AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI
AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS
USMISSION GENEVA
AMEMBASSY LONDON
AMEMBASSY ROME
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHDC
DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
DIA WASHDC
CJTF HOA
NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 001821


STATE DEPARTMENT FOR DAS AF JSWAN, AF/E, AF/PDPA, OES, A/S PRM
SAUERBREY, AND PRM/AFR
AFR/AA KALMQUIST, EGAST, CTHOMPSON
DCHA/AA MHESS, GGOTTLIEB
DCHA/OFDA KLUU, ACONVERY, CCHAN, PMORRIS, KCHANNELL
DCHA/FFP JDWORKEN, PMOHAN, PBERTOLIN
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER
CJTF-HOA AND USCENTCOM FOR POLAD
USDA/FAS FOR U/S PENN, RTILSWORTH, AND LPANASUK
NAIROBI FOR OFDA/ECARO JMYER, GPLATT, RFFPO NCOX
ROME FOR AMBASSADOR, OHA, HSPANOS
BRUSSELS FOR USEU PBROWN
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH, RMA
NSC FOR PMARCHAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PHUM SENV EAGR PGOV ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA - USAID/HAT - UPDATE ON HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN
SOMALI REGION, JUNE, 2008

REF: ADDIS ABABA 1032

--------
Summary
--------

1. This cable provides a summary of the current situation in the
Somali region based on field reporting by the Government of Ethiopia
(GoE) regional government in Jijiga, non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) and United Nation (UN) agencies. The cable draws exclusively
from second hand sources due to security restrictions which have
precluded visits by the USAID Humanitarian Assistance Team (HAT)
visits to partner project sites in the region. The reports include a
regional forum led by government in Jijiga, zonal and district level
reporting from Warder zone, Geladi and Boh districts, meetings with
UN staff from the region, and reports from UN agencies.

2. Overall regional government and agencies report a distressingly
deteriorating situation with increased rates of malnutrition,
outbreaks of acute watery diarrhea (AWD) migration of populations in
search of food and water, and security problems. There is deep
concern by UN and NGO partners that the crisis in Somali region is
being forgotten by the international community in the face of the
enormous food security crisis occurring elsewhere in the country.
End Summary.

--------
Security
--------

3. Reports from the regional security meeting in Jijiga on June 24,
2008 indicate that the security services in Jijiga are on increased
alert with checkpoints and visible security presence throughout the
day, most likely a reaction to the ONLF offensive west of Degehabur
on June 10. Rumors are circulating that military action in some
parts of the region is imminent. Information from Gode also
indicates an increased military presence, which observers interpret
as potential imminent action about to occur. Against this backdrop,
an aircraft carrying MSF-Switzerland staff was detained in Fik and
five national staff arrested by local authorities on June 19.
Expatriates were not arrested. Up until now the 5 staff remain in
custody without any stated reason. Further, in a communication to
the United Nations on June 30, 2008, MSF/Switzerland informed the UN
and donors of its decision not to continue its medical intervention
in Fik zone. Other arrests have occurred recently in Fik following
rebel attacks earlier in the month

4. The UN Humanitarian Air Service which provided shuttle service to
Dire Dawa from Addis was grounded following the MSF/S event and
remains grounded by Ministry of Defense authorities. No specific
reason has been given to the UN for this decision. The GoE
authorities did permit the plane to medevac a seriously ill NGO
staff member last week. The UNHAS plane is funded by USAID/OFDA.

-------------------------
Agriculture and Livestock
-------------------------

5. The "Gu" rains, which should have fallen in the last months,
were distributed unevenly across the region and described as poor by
most stations reporting. The result is poor pasture regeneration
affecting livestock herds, which have migrated earlier than normal
to greener areas of the region such as Harshin, Hamaro, Fik, Gode,
and Filtu, where rains were comparatively better. In some areas
there have been up to 3 failed rainy seasons, devastating the
livestock herds. Up to 15 percent of camels, 20 percent of cattle
and 35-40 percent of shoats have perished in some areas according to
regional authorities. Some pastoralists have lost their entire herds
leading to total destitution and migration of pastoralists to towns
seeking support from relatives. Efforts are intensifying to deliver
mobile health services to surviving animals, but the numbers of
marketable animals has seriously declined affecting the terms of
trade for pastoralists trying to purchase grains.

