Cablegate: Somalia - Care Suspends Programs, May Close

DE RUEHNR #2521/01 3041637
P 301637Z OCT 08






E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: SOMALIA - CARE Suspends Programs, May Close

REF: A) Nairobi 1421
B) Nairobi 2429
C) Nairobi 1737

1. (SBU) Summary. From October 21-22, the UN Special
Representative to the Secretary General for Somalia (SRSG) chaired a
meeting in Stockholm to prepare for an international conference on
reconstruction and development. Priority was given to supporting
the Djibouti process with flexible funding mechanisms applicable to
the Somali context. However it has become increasingly difficult
for organizations to operate in the country. The most recent victim
of increased insecurity was the international NGO CARE, which
implements several significant USG-funded humanitarian activities.
On October 3, al-Shabaab ordered CARE to cease its operations in
Somalia. Although contingency planning is underway by CARE and other
partners, CARE's closure would result in over one million vulnerable
people not receiving urgently needed food aid, and would put
additional strain on the remaining humanitarian organizations in
Somalia. End Summary.

Planning for Reconstruction
and Development

2. (SBU) From October 21-22 the UN SRSG for Somalia convened an
international donors meeting in Stockholm to plan for reconstruction
and development in Somalia, as called for in Article 11 of the
Djibouti Agreement (ref A). The donors emphasized the importance of
developing flexible and short term planning models based on the
current state of affairs in Somalia. The meeting highlighted the
need for a coordinated effort to build confidence on the ground in
support of the Djibouti Agreement and called for reallocating
existing funds, where necessary, to achieve this. However, while
programs to help the TFG provide services are paramount,
implementing partners continue to be adversely affected by growing
insecurity, lawlessness, and the targeting of humanitarian officials
(refs B and C).

CARE Program Suspended,
Considering Closure

3. (SBU) On October 3, CARE International received a threat from an
al-Shabaab spokesman to immediately leave South Central Somalia. At
present, all of CARE's activities in the area are suspended, while
it attempts to have the threat rescinded by encouraging elders,
religious leaders, and influential businessmen to pressure
al-Shabaab to reconsider its decision. Should that effort fail, CARE
is seriously considering closing its offices and "pulling out" of
South Central Somalia entirely. Closure would have immediate and
long term impacts on the provision of food aid, humanitarian
assistance, and longer-term development programming.

4. (SBU) CARE has been assisting Somalis since 1981 and is
currently USAID's largest implementing NGO partner in Somalia. It
is also one of two main USAID partners providing emergency food aid,
and it is implementing a large OFDA-funded umbrella activity
providing non-food emergency assistance to the most critically
vulnerable, as well. In addition, CARE implements a civil society
and media strengthening program and a livelihood support program in
Gedo and Lower Juba regions, as well as managing a large portfolio
of activities funded by other donors. Somalia is CARE's largest
program globally. CARE is currently operating on an internal
timetable on closure and we expect its decision in the next few
days. Should CARE close its program in South Central Somalia, its
programming in Puntland and Somaliland would continue.

5. (SBU) In addition to the suspension of direct CARE programming,
CARE has also suspended the work of sub-grantees and contractors.
It has indefinitely postponed the recruitment of a Food Security
Advisor for its food aid program. At present, WFP and ICRC have
begun planning for assuming CARE's food aid distributions, but there
is no indication that another organization would be willing to take
over its other activities, which would force the closure of programs
that sustain many Somali national NGOs.

Contingency Planning

6. (SBU) The World Food Program (WFP)has developed contingency

NAIROBI 00002521 002 OF 002

preparations to take over food distribution in the event of a CARE
closure. However, WFP is already stretched thin by its existing
operations and it does not have the same local expertise and
contacts as CARE in these areas.

7. (SBU) ICRC has indicated that it would temporarily assume
responsibility for Mudug/Galgaduud and Las Anod (the disputed border
area between Somaliland and Puntland) regions until such time that
WFP or another agency could step in. ICRC has estimated that it
could procure food commercially within six weeks of being asked via
a Somali contractor to feed an estimated 422,000 beneficiaries
(72,000 HH) through the end of the calendar year but that it would
need additional funding to go beyond that time-frame. WFP favors a
temporary re-entry of ICRC so that WFP would not have to take over
all the CARE areas at once and so that it would have time to vet
CARE's existing implementing partners. ICRC indicated that due to
political sensitivities, it would not distribute USG-marked bags
originally ear-marked for CARE.

Overall Impacts
of Program Closures

8. (SBU) In the event of CARE's closure, over one million
vulnerable people will not receive urgently needed food aid. A
closure of its program in South Central Somalia would have an impact
on 90% of CARE's current grant portfolio in Somalia and would affect
roughly 1.2 million beneficiaries, including about one million
people expecting to receive CARE's food for the reminder of the
year, all of whom live in areas classified by FSAU as in
"humanitarian emergency" - one level below "famine" on the food
security classification scale. At present, CARE has 37,000 MT of
commodities in the pipeline for immediate distribution. The closure
would involve shutting down twelve programs: three emergency
programs, three recovery programs, and five development programs
funded by USAID, OFDA, EC, ECHO, Norway, the Netherlands and
Germany. It would also negatively impact CARE's ability to support
operations in Somaliland and Puntland from Nairobi. CARE would be
forced to sever its relations with roughly 60 implementing partners,
terminate approximately 120 staff and close out two sub-offices and
three field-offices.

9. (SBU) A closure of CARE, coupled with the recent suspension and
closure of International Medical Corps (IMC), which has also been
threatened by al-Shabaab, would have an extremely deleterious impact
on Somalia's most vulnerable. Since 1991 IMC has been the lead
organization providing maternal and child health (MCH) care in Bay
and Bakool regions. It is currently providing essential health
services to 23,000 people per month. IMC's closure would directly
affect USAID's recently awarded $3.5 million supplementary feeding
programs for 650 acutely malnourished children and another 3600
severely malnourished children.

Running Out
of Options

10. (SBU) With little space for humanitarian agencies to work in
Somalia, most organizations are focusing on critical life-saving
programs. The direct threat against CARE, recent looting of WFP,
and continued targeting of aid workers are stark evidence that
delivery of food aid has become increasingly difficult. While the
international community is committed to re-programming resources to
directly support the Djibouti peace process, it will be an enormous
challenge just to sustain relationships with implementing partners
in the current environment.

11. (SBU) If they persist, the security challenges and the
concomitant decreased operating space for humanitarian activities
will make it difficult to use programs in unstable regions in order
to capitalize on windows of opportunity. On the heels of the
Stockholm donor meeting, the Embassy's Somalia Country Team is
meeting with other donors and international partners in Nairobi in
order to chart a realistic way forward.


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