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05DJIBOUTI407 2005-04-24 12:53:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Djibouti
Cable title:  

DJIBOUTI: FOOD SECURITY AND REFUGEES UPDATE

Tags:   ACOA AMTC AMGT ASEC PREF 
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					UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 DJIBOUTI 000407 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ACOA AMTC AMGT ASEC PREF
SUBJECT: DJIBOUTI: FOOD SECURITY AND REFUGEES UPDATE



1. REDSO/FFP OFFICER TRAVELED TO DJIBOUTI 5-7 APRIL,
MET WITH WFP, UNHCR AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS, TRAVELED
TO HOLL-HOLL AND ALI ADDE REFUGEE CAMPS AND VISITED
FOOD INSECURE AREAS OF ALI SABIEH DISTRICT.



2. FFP RECENTLY CONTRIBUTED AN ADDITIONAL $500,000 TO
WFP'S PROTRACTED RELIEF AND RECOVERY OPERATION (PRRO)
FOR REFUGEES, BRINGING ITS FY2005 TOTAL TO $1,000,000.
DUE TO PIPELINE SHORTAGES, WFP REDUCED REFUGEE RATIONS
TO 50% FROM MARCH UNTIL AT LEAST JUNE WHEN THE FIRST
FFP COMMODITIES ARE DUE TO ARRIVE. DUE TO WHAT ARE
BELIEVED TO BE EXAGGERATED OFFICIAL REFUGEE POPULATION
FIGURES, NO ADVERSE NUTRITIONAL EFFECTS ARE
ANTICIPATED FROM THIS REDUCTION. FROM JUNE, OUR TWO
CONTRIBUTIONS WOULD SOLIDIFY WFP'S PIPELINE THROUGH
THE END OF CY2005.



3. UNHCR PLANS TO REPATRIATE 8,000 REFUGEES (MAINLY
SOMALILANDERS) THIS YEAR. WHILE CURRENT REFUGEE
REPATRIATIONS HAVE BEEN SLOW - 2,319 PEOPLE OUT OF
4,380 PLANNED TO DATE - VOLUNTEERS ARE NOW INCREASING
RAPIDLY, PRIMARILY BECAUSE OF THE REDUCED FOOD
RATIONS.



4. DUE MAINLY TO POOR HEYS/DADA RAINS AND INCREASED
STRESS ON PASTORALISTS SEARCHING FOR WATER AND
PASTURE, THE FOOD SECURITY SITUATION FOR RURAL
DJIBOUTIANS HAS BECOME QUITE FRAGILE, AND IS LIKELY TO
DETERIORATE FURTHER IN THE BLISTERING SUMMER MONTHS.
WFP IS CURRENTLY PROVIDING EMERGENCY TWO-MONTH FOOD
RATIONS TO 25,000-30,000 AFFECTED PEOPLE. BASED ON THE
UPCOMING WFP/FEWSNET ASSESSMENT IN LATE APRIL, WFP
WILL LIKELY DEVELOP A SMALL EMERGENCY OPERATION (EMOP)
BEGINNING IN JUNE TO PROVIDE SUPPORT TO APPROXIMATELY
50,000 PEOPLE FOR SIX MONTHS.



5. WHILE RECOGNIZING THAT A CERTAIN NUMBER OF
ETHIOPIAN AND SOUTHERN SOMALI REFUGEES WILL CONTINUE
TO REQUIRE SOME SUPPORT FOR THE TIME BEING, WE ARE
CONCERNED AT THE RELUCTANCE OF SOMALILANDERS TO RETURN
HOME. IN ORDER TO ALLOW THESE REFUGEES TO REPATRIATE
VOLUNTARILY, WE BELIEVE THAT STRONG INERTIA-INDUCING
DRAGS TYING THEM TO THE CAMPS SHOULD BE REMOVED, AND
THAT WFP IS FULLY JUSTIFIED IN MAINTAINING THE REDUCED
REFUGEE RATION.



