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Cablegate: Vietnam - Drought Disaster Declaration

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


ACTION EAP-00

INFO LOG-00 AID-00 EB-00 UTED-00 TEDE-00 IO-00 OES-00
OIC-00 OIG-00 SVC-00 SAS-00 /000W
------------------FDCC2C 092230Z /62
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7979
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
USMISSION GENEVA
AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU
ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
USDA WASHDC
DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS HANOI 001378

SIPDIS


STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV
USDOC FOR 4430/MAC/ASIA/OPB/VLC/HPPHO
STATE FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA KISAACS, GGOTTLIEB
STATE FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA MMARX, RTHAYER, BDEEMER
STATE FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA DAA WILLIAM GARVELINK
BANGKOK FOR OFDA SENIOR REGIONAL ADVISOR TOM DOLAN
KATHMANDU FOR OFDA REGIONAL ADVISOR WILLIAM BERGER
GENEVA FOR USAID NANCY KYLOH
USDA FOR FAS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV KSCA TBIO VM
SUBJECT: VIETNAM - DROUGHT DISASTER DECLARATION

THIS IS AN ACTION CABLE

REF: HANOI 857

1. Summary. In response to what is being characterized by
GVN officials as the worst drought to afflict Vietnam in 30
years, Ambassador Marine declares a disaster and requests
USD 200,000 in OFDA assistance. Emergency activities to be
supported by this assistance would focus on improved access
to drinking water through drought proofing and water
harvesting initiatives (see paragraphs 18-20 for
recommendations). End summary.

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ACTION REQUEST/DISASTER DECLARATION

2. Following the assessment mission of USAID personnel to
the South Central Coastal region of Vietnam, I am declaring
a drought disaster in Vietnam under my authority as Chief of
Mission. The assessment mission has confirmed that a drought
disaster exists and that Government of Vietnam (GVN)
authorities welcome USG assistance. Further, I confirm that
it is in the interest of the United States to provide
drought assistance to Vietnam. In consultation with OFDA's
Acting Senior Regional Advisor for Asia, Embassy requests
USD 50,000 under the Ambassador's authority, plus an
additional sum of USD 150,000 to support drought-proofing
initiatives in the South Central Coastal region of Vietnam.
Post will communicate with OFDA on transfer of funds once
the partner selection process is completed. Embassy
requests that OFDA make an additional assessment of the
Central Highlands area once clearance from GVN for the
Mission is obtained. Pending the findings of that assessment
and progress of this year's rainy season, Post may request
additional assistance.

BACKGROUND

3. As outlined in previous cable (Hanoi 857) on the drought
in Vietnam, GVN reports an estimated 1.12 million people are
facing daily water shortages, 500,000 are suffering from
hunger, and that Vietnam has suffered economic losses of
over USD 113 million due to a severe drought that has
continued for up to three years in the South Central Coastal
and Central Highland regions of Vietnam (nine provinces
total). Provincial officials refer to this as the worst
drought in 30 years.

4. In response, Embassy requested the USAID Office of
Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) Regional Advisor,
accompanied by USAID/Vietnam staff, to conduct a rapid
assessment of the drought situation in Binh Thuan and Ninh
Thuan provinces, areas that GVN officials indicate are the
worst affected and among the poorest provinces in Vietnam.
Objectives of the mission included confirmation of the
severity of the drought, the need for USG assistance,
willingness of GVN local officials to accept USG assistance,
and development of recommendations by the OFDA Advisor on an
appropriate USG response to the drought. The assessment
team consisted of OFDA Regional Advisor, William S. Berger;
Mission Disaster Response Officer, Nathan Sage; and USAID
Development Assistance Specialist, Phung Thi Thanh Van. The
team met with provincial, district, and commune-level
officials and technical experts as well as staff from
international NGOs. Onsite field interviews were conducted
with affected populations in both provinces. In addition,
the team met with UNICEF representative and debriefed U.S.
Consul General Seth Winnick in Ho Chi Minh City.

