Cablegate: Pastoral Hardships in the Somali Region

DE RUEHDS #2483/01 2521215
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1. (SBU) In an August 8 - 14 visit to Filtu district in the
Somali region, PolOff examined the effects of regional
drought on food security, livelihoods, conflict, and
populations movements. Filtu district remains hard hit by
continued drought conditions, pasture overgrazing, lack of a
livestock market, failed crop production, and escalating food
prices. The little rain it did receive attracted
pastoralists from adjacent regions and Kenya, further taxing
its limited resources. Common diseases among people and
livestock exist but there appear to be no outbreaks thus far.
The USAID funded Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) has
helped stem food insecurity but a lack of additional food
relief threatens to undermine PSNP's long-term success.
Water scarcity looms large for the Ayinne and Kulay
communities and if anticipated seasonal rains fail again, the
district will require immense water rationing and
distribution. PolOff also visited two internally displaced
person (IDP) camps. IDPs suffer from serious hunger and
malnutrition and a child mortality rate of two per day out of
an overall IDP population of 7,000 (as told by IDP leaders).
No Ethiopian military movements or presence was observed in
the area visited despite the road being a major military
artery into and out of Somalia. End Summary.

2. (SBU) PolOff accompanied a USAID mission to Filtu district
in the Somali region from 8 August 2008 to 14 August 2008.
Participants included the Chief of USAID's Office of Assets
and Livelihood Transition (USAID/ALT), the Senior Program
Manager for USAID/ALT, and staff from the Government of
Ethiopia (GoE) Food Security Coordination Bureau and the
World Bank. The purpose of the trip was to monitor and
assess the USAID funded Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP)
as piloted in Somali pastoral areas, while also observing
broader political and economic issues related to drought,
conflict, population movements, and livelihoods. PolOff held
meetings with USAID partners Pastoralists Concern Association
Ethiopia (PCAE) and Save the Children US (SC-US), district
officials on the Filtu Woreda Food Security Task Force
(WFSTF), internally displaced persons (IDP), and community
leaders in Ayinne and Kulay towns.

"Better Off" is Relative in Filtu Woreda

3. (SBU) Filtu woreda (district) is located in the southwest
corner of the Somali region, in some places only a few
kilometers from the Kenya and Somalia borders. It hosts 38
kebeles (towns) and an estimated 170,000 people, though some
woreda officials say it is now closer to 200,000, of whom
about 85 percent are pastoralists. Unlike some places in
Ethiopia, there is no "green famine" (Reftel) here - the land
is brown from water scarcity, overgrazing, and overall
drought conditions. Woreda officials also expect no single
crop production this cycle, largely due to army worm
infestations and poor rain. Still, Filtu is "better off"
than other adjacent districts as it at least received some
seasonal rains so far this year. However, Filtu has faced a
large influx of outside pastoralists and their livestock
(including from Hargelle; Dolo Bay; Dolo Ado; Mandera, Kenya;
and Ramo, Kenya), overburdening Filtu's limited watersources
and pastures. WFSTF officials outlined Filtu's four major
challenges: continued drought, overgrazed pastures, no
livestock market, and failed crop production. Town leaders
in Kulay repeated these woes and added the rise of food stock
prices to the list. A WFSTF health official reported no
outbreaks or pandemics and said community health was "normal"
(i.e. cases of malaria, diarrhea, influenza, TB,
malnutrition) but he expected it to worsen if the drought
continued. Finally, WFSTF officials said their biggest needs
in the near-term were additional water tankering, food and
medical treatment for ailing livestock, and nutrition

PSNP-PAP Program and Food Relief Woes

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4. (SBU) The Productive Safety Net Program - Pastoral Area
Pilot (PSNP-PAP) targets the most destitute to help alleviate
chronic food insecurity in four Somali Region districts
(including Filtu). The USG is the largest donor to the
overall GoE multi-donor PSNP fund and contributes through
implementing partner SC-US in Filtu. PSNP-PAP serves a total
of 21,590 people in Filtu with 5,398 as direct food
beneficiaries and the rest performing labor based public
works programs for food. Woreda officials say the public
works program has worked well in Filtu (e.g. the officials
noted the program has built 150km of dirt road, 10 toilets, 5
community stores, and 2 mill houses), but the paucity of
water makes work programs nearly impossible now.
Pastoralists Concern Association Ethiopia (PCAE) credits PSNP
as the main reason the "situation (in Filtu) is stable so
far." Town and district officials emphasized that the
biggest PSNP-PAP challenge is choosing beneficiaries, as
there are clearly more people in need than the current
beneficiary level suggests. (Note: Beneficiary levels are
ultimately set by the GoE and must be agreed to by district
officials as a precondition to relief flows. End note).
Ayinne town leaders said PSNP-PAP food relief consistently
failed to meet overall community food needs but beneficiaries
still chose to share their food sources with
non-beneficiaries, diluting the amount per person. Woreda
officials said one town even told them that "if you can't
bring increased PSNP targets, please don't come to our
kebele." Filtu falls within the federal relief plan but,
officials say, despite their two appeals for emergency food
relief in April and June, there has been no other food relief
outside of the PSNP-PAP program. If true, such a scenario
severely undermines Ethiopia's PSNP programs which are
designed to build long-term food security and not act as an
acute emergency relief program.