6. WE RECOMMEND THAT - ONCE THE EMOP IS APPROVED IN
MAY - FFP TRANSFER ITS SECOND $500,000 TRANCHE FROM
THE REFUGEE PRRO TO THE DJIBOUTIAN EMOP. THIS WOULD BE
DOUBLY BENEFICIAL FROM OUR PERSPECTIVE, ALLOWING WFP
BOTH TO SUPPORT VULNERABLE DJIBOUTIANS AS WELL AS TO
CONTINUE REDUCED REFUGEE RATIONS WITH A SOMEWHAT LESS-
ROBUST PIPELINE. END SUMMARY



--------------------------


REFUGEE STATUS


--------------------------





7. REDSO/FFP HAS FOR YEARS MAINTAINED THAT DJIBOUTI'S
REFUGEE PROGRAM WAS ONE OF THE BIGGEST HEADACHES PER
CAPITA WORLDWIDE - AND WE CONTINUE TO DO SO. WITH ONLY
15,630 REFUGEES ON PAPER (AND PROBABLY LESS THAN
10,000 IN REALITY), THESE FEW REFUGEES HAVE REFUSED
UNHCR RE-REGISTRATION HEADCOUNTS SINCE 1997, THROWING
LIBERAL AMOUNTS OF BOTH THREATS AND STONES, AND
SOMALILAND REFUGEES CONTINUE THEIR STEADFAST
UNWILLINGNESS TO REPATRIATE. THE SITUATION HAS
CERTAINLY NOT BEEN HELPED OVER THE YEARS BY LOCAL
PARTNER ONARS' INEFFICIENCY AND CORRUPTION, TOGETHER
WITH ITS STRONG SELF-INTEREST IN BLOCKING REFUGEE
RETURN (SEE PARA 26).



8. ALL THAT SAID, IT APPEARS THAT THE MIGRAINE MAY
SLOWLY BE EASING, WITH UNHCR SHOWING SOME FORTITUDE,
TOGETHER WITH GREATER HIGH-LEVEL GRD SUPPORT FOR
REFUGEE RETURN. UNHCR PLANS TO REPATRIATE AROUND 8,000
REFUGEES (MAINLY TO SOMALILAND) IN CY2005, AND WHILE
ACTUAL REPATRIATION TO DATE HAS BEEN LOW - 2,319
PEOPLE OUT OF 4,380 PLANNED - VOLUNTEERS HAVE BEEN
INCREASING STEADILY SINCE WFP REDUCED THE FOOD RATION
IN MARCH (SEE BELOW).



9. IF SOMALILAND AUTHORITIES WOULD AGREE TO ADDITIONAL
CONVOYS IN APRIL/MAY BEFORE THE SWELTERING SUMMER HEAT
(THE APRIL/MAY BREAK WAS THOUGHT PRUDENT DUE TO POST-
ELECTION UNCERTAINTIES IN DJIBOUTI, BUT IS NOW BEING
RECONSIDERED), UNHCR MAY BE ABLE TO FACILITATE THE
RETURN OF AN ADDITIONAL 1,500-2,000 REFUGEES. IF NOT,
REPATRIATION WILL BREAK NOW UNTIL THE SEPTEMBER-
DECEMBER PERIOD, DURING WHICH UNHCR HOPES TO
REPATRIATE AN ADDITIONAL 5,400 REFUGEES.



10. FFP RECENTLY CONTRIBUTED AN ADDITIONAL $500,000 TO
WFP'S REFUGEE PRRO, BRINGING ITS FY2005 TOTAL TO
$1,000,000. BEGINNING IN MARCH, AND AT LEAST UNTIL THE
FIRST TRANCHE OF FFP COMMODITIES ARRIVES IN JUNE, WFP
HAS REDUCED FOOD RATIONS TO THE 50% LEVEL. WFP WILL
HOWEVER CONTINUE ITS SUPPORT TO SUPPLEMENTARY AND
THERAPEUTIC FEEDING CENTERS IN THE CAMPS.



11. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT WFP MAINTAINED 50% REFUGEE
RATIONS FOR SIX MONTHS IN 2004. THE MEDICAL NGO AMDA
CONDUCTED MONTHLY NUTRITIONAL ASSESSMENTS WITH WFP,
AND NOTED NO ADVERSE EFFECTS FROM THIS REDUCTION. THIS
WAS LIKELY DUE TO WHAT ARE BELIEVED TO BE
SIGNIFICANTLY EXAGGERATED OFFICIAL REFUGEE NUMBERS.
WFP OF COURSE WILL NOW CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE
NUTRITIONAL SITUATION IN THE CAMPS WITH AMDA AS IT DID
LAST YEAR.



--------------------------


DJIBOUTIAN FOOD SECURITY SITUATION


--------------------------





12. THE CURRENT FOOD SECURITY SITUATION OF RURAL
DJIBOUTIANS ACTUALLY APPEARS TO BE WORSE THAN THAT OF
THE REFUGEES. WHILE DJIBOUTI COULD NEVER BE DESCRIBED
AS LUSH - WITH LESS THAN 150 MM AVERAGE ANNUAL
RAINFALL - PASTORALISTS ARE DEPENDENT ON THIS MINIMAL
RAINFALL TO SUSTAIN THEIR LIVESTOCK WITH WATER AND
PASTURE. ACCORDING TO FEWSNET, THE RECENT HEYS/DADA
RAINS ENDED EARLY AND WERE POORLY DISTRIBUTED. THE
CURRENT DELAY OF DIRAA/SOUGOUM RAINS ARE ALSO NOT A
GOOD SIGN. DUE TO SUCCESSIVE POOR RAINFALL SEASONS,
PASTORALIST LIVELIHOODS ARE ESPECIALLY STRESSED.



13. A JOINT GRD/WFP/FEWSNET ASSESSMENT 21-25 MARCH
CONFIRMED THAT TRADITIONAL PASTURE AREAS HAD RECEIVED
INSUFFICIENT RAINFALL, AND THAT WHILE DIKHIL AND ALI
SABIEH DISTRICTS WERE WORST AFFECTED, THE PROBLEM
AFFECTED PARTS OF THE ENTIRE COUNTRY. NOTE: A SIMILAR
ASSESSMENT IN OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2004 FOLLOWING POOR
RAINS RECOMMENDED SIX MONTHS OF WFP DISTRIBUTIONS; WFP
DID DISTRIBUTE ONE-TWO MONTHS IN EARLY 2005, BUT WAS
SOMEWHAT WARY OF CONDUCTING DISTRIBUTIONS SO CLOSE TO
THE 8 APRIL ELECTIONS. END NOTE



14. BASED ON THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE MARCH
ASSESMENT, WFP IS NOW DISTRIBUTING A TWO-MONTH
(APRIL/MAY) HALF-RATION TO 25,000-30,000 PEOPLE
COUNTRYWIDE. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THESE
DISTRIBUTIONS DO NOT INCLUDE CEREALS AND ARE BORROWED
FROM WFP'S DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM. IF EMERGENCY NEEDS
SHOULD CONTINUE (OR INCREASE, AS APPEARS QUITE
LIKELY), WFP WOULD BE UNABLE TO SUSTAIN THESE
DISTRIBUTIONS WITHOUT SUBMITTING A NEW OPERATION FOR
DONOR FUNDING.



15. IF THE RAINS FAIL IN APRIL, THE SITUATION WILL
BECOME MORE SERIOUS, AND THERE WILL LIKELY BE A NEED
FOR A SMALL EMOP. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THIS IS A
REGIONAL PROBLEM, AFFECTING NEIGHBORING AREAS OF
ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA AS WELL. IN FACT, NOMADS SAY THAT
IN GOOD YEARS, ETHIOPIA HAS THE BEST SUPPLY OF WATER
AND PASTURE; BUT IN BAD YEARS, DJIBOUTI IS THE
PREFERRED DESTINATION. SO DJIBOUTI IS CURRENTLY
SUPPORTING MANY AFFECTED PASTORALISTS FROM THE
NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES AS WELL.