---------------
Water Situation
---------------

6. The poor rainfall has affected water availability for humans and
animals. According to a UNICEF mission report, eleven villages in
Warder district are in urgent need of water, but only seven are
covered by the current emergency water tankering operation run by
the international NGO Action Contre La Faim (ACF). In the absence
of water tankering in some areas, populations are abandoning their
villages to migrate to where they can obtain water. The District
Education bureau in Warder reports that all 22 schools have been
closed for the last two months due to the drought. A UN staff member
working in the region opined that in the coming weeks, if no
solution to the water crisis is found, i.e. through additional
tankering, there could be mass migration of populations in the
region searching for water.

---------------------
Health and Nutrition
---------------------

7. The health situation is deteriorating rapidly, with serious
outbreaks of AWD (likely cholera, but tests have not yet confirmed
this) reported throughout the region, including in Warder and Korahe
Zones with high death tolls in all areas. Recent reports from the
health zone in Boh indicate up to 34 children have died in some 11
villages surveyed during the period July 13 - 17, 2008. A UNICEF
team was told that an additional 35 children had died in four other
villages. Most of the deaths had occurred within the preceding 2-4
weeks In Geladi District, also in Warder zone, there were 58 deaths
reported from suspected AWD, with most occurring in Saaraye village
some 70 km north of Geladi town. Kebredehar and Shilabo districts
of Korahe zone have been reporting AWD since May. UNICEF mobile
health teams, funded by USAID/OFDA, are working in the Somali region
but able to cover only a fraction of the villages that need to be
served. UNICEF tells USAID/OFDA there is an urgent need to invest in
the static health centers where there are populations in order to
ensure more consistent care.

8. Malnutrition rates are rising rapidly, although the data is
difficult to obtain and surveys have either not been permitted by
central authorities or - as in the case of Fik - results were not
permitted by the regional government to be released. In the case of
Warder where the situation is known to be serious, the survey done
in April was endorsed by the ENCU and regional authorities but
results were disputed by federal authorities. Results are currently
blocked until the DPPA decides what to do. In the meantime, MSF/H
reported treating 200 children for severe acute malnutrition (SAM)
in one week in Warder hospital. ADRA, working in Kelafo with OFDA
funds, reports a 60 percent rise in admissions since February/March.
In Bare, Afder zone, SC/US reports deaths from malnutrition in the
health center. SC/US has dispatched a nutritionist to the region
(including to parts of Borena that are particularly drought
affected) to gather as much information as possible and report back
by July 9.

--------
Food Aid
--------

9. Food availability is a very serious concern and the need for food
aid is rising rapidly. Harvests failed in all production areas of
the Somali region. In Fik and Hamaro markets, there is no maize or
sorghum, and limited supplies of all other food stuffs such as rice
and wheat flour. Gode also is reporting rising food prices and no
availability of locally-grown foods. In Degehabur, severe food
shortages are reported, exacerbated by the arrival of populations
migrating from other zones. Similar stories are emerging from all
parts of the region. Poor terms of trade between livestock and food
make it difficult for pastoralists to access what food is available.
WFP is currently undertaking, with DPPA as the lead, to deliver
relief food to the region, but the amounts actually distributed to
beneficiaries are a fraction of what should have been provided.

