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Cablegate: Usaid/Ofda Field Report Agadez: Post-Flood Emergency

VZCZCXRO8291
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0791/01 2731549
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301549Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5356
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0310
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0209
RUEHRN/USMISSION UN ROME 0005
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS 0009
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 NIAMEY 000791

SIPDIS
AIDAC

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, AND AF/PDPA
PLS PASS USAID AFR/WA FOR NFREEMAN, LDOORES-FENDELL, GBERTOLIN
OFDA/W FOR ACONVERY, CCHAN, FSHANKS, MSHIRLEY, JMCINTOSH
FFP/W FOR JBORNS, ASINK, TMCRAE
ACRA ALSO FOR AFR/WA
DAKAR FOR RDAVIS
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
ROME FOR US MISSION RNEWBERG, HSPANOS
BRUSSELS FOR USAID PBROWN
NEW YORK FOR DMERCADO
NSC FOR CPRATT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID EAGR PREL PHUM PGOV NG
SUBJECT: USAID/OFDA FIELD REPORT AGADEZ: POST-FLOOD EMERGENCY
RESPONSE AND CHALLENGES

REF: NIAMEY 00639

NIAMEY 00000791 001.2 OF 003


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. In the wake of September 2 flash floods affecting the city of
Agadez and nearby rural communes of Dabaga, Tchirozerine, and
Tabelot, representatives from USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign
Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) and the European Community
Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) conducted a joint assessment of
current assistance and flood damage. The September 22-24 visit
found that at present, response efforts appear to be meeting the
basic humanitarian needs of the 850 displaced families in Agadez
city. Although gaps remain, the population of approximately 42,000
urban flood-affected appears out of immediate danger.

2. Government of Niger (GoN) security restrictions outside Agadez
seriously hinder the provision of assistance in Dabaga,
Tchirozerine, and Tabelot rural communes. The GoN's short-term
focus on relocating displaced families out of schools and directive
style in doing so is resulting in compartmentalization of responses
and has stalled the humanitarian response in the initial emergency
phase. Near-term priorities include the expansion of humanitarian
assistance to populations not yet supported and the provision of
more flexible assistance to urban populations allowing the
resumption of livelihoods activities. END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------
SEPTEMBER 22-23 FIELD ASSESSMENT
--------------------------------

3. Prompted by conflicting reports regarding flood-related
humanitarian needs and adequacy of resources mobilized for the
response, USAID/OFDA and ECHO representatives conducted a joint
assessment from September 22-24. The team of two regional advisors
met with U.N. and non-governmental organization (NGO) staff, local
officials, and flood-affected families residing in displaced sites
in Agadez city. The team also met with Niamey-based NGOs and U.N.
representatives of agencies involved in flood assessment and
response. The USAID/OFDA-ECHO mission had no access to flood
affected areas beyond Agadez city limits due to security concerns
and the GoN requirement of military escorts accompanying travel
outside Agadez.

-----------------------------
FLOODING AND RESPONSE TO DATE
-----------------------------

4. Flash flooding in the early morning of September 2 destroyed the
Alarces dam 7 km northeast of Agadez city, creating a powerful water
flow that destroyed houses along a former riverbed by a wave
reportedly two meters high. Local residents indicated that the
September 2 flash flooding was the most devastating flood event
experienced since 1974. Floodwaters flowed along a 150 km path
starting in the Air Mountains above Tabelot, 140 km northeast of
Agadez, and affecting Tabelot, Dabaga, and Tchirozerine rural
communes before reaching Agadez city. Mayors north of Agadez quickly
communicated the impending disaster through cell phone calls to
colleagues, facilitating life-saving evacuations of households in
the flood waters' path.

5. Post floods, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA) reported two fatalities and one person
missing. The GoN estimates that 79,000 individuals or nearly 12,400
households are affected. (Note: U.N. agencies and NGOs working in
the area believe the GoN's flood-affected figures overestimate
actual numbers. Given that the Governor rejected initial estimates
from OCHA and Nigerien Red Cross assessments, however, humanitarian
actors refer to the GoN figures in order not to delay provision of

NIAMEY 00000791 002.2 OF 003


assistance. End note.)

6. Based on discussions with OCHA, NGOs, and a U.N. Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) team that conducted a September 14-16
assessment in flood-affected areas, humanitarian needs outside of
Agadez city revolve around restoring agricultural production.
Requests for assistance are to reclaim heavily silted gardens,
re-stock 3655 livestock lost by 301 households in floodwaters, and
repair 3336 damaged or silt-filled wells prior to the upcoming
agricultural season, for which planting should begin in early
October. To date, security-related issues are hindering provision
of assistance. (Note: A U.N. security team currently is assessing
areas outside Agadez that have been insecure and a "no go" zone for
the last two years due to conflict between Tuareg rebel groups and
the GoN, reported landmines, and banditry. End note.)