Water Scarcity: A Tale of Two Ponds

5. (SBU) Water scarcity topped most officials' list of the
most critical challenges facing the district. Woreda
officials say nine kebeles are now under water rationing
regimes (i.e. water tanked in) paid for by the woreda until
NGOs can help assist. PolOff also observed about a
half-dozen, unfinished water towers which NGOs said the GoE
was constructing around Filtu district to pipe in water from
the Dawa River. PolOff visited two artificial water ponds in
Kulay and Ayinne townships designed to capture seasonal rains
for dry season use. The Kulay pond was a dirt hole
stretching about 40 meters by 30 meters and the sole water
source for the Kulay townspeople. Hundreds of camels,
cattle, goats, sheep, and donkeys queued on its banks while
others waded directly into the pond, indicating a lack of
hygiene control (human water-borne illnesses were reported).
Local leaders said it was the over-migration of pastoralists
from other areas that really hurt them and that, at the
current rate, the pond would dry up within two weeks, forcing
them to move their families to the Dawa River roughly 65
kilometers away. The Ayinne pond, on the other hand, was
concrete and about three times the size. It had far better
hygiene control as no animals or bathing were allowed in it
and people de-shoed before entering. There was also ongoing
onsite construction of a silt-filter, a well, an additional
pond, and long entrapment channels. Locals at both ponds
reported no resource-driven conflicts, saying that as
pastoralists they must help each other. However, if the
short September/October rains do not arrive, some NGOs say
this "will be a disaster" and would likely lead to heightened
tensions among people.

Livestock: Condition and Pastures

6. (SBU) With pastoralists making up 85 percent of Filtu
district, livestock are the literal lifeblood of this area.
Cross-regional and cross-border livestock migrations have led
to chronic overgrazing in Filtu district. Poor rains and
army worm infestations have further damaged pastures despite
some successful pasture reclamation efforts by PCAE. Woreda
officials say common livestock diseases are present but with
no serious outbreaks. However, officials and NGOs worry that
further drought will increase the risk of disease spread

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among migrating livestock while also further exposing them to
starvation. According to district officials, 46 camels, 102
cattle, 468 goats/sheep, and 13 donkeys have already died in
the past two months from starvation, dehydration, or disease.
Almost all cattle observed looked emaciated with bones

Livestock Markets and Trade

7. (SBU) Escalating food prices and the virtual absence of
livestock markets are taking a heavy toll on Filtu residents.
Pastoralists and officials alike said there was virtually "no
livestock market" due to oversupply, meager demand, and fear
of a worsening drought. PolOff visited two USAID funded
livestock market facilities in Filtu and Ngele where the few
pastoralists present confirmed a severely diminished
livestock trade. A local comparison is the exchange rate of
goats to 50kg of sorghum or other cereals. When compared to
last year, district and town officials say that the price of
50kg of sorghum jumped over 400 percent to 300 birr (USD 30)
while the price of a goat dropped 65 percent to below 90 birr
(USD 9). This has adversely impacted the local population's
buying power for basic food stuffs. On the positive side, a
USAID funded women's cooperative in Ayinne produces incense
destined for Italy and has become a source of savings for
their impoverished community. More broadly, trade goods in
the Filtu district stream in from Somalia and Kenya (both
commercial and smuggled) and include sugar, pasta, rice,
sorghum, hygiene products, and other personal goods.

IDP Populations

8. (SBU) PolOff visited two internally displaced persons
(IDP) camps within the Filtu Woreda: Sora and Deka. The Sora
IDPs are nearing a humanitarian crisis. About seven months
ago, they fled conflicts over pasture and water resources
from Kersa Dulla in the Oromiya region that followed a recent
land referendum. They settled on the River Genale and have a
population of about 7,000, according to IDP leaders. The
IDPs have no visible livestock (saying all died or were
looted) or agricultural means, virtually no food, and they
report eating tree roots or sugar water for sustenance.
Leaders say food assistance arrived only once since their
arrival (last May) and PolOff observed symptoms of severe
malnutrution in adults and children including marasmus (e.g.
skinny arem and legs, skeletal look, bloated belly, sagging
buttocks) and kwashiorshor (e.g. round moon face and edema).
The woreda health assistant stationed there reported six
child deaths in the two days with "a minimum of two kids
daily." These deaths continue with Mercy Corps reporting
seven child deaths around August 26 when they visited. Mercy
Corps also said about 1,000 IDPs returned to Kersa Dulla but
those IDPs PolOff interviewed said they did not believe they
could do so. USAID is working with NGOs, WFP, and the GoE to
provide immediate targeted relief to Sora. The second IDP
camp, Deka, is settled along the main Filtu road. They are
comparably better off than IDPs in Sora, likely due to their
proximity to the road and petty commerce, but they suffer
from food and water shortages. They say they are 700 Degodi
clan Somalis who arrived between 4-12 months ago after
fleeing conflict in the Guji and Bale zones of Oromiya
region. They were mostly agriculturalists but now sell
roadside charcoal as their primary means of income.

No Military Movement

9. (SBU) The road from Addis Ababa to Filtu district is one
of two main military arteries for the Ethiopian National
Defense Force (ENDF) to move in and out of Somalia. PolOff
observed no military movements along the road to Filtu and
locals also said there had been no recent military presence
in Filtu or its surrounding areas. There was only a large
but unoccupied training barracks about 20 kilometers outside
of Ngele heading toward Filtu.

© Scoop Media

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