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Cablegate: Ethiopia: Embassy Coordinated Meeting On Update Of

VZCZCXRO4809
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #3586/01 3521353
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 181353Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8905
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHINGTON DC 0079

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 003586

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E, DRL FOR SJOSEPH, AND INR/B
LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER
CJTF-HOA AND CENTCOM FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EAID PHUM SENV EAGR ET
SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: EMBASSY COORDINATED MEETING ON UPDATE OF
OGADEN SITUATION

ADDIS ABAB 00003586 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On December 14, the Ambassador hosted the
fifth in a series of meetings of NGOs, UN agencies and donor
countries, with the purpose of discussing and sharing
information on the Ogaden. The general consensus was that
access to the region by NGO groups has improved and that
considerable food aid has moved to major towns and is
beginning to reach distribution points in secondary centers.
Additionally, food prices have stabilized and returning to
pre-crisis levels, though food remains scarce in rural areas.
Participants agreed that interaction with the Ethiopia
leadership and intervention by the international community
(led by the U.S.) has sped humanitarian food deliveries to
primary distribution points. However, participants all
agreed that famine-like conditions with potentially high
child mortality rates from malnutrition and disease
(specifically measles) are still highly likely and that more
food is urgently needed, especially to secondary distribution
points in rural areas.

2. (SBU) Natural calamities including floods in the north,
poor rains and drought in the south, and an invasion of
desert locusts, is exacerbating the region's hardships. The
group recognized that Somalia and the Ogaden are interlinked
with ONLF and extremists using Somalia as a base for
incursions into Ethiopia. Somaliland truckers report refusal
to drive into rural areas due to landmines and
insurgency/counterinsurgency operations. Post is working to
develop new approaches to alleviate anticipated worsening of
the situation in the region. A forthcoming USAID assessment
team to the Ogaden is welcome and the U.S. continues to be
the lead country with assistance now in excess of USD 43
million. END SUMMARY.

-----------------------------
U.S.-led intervention helpful
-----------------------------

3. (SBU) The Ambassador hosted the fifth in a series of
meetings on the Ogaden with NGOs, UN agencies and donor
countries. The purpose of the meetings is to verify facts,
coordinate efforts and develop approaches to improve
conditions in the Somali region of Ethiopia. The group
stated that access for NGOs and UN groups have improved to
major urban areas, though significant restrictions remain on
access to rural areas. WFP noted that food is being
distributed to major towns along the main roads with 14,272
metric tons already dispatched into the Somali region. Food
prices in the major towns have stabilized and are approaching
pre-crisis levels, though rice prices remain high. U.S.-led
efforts have resulted in greater response by the GOE to
concerns raised by the international community.

------------------------------------
Potential Worsening Conditions Ahead
------------------------------------

4. (SBU) The general consensus of the group, however, was
that famine-like conditions with potentially high child
mortality rates from malnutrition and disease (specifically
measles) are still highly likely. The NGOs and USAID, in
particular, raised concerns that food needs to reach
secondary distribution points in rural areas very soon. The
GoE-operated DPPA, which handles food distribution, also
remarked to the U.S. and other groups, that more food is
critically needed for secondary distribution points in the
more remote rural areas and that more trucks are needed to
deliver the food. WFP reports that 14,272 metric tons of
food is insufficient and that 52,000 metric tons of food is
needed now to meet the needs of 600,000 to 700,000 people out
of the 4.2 million people in the Somali region of Ethiopia,
and 1.2 million people living in the conflict zones.

5. (SBU) The UN agencies raised the necessity to monitor the
distribution of food to ensure it is getting to the right
people. NGOs continue to report bureaucratic delays in
deploying to the region. While access has improved, there
are still reports of trucks being delayed by the Ethiopian
military due to lack of military escorts for the trucks
entering the area and other bureaucratic delays. WFP and
USAID reported that 60 trucks have waited for 20 days for
military escorts. Such delays, the group stated, will mean
that sufficient food will not get to the people most in need

ADDIS ABAB 00003586 002.2 OF 003


in a timely manner.

6. (SBU) USAID and the UN agencies raised concerns that
severe malnutrition rates are likely increasing and child
mortality rates are likely increasing as well. No specific
numbers or rates are available, primarily due to the lack of
assessment of the needs and limited access to the region. A
concern was that measles and other diseases could increase
child mortality rates due to the apparent increasing rates of
malnutrition among children.