SITUATION IN TWO SOUTH CENTRAL PROVINCES

5. Binh Thuan Province. As indicated by provincial-level
officials, the current drought, which started in July 2004,
has had heavy impact on agriculture, animal husbandry,
hydrology, forestry, and all aspects of the lives of those
living in the province. There are both short- and long-term
consequences. In 2004, the drought affected 40,628 hectares
or 51 percent of the available cropland. Rice yields were
down by 47 percent, maize was down by 78 percent and cotton
down 78 percent for a total loss of VND 118.6 billion (USD
7.5 million). In 2005, the drought situation is even worse,
with losses to the winter/spring crop totaling VND 146
billion (USD 9.2 million). The forestry loss is 4,977
hectares valued at VND 23 billion (USD 1.5 million), mainly
affecting newly planted forest areas and seedlings. Water
availability from lakes, rivers and ground water sources is
only 40 percent of normal capacity and many rivers lakes and
streams have dried up. Saltwater intrusion is a problem in
Phong, Ham Thuan Nam, and Ham Tan districts. A total of
118,769 people or 26,729 households in eight districts are
suffering an acute shortage of water for drinking and
sanitation. The most affected areas are: Phong Phu, Vinh
Tan, Vinh Hoa, Phu Lac in Tuy Phong district, Bac Binh, and
Ham Thuan Bac district. From January 2005 to present, GVN
has provided VND 22 billion (USD 1.4 million) for water
demand. A total of 16,787 households require food assistance
from the province.

6. In response to the drought in Binh Thuan, GVN has
provided 1,600 tons of rice and is preparing to provide food
and other assistance over the next six months. Provincial
authorities are using tanker trucks to supply drinking
water, unsuccessfully attempting to drill deep wells for
communities, dredging channels and stream beds, and
investigating new ground water sources. They are also
providing support for feeding cattle, and preparing
reforestation programs. GVN has plans to provide seeds to
farmers, but officials estimated that these will only
support 58 percent of the required rice seed and 5 percent
of the maize seed requirement.

7. Ninh Thuan Province. According to provincial-level
officials, rainfall was more than 50 percent below average
in 2004, resulting in most of rivers, streams and reservoirs
going dry. In 2004, less than 50 percent of available
agricultural land was productive for a total area of 10,066
hectares consisting of 4,653 hectares of rice, 1,248
hectares of maize, cotton 69 hectares, with vegetable and
beans at 1,794 hectares. Many farm animals have died and
malnourishment affects 50 percent of cattle, 30 percent of
goats and sheep. Throughout the province, 70-80 percent of
new forestation has been lost and 215 hectares of forest
burned. The total loss for agriculture to April 2005 is
VND136.7 billion (USD 8.6 million) with VND 90 billion (USD
5.7 million) in crop loss, VND 45 billion (USD 2.8 million)
for livestock, and forestry loss of VND 787 million (USD
50,000). Only three of ten lakes total in the province have
water with Tan Giang at 500,000 cubic meters compared to 13
million cubic meters normally, Song Trau Lake with 3 million
cubic meters compared to 31 million cubic meters, and Da
Duong Lake with 28 million cubic meters. Out of 59 communes
in the province, 32 provinces are short of drinking water
and it is estimated that by the end of May 2005, there will
be 28,041 households with 152,042 people lacking drinking
water.

8. In response to the drought in Ninh Thuan, GVN has
provided 5,350 new shallow wells, two deep wells, and many
household water storage tanks. Streams and ponds are being
dredged, a new reservoir is being built, and new sources of
ground water are being investigated. Planting of drought
resistant crops and trees is being encouraged and rice,
maize, green bean, and grape seed is being provided to
farmers. A total of 55,000 animals have been transported to
better pasture within and outside the province and
veterinary services are being provided. Food distribution
consisting of 4,000 tons of rice valued at VND 24 billion
(USD 1.5 million) have been provided.

9. COMMENT: While central-level GVN officials indicate that
Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan provinces are the most severely
drought stricken areas, Post believes that there may be
under-reporting for the Central Highlands region where
travel and NGO access are highly controlled. Embassy will
seek clearance for an additional drought assessment mission
by OFDA to the Central Highlands and may make additional
requests for OFDA assistance based on that assessment.

TEAM OBSERVATIONS

10. Agriculture/Livelihood. Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan are
among the poorer provinces in Vietnam and have a number of
minority populations representing various ethnic groups.
While the beaches of these provinces offer the prospect of a
thriving tourist industry, that potential is yet to be
realized and almost the entire population is involved in or
dependant on agriculture. As a result, drought impacts the
entire provincial economy as purchasing power is lost and
farmers go into a debt cycle that will be hard to break even
if the rains come this year. As water becomes scarce and the
economic assets of families dwindle away, children are often
taken out of school to find jobs to contribute to the family
income or help with scavenging for food in the forest or
fetching water from more and more remote sources. Jobs
become harder to find as demand for agricultural labor
shrinks as less land is planted. A labor intensive
infrastructure program (preferably targeting water
retention) employing local labor is one potential GNV
response. However, provincial authorities held out little
hope that such programs would be prioritized at the central
level of GVN where budgetary allocations are made.