16. USAID/WFP/FEWS VISITS TO NOMADIC WATER POINTS IN
ALI SABIEH DISTRICT FOUND MOST CATCHMENTS COMPLETELY
DRY, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN
RELATIVELY WELL-STOCKED AT THIS TIME OF YEAR.



17. AT ONE CATCHMENT WITH A SMALL POOL OF WATER, THE
TEAM MET AFAR HERDERS WATERING THEIR CAMELS AND GOATS
IN 'IISE TERRITORY BECAUSE WATER WAS NOT AVAILABLE IN
THEIR OWN AREAS. THEY HAD COME FROM ETHIOPIA SEARCHING
FOR BETTER PASTURE, AND WERE UNCERTAIN WHERE THEY
WOULD GO NEXT. WHILE SOME OF THEIR ANIMALS HAD
REPORTEDLY DIED, THOSE REMAINING DID NOT APPEAR IN
ESPECIALLY DIRE CONDITION. THE SITUATION WAS NOT
CATASTROPHIC, BUT WAS CERTAINLY VERY POOR, AND SEEMED
LIKELY TO WORSEN IN THE COMING MONTHS.



18. THE LIFE OF A PASTORALIST IS CERTAINLY NOT EASY IN
THE BEST OF TIMES, WITH TENUOUS FOOD SECURITY, AND
INTAKE RARELY REACHING 2,100 KCAL DAILY. INTRODUCE A
RELATIVELY SMALL SHOCK TO THIS, AND THE ALREADY
FRAGILE COPING MECHANISMS CAN BE SHATTERED. THE POOR
SITUATION NOW IS CURRENTLY MAINLY A PROBLEM OF WATER -
PASTORALISTS NOTED THAT IT ALREADY FELT LIKE THE END
OF THE DRY SEASON THOUGH THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN PLENTY
OF WATER AND PASTURE AT THIS TIME. HOWEVER, IF THERE
IS NO RAIN IN APRIL, PASTORALISTS WILL BE EXTREMELY
VULNERABLE AS THE SCORCHING SUMMER MONTHS KILL
WEAKENED ANIMALS AND FURTHER REDUCE THEIR OWNERS' FOOD
SECURITY.


19. WFP AND FEWSNET WILL UNDERTAKE A JOINT FOOD
SECURITY ASSESSMENT COUNTRYWIDE IN LATE APRIL, WHICH
WILL LIKELY BOTH JUSTIFY AND QUANTIFY A SMALL WFP
EMOP, POSSIBLY FOR SIX MONTHS SUPPORTING UP TO 50,000
PEOPLE.



--------------------------


NEW WFP PRRO: DJIBOUTIANS OUT


--------------------------





20. UP UNTIL MARCH 2005, WFP'S PRRO TARGETED REFUGEES
AS WELL AS VULNERABLE DJIBOUTIANS. HOWEVER, IN ITS NEW
PRRO, WFP HAS NOW SEPARATED OUT THE DJIBOUTIANS,
LEAVING ONLY REFUGEES. WHILE VULNERABLE DJIBOUTIANS
ARE STILL SUPPORTED UNDER WFP'S COUNTRY DEVELOPMENT
PROGRAM - THROUGH FFW, SCHOOL FEEDING AND OTHER
PROJECTS - FFP DOES NOT TYPICALLY SUPPORT INDIVIDUAL
WFP COUNTRY PROGRAMS, INSTEAD CHANNELING THE BULK OF
ITS DEVELOPMENTAL FOOD RESOURCES THROUGH NGO PARTNERS.