------------------------------
Climatic Changes Add to Misery
------------------------------

7. (SBU) Compounding the poor prognosis for the region is
climatic changes. USAID reported on locust problems in Fik,
with reports of flooding in parts of the north and drought
conditions in the south. (NOTE: During the visit of the USAID
Administrator to Godeh in the Ogaden last month, local
officials reported that in "normal" pre-conflict conditions,
about 100 children would be suffering from malnutrition and
require therapeutic feeding. The rates for just the Godeh
area were now at 300. END NOTE.)

-------------------------------------
Somalia and the Ogaden Interconnected
-------------------------------------

8. (SBU) The group recognized that Somalia and the Ogaden are
interconnected. So long as Ethiopian troops are in Somalia,
the potential for increased anti-Ethiopian sentiment. NGOs
and the U.S. side raised the point that the ONLF operates out
of Somalia in conducting operations in Ethiopia, and
extremist elements are also entering Ethiopia from Somalia.
WFP and other NGOs reported that Somaliland truckers refuse
to drive into the rural areas of the Ogaden for fear of
landmines and insurgency/counterinsurgency operations.
Truckers have raised prices significantly to deliver food,
according to the NGOs. In addition, UN agencies raised fears
that they cannot send their people to parts of the rural
areas because of insecurity, landmines and rebel activities.

----------------------
U.S.-led interventions
----------------------

9. (SBU) The U.S. raised briefly the visits of USAID
Administrator Henrietta Fore to Godeh and the Secretary's
recent visit. The group also discussed the visit of UN under
secretary Sir John Holmes, and the EU Ambassadors reviewed

SIPDIS
their EU troika visit to Jijiga and meeting with Prime
Minister Meles. The Ambassadors' group also raised their
meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Adissu and with the DPPA
chief. The message was consistent--while access has
improved, the situation can potentially worsen if food in
larger volumes are not delivered to the region, specifically
to secondary rural distribution points. While the Prime
Minister and Deputy Prime Minister reportedly pushed back on
the degree of severity of the problems in the Ogaden, the
group felt that conditions, if not alleviated soon, will
potentially lead to and emergency humanitarian situation.

------------------------
Other Comments/Way Ahead
------------------------

10. (SBU) Despite continued reports, the group raised the
lack of specific evidence of cantonment camps by the
Ethiopian military or of systematic burning of villages.

11. (SBU) The group designated the U.S. to come up with new
approaches to share with the group in the next U.S.
Embassy-hosted meeting on what further actions are needed in
working with the GOE to alleviate potentially worsening
conditions in the Ogaden. Further, concerns were raised that
the perception gap between the GOE and the NGOs/donor group
could create friction and undercut efforts to meet the
problems in the Ogaden.

12. (SBU) The U.S. side underscored the need for a consistent
messages delivered by all participants, as well as for the

ADDIS ABAB 00003586 003.2 OF 003


donor nations to secure more assistance. The U.S. is leading
the way with USD 18.7 million donated last August and another
USD 25 million in food aid delivered since August. Further,
USAID will send a small assessment team that will help
determine the needs and extent of problems in the Ogaden.
The U.S. side stressed that the messages continue to be:
need to get large quantities of food to rural areas, lift
restrictions on commercial food and livestock trade, work
with WFP and UN agencies on monitoring the region and food
distribution, working with WFP on areas where escorts are not
necessary and those insecure areas to speed up military
escorts.

--------------------------------------------- ----------
COMMENT: U.S. EFFORTS SHOWING RESULTS, MUCH STILL TO DO
--------------------------------------------- ----------

13. (SBU) The December 14 meeting proved frustrating. While
efforts led by the U.S. have resulted in positive forward
movement in opening access for NGOs and UN food distribution
to major towns, reports from the NGO community in particular
indicate that the situation is still very volatile. If food
does not reach the rural areas quickly and in significant
amounts, child mortality rates and famine-like conditions
will increase. Post will continue to lead efforts among the
NGO-UN-Donor group to develop new approaches with the GoE to
address these concerns. The U.S. will also continue to be
the lead element in working with the GOE on alleviating the
situation because of the special access the U.S. has with
senior GOE officials. Further, the USAID assessment team
will be an important support mechanism to assess needs and
strongly supported by the group to verify the degree and
extent of problems in the Ogaden. END COMMENT.
YAMAMOTO

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