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Cablegate: Update On Humanitarian Dynamics in the Ogaden

VZCZCXYZ0015
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDS #3254/01 3101432
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 061432Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8467
INFO RUEHAE/AMEMBASSY ASMARA 1986
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 8791
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3216
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 2999
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 4051
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2932
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 6290
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 7122
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHDC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RHMFIUU/USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL//CCJ2/CCJ5/CCJS//
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS ADDIS ABABA 003254

SIPDIS

STATE DEPARTMENT FOR A/S FRAZER, DAS AF JSWAN, AF/E, AF/PDPA, OES,
A/S PRM SAUERBREY, AND PRM/AFR
AFR/AA KALMQUIST, WWARREN, JBORNS, KNELSON
DCHA/AA MHESS, GGOTTLIEB
DCHA/OFDA KLUU, ACONVERY, PMORRIS, KCHANNELL
DCHA/FFP JDWORKEN, PMOHAN, SANTHONY, 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, USAID/EA
ROME FOR AMBASSADOR, OHA, HSPANOS
BRUSSELS FOR USEU PBROWN
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH, RMA
USUN FOR TMALY
NSC FOR PMARCHAN, JMELINE

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PHUM SENV EAGR PGOV ET
SUBJECT: UPDATE ON HUMANITARIAN DYNAMICS IN THE OGADEN

REF: A) ADDIS ABABA 3046; B) ADDIS ABABA 2566; D) ADDIS ABABA 3200
AND PREVIOUS


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Recent discussions between Post and UN agency,
donor, and NGO interlocutors over the past two weeks highlight the
challenges facing the Ogaden area of Ethiopia's Somali region.
Ongoing commercial restrictions, limited operational access due to
internal security operations in response to counterinsurgency, and
population displacement have exacerbated the plight of the already
vulnerable. NGOs report that physical indications of severe
malnutrition are manifesting themselves. Collapse of the livestock
market (backbone of pastoralist livelihood), persistent and
increased prevalence of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD), consumption of
wild foods, and declining caloric intake in some parts of the
severely affected zones are aggravating factors for famine. Despite
recent good rains, the convergence of multiple shocks have strained
livestock herds and resulted in increased vulnerability to famine
and destitution through loss of livelihoods.

2. In response to conditions on the ground, Ethiopian Government
(GoE) ministries and UN agencies have prepared joint response plans
for Somali Region based on recommendations of the September UN
mission report. On October 31, the U.S. Embassy hosted a donor, UN
and diplomatic corps meeting on the Ogaden. Key donor and
implementing partners agreed on an action plan to sustain diplomatic
pressure on the GoE to take expeditious action to address the
humanitarian crisis. The UN has compiled an internal matrix of
recommendations on response activities, focusing on proposed
actions, which has been shared with key humanitarian donors. Key
humanitarian donors continue to meet regularly to discuss funding
strategies, priority programs, and funding gaps particularly in the
non-food arena. End Summary.

ACCESS TO HUMANITARIAN FOOD AID
-------------------------------

3. (SBU) Approximately 1.1 million of the Somali region's 4.6
million people are chronically food insecure (600,000 of 1.2 million
in the Ogaden are under stress). The September UN assessment team
reported a pervasive lack of food in the conflict-affected areas
(Ref A). Limited food aid deliveries continue to be significantly
delayed. Of the 5000 MT allocated for the Ogaden area in June --
the first food aid sent to the Ogaden in calendar year 2007 -- only
81 percent has actually been dispatched; the percentage that has
actually reached the beneficiaries remains unclear. In mid-October,
the Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Agency (DPPA) allocated
70,000 MT for a three-month food ration for 642,000 beneficiaries in
the five conflict affected zones. As of October 29, only 182 MT
(0.26 percent) of this allocation had been dispatched. Delivery and
distribution of this dispatch are still weeks away and transport
contracts for the 70,000 MTS are not yet finalized.

4. (SBU) DPPA's intended reduction in the number of food
distribution points (FDPs) in response to counterinsurgency
operations, lack of resources and ability to control food
distribution in Somali Region is of additional concern. Prior to
the recent crisis, DPPA maintained 500 FDPs in Somali Region,
including approximately 300 within the five conflict affected zones.
The Somali Regional authorities, seeking to prevent diversion of
food, have proposed a food distribution plan limited to 74 FDPs, of
which only 28 are in the conflict-affected areas. By distributing
food only to woreda headquarters, trucks will drive past
beneficiaries for FDPs and then require them to walk to the distant
site and back again. Donors argue that this plan is not viable as
it will force already vulnerable populations to walk hundreds of
kilometers to reach the food, posing a significant protection issue
in a militarized zone. WFP has developed a counter-proposal
advocating for 190 distribution sites in the Ogaden area. USAID/FFP
and Post are reluctant to proceed with the most recent contribution
of $24.6 million (equivalent to 30,000 MTS of food commodities)
until the GoE agrees to increase the number of distribution sites in
the Ogaden area and has conveyed this concern to DPPA. UNOCHA is in
the affected areas looking at additional sites, which the GoE has
approved but still far short of what is necessary.

