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Cablegate: Impact of Rainfall On Sri Lanka's Manik Farm Idp Camps

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLM #0818/01 2311128
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 191128Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0417
INFO RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 7114
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK PRIORITY 3935
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 3248
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 8875
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 1855
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 3687
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 1285
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J3/J332/J52//
RHMFIUU/CDRUSARPAC FT SHAFTER HI//APCW/APOP//

UNCLAS COLOMBO 000818

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INS AND PRM
STATE ALSO PASS TO USAID
AID/W FOR ANE/SCA
AID/W FOR DCHA/FFP FOR JDWORKEN, JBORNS
AID/W FOR DCHA/OFDA FOR ACONVERY, RTHAYER AND RKERR
BANGKOK FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA WBERGER
KATHMANDU FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA MROGERS AND POL SBERRY
USMISSION GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
USUN FOR ECOSOC DMERCADO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL PREF PGOV PHUM MOPS ASEC CE
SUBJECT: IMPACT OF RAINFALL ON SRI LANKA'S MANIK FARM IDP CAMPS

REF: A) Colombo 775 B) Colombo 753

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Recent rainfall in Sri Lanka's northern district
of Vavuniya, the location of the Manik Farm IDP camps, was a wake-up
call for the Government of Sri Lanka and international organizations
conducting humanitarian operations. Major improvements appear
necessary to avert disaster prior to the beginning of the monsoon
season. Using the established cluster approach, the UN and NGOs are
conducting a technical assessment of the possible impact of the
monsoon season (late September through December) on Manik Farm. By
next week they expect to have this assessment and a contingency plan
to share with the Government of Sri Lanka and the international
community. End Summary.

Seasonal Rainfall - Harbinger of Things to Come?
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (U) On Friday August 14, approximately ten centimeters (4
inches) of rain fell in three hours on the District of Vavuniya in
Sri Lanka's Northern Province - the site of camps for people
displaced by the recently-concluded conflict between Government
forces and the LTTE. The largest IDP facility in Vavuniya District,
Manik Farm, is broken into several contiguous zones (individual
camps) that house approximately 230,000 people in total. Throughout
the weekend, intermittent rains continued at Manik Farm, with more
rain forecast for this week. Most agree that August rainfall in
Vavuniya District is normal and sporadic, unlike the intense, daily
monsoonal rains due to begin next month.

3. (U) Friday's rainfall caused immediate flooding at Manik Farm,
with Zone 4 (housing approximately 38,000 people in temporary
shelters) most severely affected. Depending on the source (GSL, UN,
or NGO), reports on the severity of the rain vary. Photographic
evidence indicates damaged and destroyed shelters inundated with
standing water, especially in Zone 4, where no drainage
infrastructure was in place. Emergency response measures were taken
to move people to safe, dry facilities and to provide them with
basic food and drinking water.

Discussions Involving Donors and the UN
---------------------------------------

4. (U) Although most flooding was temporary, with water eventually
running off via a drainage system still being constructed in Zones
1, 2, and 3, the normal rain of a few hours has rung alarm bells
throughout the humanitarian community. Hosted by the USAID
Director, a small group of donors (ECHO, DFID, Swiss, Ausaid) met
yesterday to discuss Manik Farm, as well as options to support the
United Nations in its ongoing discussions with the GSL. There was
general agreement that a stronger advocacy position needs to be
taken by the UN and donors with the Government concerning protection
issues of freedom of movement and of IDP safety especially given the
concern that the Manik Farm site will not fare well in the upcoming
monsoon season.

5. (U) Yesterday afternoon, donor representatives met with the UN
Resident Coordinator and his heads of agencies - UNHCR, UNDSS,
UNOCHA, UNICEF, WFP. Some donor representatives (ECHO, DFID,
Germany) stated that they were not prepared to provide additional
support to humanitarian operations in Manik Farm, after the
expiration of their currently funded activities (generally ending in
October). Their position is that Manik Farm, with the recent
rainfall, has proven to be technically unsustainable, from an
operational standpoint. In addition, they do not believe that the
GSL has made progress on such important protection issues as freedom
of movement and release of no-risk IDPs to host families.

How to Engage the Government
-----------------------------

6. (SBU) The UN Resident Coordinator was appreciative of the
donors' offer to support the UN, to synchronize messages to the GSL,
and to seek more effective ways to engage the GSL on these pressing
topics. One suggestion was that he and two or three heads of
mission from the largest CHAP donor countries meet with the
President or with the Senior Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa.
It was also suggested that the UN consult more closely with donor
countries regarding resources, and parameters for programming those
resources, that could be counted on in the coming months to support
the immediate and medium-term humanitarian needs of IDPs in the
North.

COMMENT
-------

7. (SBU) It is increasingly clear that the UN does not have a
concrete plan or effective strategy to engage the GSL on the major
humanitarian topics of the immediate requirements of IDPs in
temporary facilities such as Manik Farm, as well as the return of
these IDPs in the months to come. Relations between the UN and the
GSL continue to be strained, with the UN apparently reluctant to
share details regarding the state of negotiations of its individual
agencies with the broader, international community. This cautious
attitude, combined with the GSL's ongoing obfuscation of any
strategic planning for de-mining and IDP returns, keeps donors in
the dark regarding plans for IDPs. Donors are becoming increasingly
concerned about the lack of progress on releasing the IDPs, the
ability to engage the GSL, and the leadership of the UN on these key
humanitarian issues.

8. (SBU) There is general agreement that the humanitarian situation
- perhaps soon to become another humanitarian "crisis" with the
monsoonal rains ahead - needs to be addressed simultaneously on two
fronts. The most pressing is the immediate needs of 230,000 people
who continue to be confined in substandard conditions in Manik Farm.
Worst fears are that flooding from heavy rains, starting in
September, could make it impossible for people to access food and
safe water. There is concern also for major health problems
associated with exposure brought about by collapsing shelters, and
waterborne diseases brought about by contamination from overflowing
latrines. The second focus needs to be a returns strategy, with
numbers of people slated for specific destinations, based on
realistic timeframes that are influenced by demining and the
conditions of the communities to which they will return. Post - and
other western donors - has consistently asked that the GSL provide
such a strategy. Post will continue to closely monitor the
situation and will submit its second benchmarks report on August 31.
End Comment.

MOORE

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