Cablegate: Refugees in Eastern Chad: Prm Visit to Bahai

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

011232Z Nov 05


INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AID-00 USNW-00 CA-00 CIAE-00 INL-00
DODE-00 DOTE-00 DS-00 EB-00 EUR-00 OIGO-00 FAAE-00
FBIE-00 UTED-00 H-00 TEDE-00 INR-00 IO-00 LAB-01
L-00 M-00 NEA-00 DCP-00 NSAE-00 OIC-00 OMB-00
NIMA-00 PA-00 MCC-00 PER-00 GIWI-00 SSO-00 SS-00
FMP-00 IIP-00 SCRS-00 DSCC-00 PRM-00 DRL-00 G-00
NFAT-00 SAS-00 SWCI-00 /001W
------------------563694 011250Z /38




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Summary. PRM/AFR and P/E Officer visited Bahai, Oure
Cassoni Refugee Camp, and border areas of Bamina and Tine
from October 17-19. The security situation was calm at the
time of the visit, although fighting in Sudan around October
21 resulted in nine suspected combatants crossing the border
in Bamina and seeking urgent medical attention at Bahai and
Iriba hospitals. Refugee assistance programs were running
smoothly in Oure Cassoni, with the PRM-funded International
Rescue Committee (IRC) much improved from previous PRM
visits. Global and severe malnutrition, a problem earlier
this year, had been significantly reduced with support from
Action Against Hunger (ACF). Refugee registration was
underway in an effort to determine the actual number of
refugees in Oure Cassoni. The future of the camp remains in
question, with no real progress made by the GOC or UNHCR in
identifying a new site further from the border. With
refugees likely to remain in Oure Cassoni for the foreseeable
future, PRM support will continue to be required for UNHCR
and NGO programs. Increased support for host communities
continues to be a high priority for Chadian officials and
relief agencies. End Summary.

Security: A Continuing Concern

2. PRM/AFR (Neil Ahlsten and Mary Lange) and P/E Officer
visited Bahai and Oure Cassoni Camp October 17-18 to review
PRM-funded programs and assess the security and assistance
situation for Oure Cassoni's estimated 29,500 refugees from
Darfur, Sudan. On October 19, the PRM/Embassy team visited
border sites of Bamina and Tine and met with AMIS Observer
Major Rick Mobey (Amcit). The situation in Bahai and in the
camp appeared calm at the time of the PRM visit, and UNHCR
and partners reported no unusual activity. While Oure
Cassoni camp is still suspected of hosting Sudan Liberation
Movement/Army (SLM/A) rebels from time to time, relief staff
and local security officials reported no obvious presence of
rebels in the camp and only two incidences of firearms being
found (promptly reported by refugees and addressed by Chadian
security guards).

3. On the border, in Bamina and Tine, the situation was also
reported to be calm by Chadians living in the area. AMIS
Observer Mobey, however, briefed on AMIS' recent encounters
with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) break-away
faction, National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD)
rebels, and Chadian military deserters outside of Tine (Ref
A) and advised caution while traveling in the area. Three
days after the PRM/Embassy visit, on October 22, UNHCR also
reported two separate security incidences in the area. The
first, in Oure Cassoni camp, occurred the morning of October
22 when a five year old refugee boy was killed by a vehicle
(apparently privately-owned) in the camp. An angry crowd
turned on Chadian security guards who tried to intervene to
prevent the driver of the car from being killed. In the
process, two Chadian guards were wounded, one quite
seriously. The situation had calmed by the afternoon but
forced the temporary evacuation of relief staff from the camp.

4. That same day, UNHCR reported the arrival of nine wounded
men from Sudan who crossed into Bamina, Chad. Three were
taken to the Bahai hospital and six to the hospital in Iriba.
The men claimed to have been attacked by jandjaweed, but it
became clear that they were instead rebels wounded in
factional fighting in Sudan. P/E officer was told that some
of the current skirmishes between SLM/A and JEM are over
vehicles given by Libya to the movements. UNHCR, in
consultation with ICRC and the Chadian government, evacuated
three life-or-death cases to N'Djamena for treatment along
with the two Chadian guards wounded in the Oure Cassoni

5. These incidences, along with earlier reported defections
of Chadian forces in the Hajar Hadid area (around Bredjing
and Treguine camps), serve to underscore the uncertainty that
UNHCR and partner organizations face on a daily basis in

eastern Chad. UNHCR and partners have developed evacuation
plans on paper, but with the large number of expatriate staff
as well as at-risk Chadian national staff, most relief
workers had serious doubts that a quick and safe evacuation
could be implemented. UNHCR noted it would rely on the WFP
and AirServe aircraft as well as the French military (based
in Abeche) as much as possible. However, overland convoys
were also anticipated. The looming question, in light of
potential conflict in N'Djamena as well, was "Where to go?".
UNHCR will continue to monitor closely the security situation
in the east and intends to remain in close contact with the
Embassy and other sources to ensure as much advanced notice
as possible in the event that the situation heads south.