21. COMMENT: OUR TWIN DILEMMAS THEN ARE HOW TO ASSIST
VULNERABLE DJIBOUTIANS (WHICH HAD BEEN DONE PREVIOUSLY
THROUGH THE COMBINED PRRO) DESPITE NOT SUPPORTING THE
WFP COUNTRY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM, AND AT THE SAME TIME
HOW TO MAINTAIN SUPPORT FOR WFP'S PRRO FOR REFUGEES
DESPITE OUR STRONG DESIRE TO PROMOTE THEIR
REPATRIATION TO SOMALILAND. END COMMENT



--------------------------


UNHCR VIEWS


--------------------------





22. UNHCR/DJIBOUTI REPRESENTATIVE NOTED THAT UNHCR WAS
TIRED OF BEING MANIPULATED BY THE REFUGEES AND OF
BEING SEEN AS INEFFECTIVE. WITH THE GRD MINISTRY OF
INTERIOR NOW FIRMLY SUPPORTING REPATRIATION, UNHCR WAS
CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT PROSPECTS FOR RETURN.



23. UNHCR IS HOPEFUL THAT IT CAN STILL REPATRIATE
CLOSE TO ITS TARGET OF 8,000 PEOPLE IN 2005, WITH UP
TO NINE MORE CONVOYS TOTALING 5,400 PEOPLE IN THE
SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER PERIOD. SOME PEOPLE CONJECTURE THAT
THE SOMALILAND AUTHORITIES MAY WANT TO DELAY THE FINAL
REFUGEE RETURN SOMEWHAT, BECAUSE WITH THEIR ETHIOPIAN
AND DJIBOUTIAN CAMPS EMPTIED, ADDITIONAL REINTEGRATION
ASSISTANCE WITHIN SOMALILAND WOULD DRY UP QUICKLY.
THAT SAID, THE SOMALILAND AUTHORITIES HAVE COMMITTED
TO ACCEPTING UNHCR'S TARGET IN CY2005.



24. UNHCR/DJIBOUTI EXPRESSED "FULL SUPPORT" FOR WFP'S
CURRENT FOOD REDUCTION AND A DESIRE FOR IT TO BE
MAINTAINED AT THE 50% LEVEL AT LEAST FOR THE NEXT FEW
MONTHS, IF NOT LONGER. ANTICIPATING A POSSIBLE
NEGATIVE REACTION TO THIS FROM GENEVA, UNHCR NOTED
QUITE STRONGLY ITS POSITION THAT IF THE REFUGEES
WANTED FULL RATIONS, THEY MUST THEN ALLOW THEMSELVES
TO BE COUNTED.



25. WFP ALSO AGREED WITH THIS POSITION IN PRINCIPLE,
BUT NOTED THAT IT COULD BE PERCEIVED POORLY IF IT
CONTINUED REDUCED RATIONS WITH SUCH A BOUNTIFUL
PIPELINE - THANKS TO THE LATEST FFP CONTRIBUTION.
NOTE: FFPO EXPRESSED STRONG SUPPORT FOR UNHCR'S VIEWS
TO WFP, AND WE WILL ENSURE THAT WFP MAINTAINS REDUCED
REFUGEE RATIONS. SEE RECOMMENDATIONS SECTION BELOW.
END NOTE



26. ONARS (GRD'S "OFFICE NATIONAL D'ASSISTANCE POUR
LES REFUGIES ET SINISTRES"): ONARS' ENTIRE RAISON
D'ETRE - AT LEAST IN TERMS OF CASH FLOW - IS THE
REFUGEES, AND IT HAS THEREFORE NEVER FULLY SUPPORTED
THEIR RETURN. UNHCR NOTED THAT ONARS ALSO MAINTAINED A
BLOATED PERMANENT STAFF IT COULD NOT EASILY RETRENCH.
HOWEVER, AS LONG AS THE GRD INTERIOR MINISTRY REMAINED
FULLY INVOLVED AND SUPPORTIVE OF REPATRIATION AT THE
HIGHEST LEVELS, UNHCR BELIEVED THAT ONARS COULD NOT
DRAG ITS FEET QUITE SO OPENLY ANYMORE.



