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Cablegate: Status of Usaid/Ofda Assistance Used for Sichuan Earthquake

VZCZCXRO5416
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH
DE RUEHBJ #3054/01 2200948
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 070948Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9046
INFO RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 6248
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2271
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 9345
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0468
RUEHGH/AMCONSUL SHANGHAI 9308
RUEHSH/AMCONSUL SHENYANG 9013
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 4249
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 3855
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 0856
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 7038
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 2272
RUEHRO/USMISSION UN ROME
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2044
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BEIJING 003054

STATE FOR EAP/CM
STATE ALSO PASS TO USAID
USAID/W FOR DCHA/OFDA ACONVERY, PMORRIS, RTHAYER
USAID/ASIA FOR CJENNINGS
BANGKOK FOR WBERGER, TROGERS, SKISSINGER, PDO
GENEVA FOR NYKYLOH
NSC FOR PMARCHAM
BRUSSELS FOR USAID PLERNER
NEW YORK FOR FSHANKS
US PACOM FOR CDR USPACOM

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SENV CH
SUBJECT: STATUS OF USAID/OFDA ASSISTANCE USED FOR SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE
RELIEF

REF: A) Beijing 2410 B) Beijing 1848


SUMMARY
-------
1. (SBU) On July 30-August 2, 2008, ESTHOFFS met with
representatives from the International Federation of Red Cross and
Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Chengdu to review the status of the
USD 500,000 donation disbursed by USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster
Assistance (OFDA) on May 21 in response to IFRC's May 15 appeal for
disaster relief funds. As part of the review process, ESTHOFFS
toured localities in Guangyuan and Deyang Prefectures--both with
residents currently using tents procured through this
donation--speaking to local relief workers and government officials
responsible for distributing the tents, and interviewing dozens of
beneficiary families. Procedures for tent procurement and
distribution used by IFRC and their local Chinese Red Cross partners
were judged to be reasonable and satisfactory. However, one pending
issue that may require additional attention is the current lack of
clear, centralized guidance from IFRC to its Chinese partners
regarding ownership and disposal of used tents. END SUMMARY.

BACKGROUND
-----------
2. (U) The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that ravaged Sichuan Province on
May 12 left an estimated 500,000 structures damaged and 4.8 million
people homeless, the majority of which resided in rural areas. On
May 13 Ambassador Randt issued a disaster declaration, requesting
that USAID/OFDA authorize USD 500,000 to assist in relief efforts.
USAID/OFDA pledged on May 15 to contribute the amount to the IFRC's
appeal for aid, and the funds were disbursed on May 21 (REFS A and
B). (NOTE: Other major foreign government donors were Japan with
USD 1.7 million, Ireland with USD 1.5 million, Canada with USD
975,000, and Netherlands with 775,000. END NOTE)
3. (U) Upon receiving the funds from USAID/OFDA, the IFRC agreed to
use the funds within 90 days of receipt, as well as to the following
conditions:
--Document that reasonable steps were taken to ensure that all
purchases made with the grant are made at reasonable prices and from
reasonable sources;
--Maintain complete records of all expenditures made with the grant
for a period of three years after expiration of the grant, and make
such records available to the United States Embassy Beijing or its
representatives at any time;
--At the Embassy's request, refund any funds received that represent
costs determined by the Embassy as not meeting the terms and
conditions of this grant; and
--At the Embassy's request, facilitate Embassy officials' travel to
affected regions to ensure that relief goods have reached the
intended disaster victims.