11. Most farmers own livestock. Personal consumption is
restricted to small livestock such as chickens and ducks
while large livestock represents accumulated wealth and the
main coping mechanism for hard times, and is therefore not
consumed. Unfortunately, in a drought situation, when a
farmer needs to sell his animals, either for need of capital
or because he can no longer feed or water the animal, the
bottom falls out of the market due to the surplus of farmers
are in the same position. Farmers reported that the price
for cattle was down significantly (about 30-40 percent) and
continuing to drop. At the same time, inadequate local
production of rice and increased demand from farmers who no
longer produce enough for their own consumption have driven
up the cost of rice by 20 percent to 30 percent over the
last year according to people interviewed.

12. While animals are suffering from lack of fodder, farmers
are reluctant to turn their paddy fields to forage crops
such as grass, fearing damage to fields and difficulty of
converting fields back to normal production if and when the
drought breaks. The team did not visit any forest areas but
there are widespread reports that in addition to the damage
inflicted on the forest by the lack of rainfall, poverty and
the need for supplemental food are leading to severe
exploitation and damage to vital forest resources.

13. The drought is pushing more and more people below the
poverty line. All GVN officials interviewed mention this
and one cited a district where the number of people below
Vietnam's relatively low poverty line went from 19 percent
to 49 percent since the drought began.

WATER, SANITATION AND HEALTH

14. NGO and GVN officials report that as water sources such
as streams, shallow wells, springs, rivers, and reservoirs
that people depend on for drinking water and sanitation
continue to diminish, the incidence of disease is increasing
as people are less able to bath or are forced to use
contaminated water for bathing and drinking. The increase in
disease is both exacerbated by and contributes to the
already diminished levels of nutrition due to lack of
variety and quantity of available food. Malnourishment leads
to susceptibility to disease and gastrointestinal disorders
lessen the ability to absorb nutrients. There is currently
little data available from the GVN on the nutritional
problem related to the drought, although UNICEF and the
National Institute of Nutrition of Vietnam have undertaken
separate assessments of the problem. Since there is little
or no baseline data of afflicted communities, particularly
ethnic minority villages, it is difficult to compare acute
malnutrition rates caused by the current drought and chronic
malnutrition rates.

GOVERNMENT AND INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE

15. The GVN at both central and provincial levels has
provided emergency assistance to communities in the drought
affected regions. In addition to providing three emergency
rice distributions (in February, April, and May 2005), the
GVN has provided seeds to farmers, trucked in water with
tankers, developed alternative drinking water sources,
deepened wells, and transported cattle to better foraging
areas in other provinces. Still, local officials admit that
the GVN alone is not able to meet increasing needs.
Provincial officials of Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan are
willing and able to partner with international NGOs capable
of providing assistance.

16. COMMENT: Though these are arid provinces, provincial
officials admitted that local disaster management plans are
focused on flood and storm disasters with few standard
operating procedures for dealing with drought. At the
national level, a preoccupation with the potential Avian
Influenza epidemic may account for the fact that this
drought has not received more attention from the Central
Government.

17. In early April, OXFAM GB, World Vision and UNICEF
completed a drought assessment in Ninh Thuan province on
behalf of the GVN/NGO disaster management working group
(full report may be obtained through the USAID/Vietnam
office). The study highlighted widespread loss of
livelihoods, increased food insecurity, increases in water-
borne diseases, increased childhood malnutrition, and
increased drop-out rates in schools as children are required
to shoulder more support to their families as livelihoods
diminish. The findings of the NGO Team were corroborated by
observations of the USAID Assessment Team. Based on this
assessment NGOs are enhancing current drought proofing
programs, distributing seven million packages of
nutritionally fortified noodle soups, and developing new
strategies to assist the GVN.

RECOMMENDATIONS

18. Immediate. OFDA should support water harvesting and
water thrift programs in the South Central Coastal provinces
of Vietnam and should focus on provision of drinking water.
Such schemes would include, for instance, rooftop rainwater
harvesting systems, and deepening and remediation of wells.
Initiatives should address both the acute and chronic
drinking water shortages in these areas. To the greatest
extent possible, programs should use locally purchased
materials and local labor under a cash-for-work scheme. This
would provide a much needed injection of cash into the
economy, allow beneficiaries capital to address their own
list of priority needs, and benefit a larger recipient
community as cash circulates and multiplies in the local
economy.

19. Some provision of seeds to farmers may be needed for
farmers if the monsoon rains develop sufficiently to support
crops. Vietnam is a net exporter of rice and, hence, should
be able to meet emergency food needs. Food interventions are
therefore not recommended at this point.

20. Long-term. OFDA and the USAID Mission should assess the
feasibility of providing technical and/or program assistance
to the arid zones of Vietnam for the introduction of drought
resistant crops, drip irrigation systems, or other
applicable drought proofing initiatives.


NOTE: SVC FOR MISSING SIGNATURE
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