27. UNHCR NOTED THAT AOUR AOUSSA CAMP WOULD BE CLOSED
IN MAY (AND CONSOLIDATED INTO ALI ADDE). IN ADDITION,
THE NEARLY EQUAL-SIZED HOLL-HOLL AND ALI ADDE REFUGEE
COMMUNITIES CURRENTLY HAD SHOWN SOME RELUCTANCE TO
REPATRIATE, AS THEY PERCEIVED THAT THEIR CAMP WOULD
THEN BECOME THE SMALLER AND BE CHOSEN NEXT FOR
CLOSURE. TO COUNTER THIS, UNHCR WILL IN JUNE ANNOUNCE
ITS INTENTION TO CLOSE HOLL-HOLL IN SEPTEMBER, AND NOT
REQUEST ANY BUDGET FOR THE CAMP IN 2006. UNHCR WILL
THEN TRY TO SORT OUT A BETTER POPULATION ESTIMATE ONCE
ALL REFUGEES ARE IN A SINGLE CAMP: ALI ADDE.



28. UNHCR BELIEVES THAT EVEN IN THE BEST-CASE SCENARIO
- WITH 8,000 PEOPLE RETURNING TO SOMALILAND AND TWO
CAMPS CLOSED IN 2005 - THERE WILL REMAIN AROUND 5,000
REFUGEES MAINLY FROM SOUTHERN SOMALIA WHO WILL
CONTINUE TO REQUIRE SUPPORT IN 2006 UNTIL A LONGER-
TERM DURABLE SOLUTION IS FOUND.



--------------------------


CONCLUSION/RECOMMENDATIONS


--------------------------





29. WE BELIEVE THAT UNHCR IS HEADED IN THE RIGHT
DIRECTION BY CLOSING AOUR AOUSSA CAMP IN MAY AND HOLL-
HOLL BY THE END OF THE YEAR. WE RECOMMEND THAT UNHCR
CONTINUE ITS PUSH FOR ADDITIONAL RETURN CONVOYS IN MAY
TO KEEP UP THE MOMENTUM, THOUGH REALISTICALLY WE
RECOGNIZE THAT BUREAUCRATIC DELAYS BY THE SOMALILAND
AUTHORITIES MAY NOT ALLOW THIS UNTIL SEPTEMBER.



30. REGARDING WFP, WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT IT
MAINTAIN REDUCED REFUGEE RATION LEVELS IN ORDER TO
ALLOW SOMALILANDERS TO REPATRIATE VOLUNTARILY WITHOUT
SUCH STRONG INERTIA-INDUCING DRAGS TYING THEM TO THE
CAMPS.



31. WE ADDITIONALLY BELIEVE THAT THE FOOD SECURITY
PROBLEM IN DJIBOUTI IS SERIOUS, AND IF THERE IS NO
RAIN IN APRIL, WFP IS JUSTIFIED IN DEVELOPING A SMALL
EMOP TO SUPPORT VULNERABLE PASTORALISTS.



32. IN ORDER TO SUPPORT THESE LATTER TWO POINTS, WE
RECOMMEND THAT ONCE THE EMOP IS APPROVED (LIKELY
SOMETIME IN MAY), FFP TRANSFER ITS SECOND $500,000
TRANCHE FROM THE REFUGEE PRRO TO THE DJIBOUTIAN EMOP.
FROM OUR POINT OF VIEW, THIS WOULD BE DOUBLY
BENEFICIAL - ALLOWING WFP BOTH TO SUPPORT VULNERABLE
DJIBOUTIANS AS WELL AS TO CONTINUE REDUCED REFUGEE
RATIONS WITH A SOMEWHAT LESS-ROBUST PIPELINE.

RAGSDALE