Cablegate: Wfp Planning Cy08 North Caucasus Departure Despite
PP RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #5738/01 3410648
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 070648Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5718
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 005738
DEPARTMENT FOR PRM/ECA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PGOV EAID EAGR SOCI RS
SUBJECT: WFP PLANNING CY08 NORTH CAUCASUS DEPARTURE DESPITE
PERSISTENT FOOD INSECURITY
1. Summary: The UN World Food Program will extend its current North
Caucasus operation into 2008, but unless it observes deterioration
in the food security status of the IDP population it plans to
terminate all its direct food aid in the region within the next
year. End summary.
WFP: Food Insecurity Still Exists in Chechnya
2. Refcoord met November 19 with UN World Food Program Country
Director Inge Breuer and Program Officer Nadya Frank. Both
previewed the UN's forthcoming vulnerability assessment and mapping
(VAM) report, "A Livelihoods Assessment of the Republics of Chechnya
and Ingushetia." The VAM revealed food insecurity, especially in
Chechnya among rural and mountain populations. Some 80 percent of
those interviewed in Chechnya and Ingushetia lived below the poverty
line established by the Russian Federation. Nine percent of children
under five suffered from global acute malnutrition as demonstrated
by high rates of wasting and emergent severe wasting.
3. The WFP report identifies a close link between reported
malnutrition and food insecurity and/or poverty. Breuer said that
children in low-income households have higher morbidity and
mortality rates; levels of which are already significantly higher in
Chechnya and Ingushetia than in other regions of Russia. Some 60
percent of those interviewed confirmed food shortages during the
winter and pre-harvest periods. While access to food seems to
improve during the summer months, 30 percent of the interviewed
population reported food shortages at that time as well.
Dependence on WFP Food Aid Remains High
4. WFP food aid, state allowances, and borrowing from kin have
remained important means of survival since the major combat ended.
Missed food distributions in the first quarter of 2006, when WFP
experienced a break in the food aid pipeline, forced 81 percent of
WFP beneficiaries to economize on their food intake, go into debt
and/or sell assets, the VAM found.
5. At present WFP conducts general food distribution to vulnerable
households in Ingushetia (9000 individuals) and Chechnya (40,000
individuals); provides hot lunches to 112,000 children at over 400
schools in 17 districts in Chechnya; and runs food-for-work,
supplementary feeding, and meals-on-wheels programs for additional
Chechen IDP beneficiaries. Frank reported that WFP relations with
GOR and republican authorities are positive and productive.
6. WFP will phase out general food distribution in calendar year
2008, Frank said, effecting just three double-distributions instead
of the normal 12 (thus ending the program around mid-year).
Russia's Ministry of Labor and Social Development, in preparation
for taking over future distributions, has been partnering with WFP
in beneficiary identification. WFP has already worked with the
government to define selection criteria, and WFP spot-checks of
independent Russian work confirmed that the host nation authorities
have achieved an impressive 95 percent accuracy rate in identifying
7. WFP will conclude its school feeding program in May 2008
although the Chechen Ministry of Education asked it to continue
until 2011. The Chechen government, Frank said, instead needs "to
mobilize some of the resources" it is receiving from the Russian
Federation in order to feed schoolchildren on its own. At present,
Frank and Breuer indicated, these resources are all too often
siphoned off by corrupt bureaucrats.
8. In its food-for-work programs WFP has worked directly with
Chechen farmers and the Russian Ministry of Agriculture rather than
depend on NGO beneficiaries. While WFP had hoped to hand
responsibility to the GOR for 2008, it ultimately acceded to the
Ministry's request for a transition year.
9. WFP contends it cannot continue to operate indefinitely in a G8
country (Russia donates more money to WFP for out-of-country
operations than WFP spends in-country). Breuer nevertheless
regretted that her budget has been decimated by rising food prices.
A supplier in Stavropol had contracted with WFP in April 2007 to
sell wheat flour for $250/ton. The supplier defaulted on the
contract in June, however, because wheat flour prices had gone to
$370-380/ton. Figuring a law suit would be expensive,
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time-consuming, and ultimately unsuccessful, WFP Moscow decided to
hope for better prices after the harvest - only to find that they
rose yet again. Many suppliers WFP had dealt with previously do not
want to sell inside Russia, Breuer added, because they can get
better commodity prices abroad.
10. Refcoord concurs with Breuer's assessment that Ingushetia and
Chechnya as yet lack sufficient institutional capacity to aid the
most vulnerable Chechen IDPs. Observations during October 2007
Refcoord site visits to refugee settlements in Ingushetia confirm
that food insecurity persists. Donors will need to develop robust
new livelihood projects for the North Caucasus if economic
development is to take the place of WFP's fading food aid.