ACCESS TO COMMERCIAL FOOD
-------------------------

5. (SBU) The food security situation has steadily deteriorated over
the past several months following restrictions on commercial trade
imposed in June. Although the GoE opened four major trade routes
into Somali Region -- including two in the North, one in the East
and one in the Southeast -- aid agencies report no tangible change
on the ground. Trucks are bottlenecked in Kebridebaya, just south
of Jijiga and outside the Ogaden area. The few commercial trucks
that do get through must pay the military 1,500 Ethiopian birr
(approximately USD 165) for escorts. These levies, coupled with
increased insurance rates for trucks operating in these areas,
further inflate already-high food prices.

6. (SBU) The lack of commercial food in the Ogaden is exacerbated by
restrictions on population movements. Villagers report that if the
military catches anyone moving food from towns to rural areas, they
confiscate the food and, in some cases, shoot the people. Rural
populations are similarly forbidden from entering urban areas to
sell milk or other products. As a result of commercial trade
restrictions and limitations on the movement of people, informal
market surveys now indicate tripling of many of the already high
food prices. At the same time, livestock prices are not believed to
have fallen to half their pre-conflict value. This deterioration in
the terms of trade has seriously impacted already-depleted coping
mechanisms and livelihoods. According to the UN, the local
population in some areas is surviving by collecting wild grasses and
grains and slaughtering livestock in response to the starvation
tactics used by the military.

MALNUTRITION AND MORBIDITY
--------------------------

7. (SBU) Two recent nutrition surveys within and along the periphery
of the Ogaden reflect crisis malnutrition levels, and in some
locations, over twice the normal threshold levels for emergencies.
Malnutrition rates are projected to be much higher in non-accessible
locations. A Save the Children/UK survey from Fik zone indicates
crisis levels of malnutrition present with 20.8 percent Global Acute
Malnutrition (GAM) and 1.4 percent Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM)
among children under five. (Note: The World Health Organization
classifies GAM rates over 10 percent as warranting immediate
nutritional support interventions. End Note). The levels of crude
and under-5 mortality rates are 0.56 deaths/10,000/day and 1.5
deaths/10,000/day respectively. A late September, Adventist
Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) nutrition survey in Kelafo
Woreda, Gode Zone, and Somali Region identified a GAM rate of 13.2
percent and a SAM rate of 3.4 percent. The ADRA survey identified
crude mortality rates (CMR) of children under five at 2.93, well
above the acceptable rate of 1.03 per 10,000 for least developed
countries. The continued high SAM rates are worrying, a reflection
of the acuity of the food security situation in the woreda. (Note:
In an emergency context, high levels of malnutrition are considered
to be a late indicator of a humanitarian crisis. End note.) NGOs
have expressed concern that high mortality rates are a future
certainty, even if unfettered humanitarian access were to be granted
immediately.

8. (U) Measles vaccination rates for the surveyed area were
estimated to be 3.2 percent documented by vaccination card and 37.2
percent by card and mother's recall, well below the 70 percent
targeted for the region by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health.
UNICEF has also highlighted endemic health problems such as malaria,
shigella, and AWD in the area will aggravate an already fragile
situation. (Note: GoE is disputing the 20.8 percent malnutrition
rate urging that over 600 cases is too small a sample. But the GoE
still remains an impediment.)

9. (SBU) Although the GoE has provided federal approval for UNICEF
to deploy 15 mobile health and nutrition assessment and response
teams to the Ogaden, additional modalities and approvals need to be
worked out at the regional level. UNICEF has begun providing
emergency supplies to limited health facilities. Supplies --
including emergency drugs to treat 235,000 patients for six months,
water purification items, nutrition and therapeutic food to cover
16,000 children, and non-food supplies -- were delivered in
mid-October to eight designated health posts including Elkere (Afder
zone), Gode, Kelafo, Denan (Gode zone), Fik, Aware, Gashamo, and
Warder. GoE approvals are still pending for deliveries to Kebri
Dehar and Degehabur.