10. According to a recently-released WFP report, 33 percent of the
food dispatched between January and June was actually distributed to
the target caseload of 1.025 million beneficiaries. There are
chronic delays in the turnaround of trucks between pick-up points at
warehouses and the final distribution points. Institutional
inefficiencies on the part of DPPA are exacerbated by the special
challenges of transporting and distributing food in conflict zones.
Military escorts, required for all food distribution convoys, are
unpredictable. Military or local government officials frequently
require truckers to offload in unplanned locations with no
forewarning, usually in woreda capitals. Reasons given are the
migratory nature of some of the beneficiaries, as well as the
special challenges of food destined for areas not controlled by the
Government. Not bringing the food to final distribution points
makes it more difficult for populations already weakened and
vulnerable to collect their food, some reportedly walking 30 - 50
kilometers. The constraints identified in earlier USG HAT
assessments have not been relieved (reftel), and food aid continues
to fall way short of targets and needs. NOTE: To improve performance
in food deliveries, WFP suggested a few months ago a hub-and-spoke
concept to Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency (DPPA).
Getting the GoE to agree to structural changes is difficult, and the
suggestion was turned down. However, with the food crisis
worsening, WFP is negotiating another forward hub proposal with
DPPA.

11. In a briefing with USG HAT in June, UN (OCHA) staff working in
the region said that the DPPB capacity to deliver food is
"appalling" and is not properly targeted to the vulnerable. The
staff mentioned reports from the area that traders purchase food aid
for re-sale. NOTE: The USG HAT followed this up with WFP, who
explained that - because of the long distances to carry their food
-- some people actually store their food with relatives or
commercial establishments, and that large-scale selling of food aid
is not taking place. End NOTE. The same OCHA staff told the USG HAT
that unless a rapid response capacity is geared up by the
international community "people will start dying like flies".
During a meeting between visiting senior WFP Rome staff and USAID on
June 27, WFP opined also that "extraordinary logistics" will very
soon be required to pull the region back from the abyss of total
disaster, if the current level of relief is not augmented and
administered much more efficiently. NOTE: The GoE announced on June
10 that it was diverting all food delivery trucks from Somali
region, to attend to food delivery in other parts of the country.
This decision was only reversed in late June after significant donor
protest.

12. USG HAT for Somali recognized as early as January and February
2008 that a crisis was looming in the region and recommended
immediate interventions to improve food aid deliveries, launch
measles campaigns, improve water availability and improve security
support for the international community (REFTEL). Over USD 6 million
has been programmed to respond in these areas. At present US NGOs
funded by OFDA are working in Degabur, Kebrehahar, Gode, Kelafo,
Warder, Afder, Fik and Jijiga. USAID/Ethiopia through the Pastoral
Livelihood Initiative is supporting interventions to preserve
pastoral livelihoods through the Pastoral Livelihoods Initiative.
USAID/OFDA has contributed USD 1 million to the program to assist in
additional emergency response in the livestock sector. Food for
Peace has contributed substantially to food aid generally in
Ethiopia. A contribution of over USD 100 million included a
substantial contribution specifically for the Somali Region through
the World Food Program and other partners. Food for Peace has also
deployed an expert to the now country-wide USG HAT to continue
following up on the issue of food deliveries.

-------------------------------
Somali Region being forgotten?
--------------------------------

13. NGOs and the UN are expressing concern that the disaster in the
Somali region is fading from the front page, as the enormity of the
food security crisis in the rest of the country is being revealed
and tight GoE restrictions on humanitarian assessments and access
remain in place throughout Somali region. And with logistics,
politics and security so problematic in Somali region, it is easier
for the international community to turn its attention to the more
accessible regions where data is available and logistics are more
manageable.

14. All indicators point to dire observations coming true. Over the
coming weeks, WFP and NGOs, as well as donors, need to step up
attention to the Somali region, with particular focus on food aid
distributions, nutritional support and AWD response. USAID/OFDA is
committing additional resources in the water sector to improve
access to water and to assist NGOs to prepare for AWD outbreaks. The
USAID/HAT continues to monitor closely the allocation and
distribution of food to the region reported by WFP. The team will
make a visit to Jijiga to meet with partners on July 5-6, 2008.

YAMAMOTO

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