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Cablegate: Drc Refugees in Lkouala- Logistical Challenges And

P R 221437Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY BRAZZAVILLE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1751
INFO AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY ROME
AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS
AMEMBASSY PARIS
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
USMISSION GENEVA
AMEMBASSY BRAZZAVILLE

UNCLAS BRAZZAVILLE 000053


PRM FOR HENNING
KAMPALA FOR LARSON-KONE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL UNHCR WFP CF
SUBJECT: DRC REFUGEES IN LKOUALA- LOGISTICAL CHALLENGES AND
INSECURITY COMPLICATE RELIEF EFFORTS

REF: BRAZZAVILLE 39


1. (U) SUMMARY: The government of Congo-Brazzaville (GROC)
estimates the total number of DRC citizens displaced to ROC now
totals 115,077. Since mid-January, UNHCR has registered over
40,000 displaced persons and expects that the total number of
registrations will be about 10% below the GROC's estimates.
Humanitarian operations continue to be hampered by logistical
problems and insecurity in the region. Currently the World Food
Program's supplies in Impfondo have been exhausted, but the
decision to begin airlifting food from Pointe Noire should
ensure a more regular supply of food aid and bridge the gap
until more commodities arrive. Improved security in the region,
however, seems unlikely in the near future. Despite the launch
of a new DRC military operation, militia activity continues
along the Oubangui river and further inland in the DRC.

--------------------------------------------- ---
WFP WAREHOUSE EMPTY, AIRLIFT TO BEGIN THIS WEEK
--------------------------------------------- ---

2. (U) World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director Alix Loriston
confirmed that the WFP warehouse in Impfondo, ROC is empty.
However, in an effort to contextualize recent media reports,
Loriston stressed that no new cases of malnutrition have been
reported in the wake of this shortage. Although the need for
food remains great, WFP does not expect the current break in the
supply pipe line will adversely affect the displaced. To date,
WFP has provided food to 52,000 people, or about half of the
estimated 114,000 people in the region. There has been no
re-distribution since the initial donation and there is no
regular distribution in place. The displaced population remains
largely self-sufficient. A few of the displaced still have
supplies. The rest are making short trips to the DRC to harvest
their crops, fishing, or foraging on the ROC side of the river.
WFP donations have been targeted to meet immediate needs of
specific populations, but not to provide long term support.

3. (U) As time progresses, however, the displaced population
cannot remain self-sufficient. Crops are being harvested in the
DRC, but no one is replanting. The price of food on the local
market continues to rise as the displaced compete with the
indigenous population for the little food available. Fish are
plentiful in the Oubangui River, but the Prefet says that the
fish stock traditionally declines in the dry season
(March-July). Both the UN System and Doctors Without
Borders-France (MSF) stress the need to start food distribution
as soon as possible. Regular food distribution would improve
health and help prevent the outbreak of epidemics. It would also
limit the potential for conflict between ethnic groups and
between the indigenous population and the displaced as local
resources become ever scarcer.

4. (U) WFP has food shipments en route to Impfondo from Bangui
and Brazzaville. WFP expected to receive these shipments this
week, but difficult road conditions between Bangui and Impfondo
and continued insecurity on the Oubangui River have delayed
their arrival. Even with these additional supplies, however, WFP
forecasts continued breaks and shortfalls in the food supply
pipeline due to the lack of regional stockpiles and the
difficulty of moving supplies to the remote Likouala region on a
timely basis. Because of the difficulty reaching Impfondo by
land or water and the prospect for additional shortages while
awaiting delivery food donations, WFP is now making plans for an
airlift operation to Impfondo. According to Loriston, WFP plans
to move nearly 600 tons from Pointe-Noire to Impfondo using a
DRC based Antonov 12. Lorriston says the airlift operation will
begin as soon as the GROC grants the required flight permissions.

------------------------------------------
REBEL ACTIVITY CONTINUES SOUTH OF IMPFONDO
------------------------------------------

5. (U) Over the weekend of February 13-14, the FARDC launched a
new operation against the rebel militia in the DRC. American
missionaries resident in Impfondo reported hearing shelling and
gun fire across the river near the DRC town of Buburu. The FARDC
have moved a gunboat into the region to patrol the river. The
American missionaries reported seeing one boat speeding down the
river and firing into the DRC on February 14 south of Impfondo.

6. (U) Some elements of the FARDC mission, however, appear to
have come to a literal standstill following the weekend
offensive. On February 15, a FARDC gunship ran aground just
downstream from Impfondo, ROC. FARDC forces have been unable to
get the boat off the sandbar and UNHCR Impfondo reports that a
helicopter was dispatched to take the FARDC soldiers back to
base. Reportedly, the boat has been abandoned in the hopes that
it will free itself when the river level rises with the return
of the rains sometime in July.

7. (U) Due to the continued instability in the region, the UN
system has forbidden its employees from travelling south of
Impfondo on the Oubangui. UNHCR reports that MSF has been
operating south of Impfondo, but that their boats have come
under fire earlier this week. UN shipments from Brazzaville have
also been attacked. As a result, the ROC Army is now providing
armed escort for all UN shipments and the Prefet has ordered a
17H curfew on all river traffic in an effort to cut down on
attacks. WFP reports that they have a 250 ton barge stopped en
route to Impfondo under orders from the ROC military that they
cannot go any further. The WFP barge is still on the Congo River
and has not reached the junction with the Oubangui. The barge
has been stopped for the last five days and WFP does not know if
the delay is due to the lack of an available military escort or
the inability of the military escort to guarantee the barge's
safety any further upriver.

-------------------
41,432 AND COUNTING
-------------------

8. (U) Since launching the formal registration campaign on
January 15, UNHCR has registered 41,432 displaced persons in the
Betou District of the Likouala Department. The registration
process is ongoing and UNHCR hopes to have registered the entire
population by the end of March. Initially, UNHCR feared that the
GROC overestimated the displaced population. The 11% discrepancy
between GROC reports and UNHCR registration figures previously
reported (REF A), however, has held true. With nearly 40% of the
refugees registered, UNHCR is confident that their total will
not differ greatly from the GROC's last official count issued on
February 4 of 115,077 displaced persons.


EASTHAM

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