OVER 1400 TENTS PROCURED AND SHIPPED AT REASONABLE COST
--------------------------------------------- ---------
4. (U) According to records provided to ESTHOFFS by the IFRC Chengdu
office, IFRC procured and distributed over 64,000 tents using funds
received through its May 15 emergency appeal (about 1,400 of which
were procured using USAID/OFDA's USD 500,000 donation). All of the
funds donated by USAID/OFDA have been used, well before the 90-day
deadline. Since few of IFRC's national member societies had large
stocks of tents on hand to shift toward relief efforts in Sichuan,
IFRC made the decision to procure these tents through the Iranian
Red Crescent Society, who not only had a sizeable stock available

BEIJING 00003054 002 OF 004


but also had access to production facilities with the capacity to
produce a large number of high-quality tents quickly. The first of
27 shipments of these tents began arriving in Chengdu on June 19 at
a cost of approximately USD 350 per tent--roughly USD 310 for the
tent itself and USD 40 for transport of it. Shipments were logged
and processed in Chengdu before being transported to
prefecture-level Red Cross representatives for further distribution
to the county, township, and village levels. The last shipment of
these tents arrived in Chengdu on June 28.
5. (U) NOTE: Tents continue to be a crucial component of sheltering
during the recovery process. Prefabricated housing structures have
been erected to house township residents until new towns can be
planned and built. Residents living near village centers are
increasingly building transitional shelters to live in until their
original homes can be rebuilt. However, for farmers living near
their fields far from village centers or in the remote highland
areas, the one-family tent likely will be the only shelter available
to them for at least the next year, until government subsidies for
permanent shelter reconstruction (20,000 RMB per family of likely
cost of 80,000-100,000 RMB per housing unit). END NOTE

EVIDENCE OF TRANSPARENT AND EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION
--------------------------------------------- ----
6. (U) IFRC arranged for ESTHOFFS (accompanied by USAID Public
Private Partnerships Advisor currently based in Chengdu and Chengdu
CONOFF) to meet with local Red Cross officials, tour distribution
centers, meet with town and village leaders, and interview
randomly-selected beneficiaries in the prefectures of Guangyuan
(Qingchuan County, Jianfeng Township) and Deyang (Mianzhu County,
Hanwang Town, Xiangshan and Dongpu Villages). According to IFRC,
decisions on how many tens to allocate to each prefecture, county,
township, and village, were based upon numbers of survivors and
households collected and reported y village chiefs. The numbers
were then collted by Chinese Red Cross representatives at the
township, county, and prefecture levels, and eventually reported to
the provincial distribution center in Chengdu that processed each
incoming shipment of tents. (NOTE: These local representatives are
typically employees of the local health bureau and have a dual
function of serving as the local Red Cross coordinator when
necessary. END NOTE)
7. (U) Village chiefs calculated the number of tents needed in
his/her village using a ratio of one tent per household of 3 to 4
members, with additional tents requested for larger-sized families
as needed. In one instance, ESTHOFFS observed that village chiefs
had even requested, received, and stored tents for residents known
to be away receiving earthquake injury-related medical care, so that
they too would have temporary shelter waiting for them upon their
return to the village. In another instance a township school
principal made a point of setting aside tents to be used at four
remote branch schools for housing students who normally board on
campus during the school year (their own families' homes being too
distant to commute to and from on a daily basis).
8. (U) Accounting practices varied greatly at each level of
distribution and with each locality, including spreadsheets and
signed shipping receipts produced instantly upon request; a school
blackboard filled with dates and names documenting when families
received tents; as well as signature lists posted in the village
square containing signatures showing that every family needing a
tent had received one. Storage facilities for tents being held for
future recipients appeared to be well-secured and well-monitored.
ESTHOFFS did not see evidence of families lacking for tent shelter
(be it from IFRC, other foreign Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies and

BEIJING 00003054 003 OF 004


relief organizations, or from the government), and beneficiaries all
received tents within a day or two of the shipment's arrival in
Chengdu. There did not appear to be excess or unaccounted for tents
being stored at the village or township level. According to IFRC,
Sichuan Red Cross did end up with an excess of 18,000 tents that
were not distributed to beneficiaries, but these tents have been
kept in storage facilities in Chengdu and at the prefecture level to
build capacity for responding to future emergencies.