--------------------------------------------- ----
Refugee Assistance Programs: Steady Improvements
--------------------------------------------- ----

6. The PRM/Embassy team also spent time on October 17-18
reviewing PRM-funded assistance programs (UNHCR, IRC, and
ACF) as well as a USAID/OFDA-supported project through ACTED
(French NGO). UNHCR was implementing Phase One of Project
Profile, an effort to register all refugees in Oure Cassoni
and determine the actual number in the camp. Eventually, the
collection of more comprehensive information on the
population along with refugee ID cards is planned. The
official figure prior to registration was 29,455 (10,677 men
and 18,778 women). However, IRC estimated that the actual
number residing in the camp on a daily basis was closer to
19,000. The over 10,000 "non-residents" were thought to be
either Chadian (3,000 - 4,000) or refugees living elsewhere
(e.g., Tine) who only came in for food distribution or, in
the case of October 17-18, for the registration exercise.
IRC noted a big surge in water usage during the registration,
indicating many more inhabitants than usual. By October 26,
UNHCR reported that Oure Cassoni count was not yet finalized,
but was expected to be roughly 28,000.

7. In terms of assistance to refugees, UNHCR and NGO
partners have done a tremendous job over the past year in
bringing programs in the camp up to internationally
recognized standards. UNHCR has a strong team (four
international staff including two protection officers) and
appears to be playing an effective coordinating role for camp
activities as well as assistance to host communities. WFP
food deliveries have been timely and complete Qull rations)
over the past several months. UNICEF support to NGOs has
also increased and includes funding and material support to
schools, to IRC's health center, and for water and sanitation
improvements in the camp.

8. The PRM team reviewed IRC's programs as well, noting much
improvement in recent months. UNHCR/Abeche reported that
with new management and additional staff, IRC had turned the
corner and were doing well now. The PRM team was able to
confirm this in Oure Cassoni. IRC's water system was capable
of producing the standard 15 liters per person per day
(although actual consumption remained at between 9-12
liters). IRC also constructed a number of new latrines this
year, bringing rates down to an almost acceptable rate of 1
latrine per 24 persons (the standard being 20) -- the major
sanitation challenge still faced by IRC is convincing
refugees to use the latrines and to apply other improved
hygiene practices. IRC's health programs, of concern to
UNHCR in May, were reported to be working better, and UNHCR
was no longer considering shifting this responsibility to
another NGO.

9. UNHCR and IRC both agreed that the July decision to turn
over responsibility for nutrition to ACF had been a good one.
Despite some initial start-up difficulties, ACF was working
well and appeared to be closely following the 50-some cases
of moderate malnutrition. Global malnutrition had been
brought down to 12.8% (from a high of over 30% earlier in the
year) and severe malnutrition was reported at 1.5%. ACF does
not yet have the capacity to provide 24-hour monitoring of
severe cases, and these children (one to two per month) are
transferred either to the Bahai hospital or the Medecins sans
Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Iriba if parents agree. ACF

follows up on all cases through its supplementary feeding
center and home visits. UNHCR/Abeche reported that a
steering committee on nutrition had now been formed comprised
of WFP, UNICEF, WHO, and UNHCR with regular meetings being
held to review the nutritional situation in all camps. NGOs
have also been asked to do monthly screening in the camps
(although data reported from these screenings by some NGOs
was not entirely reliable). UNHCR was optimistic that
malnutrition rates could be kept within international
standards (provided continued delivery by WFP of full food

10. Community services and education in the camp, also the
responsibility of IRC, continue to require more attention.
Community services, especially, is very underdeveloped in
comparison to CARE International's efforts further south in
Iridimi and Touloum. IRC has developed a good system of
community protection officers who help identify vulnerable
cases in the camp and refer these cases to appropriate camp
services. However, very little in the way of organized camp
activity for youth or women was taking place. IRC hoped that
with its new Gender Based Violence coordinator now on board,
it could begin more activities for women through community
centers that it hoped to construct. These centers would
offer a forum for women to discuss issues as well as engage
in small income-generating activities. PRM suggested that
IRC look at CARE's programs as a model for its new program.
In terms of education, schools were closed during the PRM
visit but IRC reported 5,800 children (out of 7,400) enrolled
in school. UNICEF is providing teacher training and is
working on importing Sudanese text books. IRC still has
difficulty recruiting qualified female teachers, and girl
participation at higher levels remains low. IRC's Education
Coordinator departed last month, leaving yet another
management gap in this program until a new Coordinator is
recruited and on board.