EXACERBATING CONDITIONS
-----------------------

10. (SBU) As detailed in reftels, forced movement of pastoralists
due to insecurity from fighting and their herds earlier this year
and underlying pervasive fear reported by the UN assessment team has
had pastoral populations trapped between military and insurgent
elements and has greatly restricted traditional pastoral livelihood
patterns. During the past week, desert locust swarms from Somalia
crossed the border into Somali Region, further aggravating the
situation. The FAO Desert Locust Information Services reported a
desert locust infestation in Kebri Dehar, parts of Korahe and
Degehabur zones, and throughout Warder zone. To date, control
operations have not been possible. The infestation is destroying
browse and pasture and will likely spread to other areas. The
locally-laid hoppers will fledge and could form a small immature
swarm within a month. The Somali Region is planning to conduct
aerial chemical spraying to contain the spread.

SECURITY OPERATIONS
-------------------

11. (SBU) Pockets of violence and human rights violations from both
sides of the conflict continue according to agencies on the ground.
Ongoing military operations and GoE regulations have restricted
humanitarian access in Warder, Korahe, Degehabur, Fik, and parts of
Gode zone over the last five months. While most soldiers have
remained in their barracks since early-October, NGOs, UN agencies,
and even regional government officials confirm that civil servants
from various line ministries in Somali Region have now been directed
to mobilize militias along clan and community lines to take up arms
against the insurgents. This trend has pitted inexperienced and
poorly equipped local populations against the relatively better
equipped insurgency. The ONLF has announced two rounds of large
military victories against "the military," but in reality local
communities have suffered the casualties due to regional
government-led mobilization. It is not clear the mobilization of
civil servants will affect the regional health bureau or other
regional bureaus that would normally be involved in humanitarian
response activities. What is clear is the increased ONLF attacks
have raised insecurity in the region affecting food deliveries.

THE US AND DONOR RESPONSE
-------------------------

12. (SBU) On August 16, 2007, a complex emergency was declared for
Somali Region (Ref B) following growing concerns that a severe
humanitarian crisis was imminent in the Ogaden. USAID/FPP has
provided USD 40 million of emergency food assistance to WFP since
July 2007 and USAID/OFDA provided USD 3.7 million in August 2007 for
Somali Region response activities. The United States remains the
only donor providing food aid specifically for Somali Region and
continues to coordinate directly with WFP and the DPPA.

13. (SBU) The GoE has agreed to the establishment of two joint UN
support offices in Kebri Dehar and Degehabur towns to strengthen
monitoring and humanitarian assistance. The GoE has requested the
UN to provide a list of names and addresses of staff that will be
based in the sub-offices to determine appropriateness. While a few
UN agencies remain more cautiously optimistic; most operational
agencies agree that recent GoE outreach has not translated into
increased operational access to date. The UN provided the GoE a
list of 37 NGOs willing to work in Somali Region. In a meeting on
November 2, the GoE informed the UN that only 11 of these NGOs were
"approved." Of these 11, only a handful are international NGOs and
some current key partners active in the region are not among them.

MOVING FORWARD
--------------

14. (SBU) Following the October 31 donor and NGO roundtable hosted
by Ambassador Yamamoto, donor Ambassadors, NGOs, and UN agencies
agreed to coordinate closely on information sharing and to present a
consistent and persistent message to Ethiopian officials of the need
for an immediate and sustained GoE response, but to do so in a quiet
and non-confrontational manner. Key points would include:

--Informing the GoE of the crisis situation in the Ogaden,

--Acknowledging what the GoE has done in opening corridors for
humanitarian relief, but noting that more needs to be done and the
donors, UN and NGOs are ready to help,

--Recognizing the counter-insurgency problem in the Ogaden,

--Expressing a commitment to help meet the GoE's call for food and
medical supplies,

--Committing to work with the GoE on relief in the Ogaden,

--Seeking the GoE's views on, and suggesting possible proposals for
resolving, tensions in the Ogaden with the ONLF (i.e. facilitate
dialogue with ONLF and or broader discussion with Ogaden elders),
and

--Pressing a strong message of the need to push food aid and open
commercial trade and livestock trade throughout the Ogaden.

15. (SBU) Ambassador and DCM arranged to meet with Minister of State
for Foreign Affairs Dr. Tekeda Alemu and National Security Advisor
Abay Tsehaye to raise these concerns (Septel). EU Ambassadors
agreed to raise these points with Prime Minister Meles in a
pre-arranged October 31 meeting. Ambassador and Political Counselor
have met Ogaden officials. While a group of Ambassadors from the
Ethiopian Partners' Group will seek an appointment with Prime
Minister Meles and Foreign Minister Seyoum in the coming days,
Ambassador Yamamoto and Post's principal officers will continue to
raise these points with GoE officials at every opportunity. Ref D
provided specific talking points for Washington-based officials to
draw on in urging GoE authorities to address this crisis.

YAMAMOTO

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