IFRC TENTS ARE ONE USE ONLY--NOT TO BE RECOLLECTED
--------------------------------------------- ----
9. (U) While beneficiaries seemed uniformly to be satisfied with the
quality of the tents procured through the Iranian Red Crescent
Society, ESTHOFFS nevertheless saw dozens of instances where tent
roofs were leaking rainwater into the tent, and water was pooling
either beneath the vinyl floor of the tent or actually inside the
tent. End users devised numerous methods to combat these defects,
including placing an extra tarp over the top of the tent, digging
trenches around tents to provide better drainage, and positioning
tents on top of wooden pallets to lift them out of pools of water.
10. (U) IFRC representatives told ESTHOFFS that the tents, while of
high quality and durable enough for use over a long period of time,
still were intended for one use only. Once the tents have been
deployed and exposed to moisture and dirt, they cannot easily be
repacked for future use and are likely to disintegrate over time
while in storage. For this reason, and also so that local Red Cross
representatives do not have to deal with the logistical hassle of
recollecting and accounting for tents back up the distribution
chain, IFRC's normal policy is to have relief materials (including
tents) remain only with the beneficiaries after disbursement.
11. (SBU) In interviewing local officials and Red Cross
representatives, ESTHOFFS learned that IFRC's Beijing office had not
adequately relayed this guidance to counterparts in Chinese Red
Cross Society headquarters in Beijing or to the Ministry of Civil
Affairs. Local officials are in fact working under the assumption
that they eventually will be responsible for collecting and
accounting for used tents, and seeing that they are transported to
centralized storage facilities. (NOTE: The Chinese Red Cross
representative in Deyang Prefecture had even succeeded in obtaining
additional government funding to build a storage facility to house
relief supplies, based on the anticipated need to store a large
number of used tents in the near future. END NOTE) Some
beneficiaries also were surprised to hear that they could and should
keep their own tents, instead assuming that the tents they were
using were only "lent" to them, and that they have a patriotic duty
to relinquish them for use in future disaster relief efforts.
12. (U) In Jianfeng (Guangyuan Prefecture), where a large portion of
the population already had received the 2000 RMB governmentsubsidy
(REF A) for each self-built transitional shelter (largely of
salvaged materials, plywood, and corrugated sheet metal), local
officials were demanding that beneficiaries give up their tents
before they could receive the payment. (NOTE: IFRC told ESTHOFFS
that this was because Chinese government-issued tents do infact
have to be collected in this manner, so for fairness, and so that
local officials are not left with a situation of only some families
being allowed to keep the tent they were issued, officials simply
opted to adopt a uniform policy of collecting all used tents. END
NOTE)
13. (U) At ESTHOFFS' request, IFRC representatives did make great
efforts at each visited site to increase awareness of IFRC's
non-collection policy and the inadequacy of these tents for reuse in
future disasters. Furthermore, to avoid a situation of local Red

BEIJING 00003054 004 OF 004


Cross officials assuming that the used tents they have in storage
can be considered increased capacity, when in reality the tents are
disintegrating and unusable, IFRC personnel urged interlocutors to
discount any future utility of recollected tents. IFRC instead
offered to assist them with procurement of new, fully reliable tents
and other relief materials so that the Chinese Red Cross will end up
with actual, usable stored capacity during future emergencies.


COMMENT
-------
14. (SBU) COMMENT: Despite sometimes rudimentary methods of
recordkeeping at the village level, distribution of the more than
1,400 tents that were procured by IFRC using USAID/OFDA funds seems
to have taken place efficiently and transparently. While there were
impromptu efforts by local IFRC staff during site visits to spread
the word that tents should not be recollected, Post has since also
urged IFRC's Beijing office to address this inconsistency formally
with central authorities. Without a clear policy, poor
accountability and diversion of used tents for other purposes would
remain a possibility, as well as there being an increased likelihood
of weakened response capacity if used tents are relied upon for
future use. Post will continue to monitor the situation and
advocate for the need to have authorities issue uniform guidance
that clearly states IFRC's policy of having relief goods remain only
with beneficiaries.
15. (U) This cable was coordinated with Consulate General Chengdu.

RANDT

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