11. The PRM team also visited some of ACTED's activities,
including the provision of firewood and metal cooking stoves
to refugee women. No statistics were available on the number
of women attacked while searching on their own for wood, but
refugee women cited this as their major security concern.
ACTED's programs were intended to counter this threat,
although refugee women said the support provided was
insufficient and that most were still required to do their
own searching for scarce wood in the region. ACTED is
providing 640 drums of cooking fuel to refugees in Bahai each
month (5 liters per person). ACTED was also implementing an
FY2004 project funded by USAID/OFDA to promote gardening for
refugees and host villages. Land had been allocated
alongside nearby Lake Cariari and preparations were underway
to allocate plots. ACTED hoped that with the arrival of
seeds later this month, planting could begin soon.

Host Community Assistance

12. UNHCR remains committed to allocating 5 percent of its
program budget for host population projects, although
implementation of these projects has been slowed primarily
due to the long negotiation process required with the Chadian
government and host communities over which projects to
implement. The team met with the Sultan of Bahai (half
brother to President Deby) who complained that nothing had
been yet (although UNHCR reported that he himself was one of
the major obstacles to progress, insisting on projects that
would benefit him personally but not necessarily the people
in the region). The team did see some progress in the Bahai
area. UNHCR, through ACTED, had constructed some wells for
nearby host villages. International Relief and Development
(IRD), funded by USAID/OFDA, had also been in discussion with
Bahai partners about expanding its Iriba-based program to
Bahai to provide veterinary support for host community animal
herds. Considerable effort had also been invested, through
IRC and the Polish Medical Mission (PMM), in rehabilitating
the Bahai hospital. All essential medicines and supplies
were being provided by IRC. The hospital has been
functioning well in recent months, but with PMM now pulling

out and turning over responsibility to the Chadian Ministry
of Health, the level of service could very well decline. The
Chadian doctor assigned to the hospital had only recently
returned from an extended vacation and did not inspire
confidence. Without a real commitment or investment on the
part of the GOC, Bahai hospital will continue to rely on the
support of the relief community.

Future of Oure Cassoni and Bahai Operations

13. The future of Oure Cassoni camp remains unclear.
Located only 17 kilometers from the border, the camp is too
close for comfort to Sudan and could easily become more
militarized or become the target of attack by Sudanese
rebels. UNHCR reported that the issue of camp security for
both Oure Cassoni and AmNabak camps was raised by HCR
Guterres with President Deby during his August visit to Chad.
Deby pronounced that both camps "should be moved". No
action has taken place yet on this pronouncement (and given
other internal Chadian concerns, it is unlikely). UNHCR
itself is ambivalent about the move. In principal, it knows
both camps should be relocated to at least 50 km from the
border. In practice, however, UNHCR faces constraints in (a)
finding suitable new sites with water and a welcoming host
population, (b) convincing the refugees themselves to move,
most of whom have said they do not want relocation, and (c)
financing the move in a budget year that already sees
available funding for programs decreasing from $55 million in
2005 to $40 million in 2006. UNHCR will press forward on
developing a plan for relocation of the camps, perhaps
starting first with AmNabak, but acknowledged that the move
might never take place unless a serious security incident
occurred to precipitate action.

Conclusions and Recommendations

14. Based on their visit to Bahai and Oure Cassoni, as well
as their discussions with UNHCR and partner agencies, the PRM
team offers the following recommendations:

(a) UNHCR security planning should continue, with detailed
evacuation plans developed and shared with all relief
organizations working in eastern Chad. NGOs, in particular,
need to be brought into the process and need to be reassured
that their safety andsecurity will be considered in any
UN-led evacuaton effort. Plans will also need to
incorporate elocation of Chadian national staff who are not
rom the eastern area.

(b) UNHCR should continu with plans for the relocation of
Oure Cassoni and AmNabak, in light of security concerns.
However, given GOC uncertainties and other constraints,
actual relocation is unlikely to take place in 2006. UNHCR
will need to support some investments in camp infrastructure
in Oure Cassoni itself in 2006.

(c) PRM should continue to support UNHCR, IRC, and ACF
programs in Bahai. With IRC's performance much improved
since the last PRM visit, the PRM team would agree with UNHCR
that additional NGOs for Oure Cassoni camp are no longer

(d) Additional support is still required for Chadian host
communities in the Bahai area. Any projects that require
commitment or investment by the GOC (health clinics or
schools for example) should be scrutinized carefully with
respect to the GOC's capacity to ensure their sustainability.
However, projects such as the IRD-proposed veterinary
support or ACTED-sponsored wells should be considered by
USAID/OFDA for FY2006 support.


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