------------------------
ASSISTANCE WITHIN AGADEZ
------------------------

7. The GoN estimates that within Agadez city approximately 6,500
families are affected, totaling nearly 42,000 individuals out of an
urban population of approximately 130,000. Approximately 850
displaced families are sheltering in public buildings, of which 731
are being relocated from schools into two new temporary sites.
Authorities and humanitarian agencies were preparing the new sites
with additional tents, latrines, and water points during the
USAID/OFDA-ECHO assessment. A third site has been identified, but
is likely not viable due to being outside of town and beyond the
city water system. In general, women and children are sheltering in
the temporary sites while men choose to stay near their damaged or
destroyed houses.

8. The team visited several of the 16 distribution points. In one
site, registered beneficiaries were receiving tickets for food
distributions planned for the next day. At another location, the
French Red Cross had placed water bladders and latrines directly in
communities. The regional stadium, which is currently housing 96
families, will be the main site for flood displaced relocated from
schools. At the stadium, the team observed distributions including
plastic sheeting, buckets, soap, kitchen sets, blankets, and other
essential items provided by the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Mercy Corps staff reported having identified a few flood-affected
families living off-site that have not yet received support. Based
on the GoN's estimated numbers, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) is
ensuring food for all 79,000 flood-affected during September and
October.

9. The emergency assistance mobilized to date by local authorities,
donors, and international relief agencies appears to be meeting the
most basic humanitarian needs of the flood-affected populations in
Agadez, and they appear to be stable. The team noted gaps in
assistance, particularly the need for more flexible assistance that
would allow flood-affected families to resume livelihoods. OCHA is
present to facilitate humanitarian coordination between
international agencies, displaced and local authorities. Challenges
to coordination include compartmentalized GoN sub-committees that
currently are focused exclusively on a narrow range of temporary
short-term solutions, and little international agency access or
involvement in the key decision-making ad-hoc committee, which
closely holds information and authority. (Note: The OFDA-ECHO team
heard from the U.N. Resident Coordinator after returning to Niamey
that the GoN has decided to bulldoze the Agadez city areas affected
by flooding. No one in Agadez, whether humanitarian agency or
displaced who are already rebuilding on sites of their former homes,
seemed aware of this decision. End note.)

--------------------------------------------- -
TWO FACTORS TO CONSIDER FOR TRANSITION SUPPORT
--------------------------------------------- -

NIAMEY 00000791 003.2 OF 003

10. December and January are cold months in the Air Mountains. The
GoN envisions displaced families staying in current temporary sites
for the next three months, the end of which coincides with the onset
of the cold season. Despite recent extremely wet weather, both the
2008 and 2009 growing seasons have been severely affected by
drought, resulting in serious deficit agricultural and fodder
production. Thus, facilitating agricultural production for the
upcoming short season in tandem with forward planning for the
upcoming cold season are essential to helping these affected
populations avoid renewed food insecurity and health issues.

---------------------------
OBSTACLES AND OPPORTUNITIES
---------------------------

11. There are two primary obstacles to the provision of effective
flood relief, which, conversely, also present opportunities. The
first is lack of access to affected populations outside of Agadez
due to GoN security restrictions stemming from the conflict between
the GoN and Tuareg rebel groups that started in early 2007. The
second is the absence of leadership to consider a wider range of
longer-term options for flood-affected populations, in order to help
them relocate, restart livelihoods, and quickly move towards more
permanent solutions beyond sheltering in displaced sites. On return
from Agadez, the USAID/OFDA-ECHO team met with the U.N. Resident
Coordinator in Niamey to raise these two issues for UN attention and
a higher level of leadership and intervention. The U.N. Resident
Coordinator was aware of both issues and actively engaged in seeking
new solutions.

-----------------------------
USAID/ OFDA AND USG ASSISTANCE
-----------------------------

12. In response to the U.S. Embassy's disaster declaration on
September 16 (reftel), USAID/OFDA provided $50,000 to support cash
for work activities that will improve sanitation and hygiene in
Agadez city. The USAID/OFDA acting Regional Advisor stationed in
Ouagadougou mobilized ECHO, which is the other major humanitarian
donor present in the region for this joint assessment. Following
the joint mission, both offices anticipate providing modest
additional humanitarian assistance in affected communes and are
coordinating closely for the maximum impact of any additional
assistance. The USAID/OFDA regional office in Dakar will continue
to monitor post-flood transition in conjunction with the U.S.
Embassy in Niamey, USAID/West Africa, USAID's Office of Food for
Peace, and humanitarian partners.

13. Note: OFDA drafted this report; Embassy Niamey clears and
thanks OFDA for its responsiveness in dealing with this emergency
situation. End note.

WHITAKER

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