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2005-02-23 10:34:00
Embassy Ndjamena
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231034Z Feb 05


INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AF-00    AID-00   CA-00    CIAE-00  INL-00   
      USNW-00  DODE-00  DS-00    EUR-00   FBIE-00  UTED-00  VC-00    
      H-00     TEDE-00  INR-00   IO-00    L-00     VCE-00   M-00     
      AC-00    NEA-00   DCP-00   NSAE-00  NSCE-00  OIC-00   OMB-00   
      PA-00    PER-00   PM-00    GIWI-00  PRS-00   ACE-00   P-00     
      CFPP-00  SP-00    IRM-00   SSO-00   SS-00    TRSE-00  T-00     
      FMP-00   IIP-00   SCRS-00  PMB-00   DSCC-00  DRL-00   G-00     
      SAS-00     /000W
                  ------------------BDB86D  240403Z /23    
						UNCLAS NDJAMENA 000283 



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary. PRM/AFR officer reviewed protection issues,
provision of basic services, vacant staff positions, and the
relocation of Oure Cassoni refugee camp during a visit from
February 11-13. As the result of Oure Cassoni's close
proximity to the Sudanese border, large numbers of young men
move into and out of the camp. Maintaining the civilian
nature of the camp is a key priority as any of these young
men are presumably members of the Sudan Liberation Movement
(SLM). UNHCR is seeking ways to augment its protection
coverage for Oure Cassoni. Discussions with the Government
about moving the camp to Biltine have faltered because local
residents do not want the refugees moved into their area.
The basic needs of refugees in Oure Cassoni are being met,
but the camp's services still lag behind those of other
camps. Living conditions for UNHCR and its partners are
harsh. PRM recommends that UNHCR fill its vacant protection
officer slot in Bahai, renewed efforts to select a new camp
site, and continued assistance to the camp's manager,
International Rescue Committee. End Summary.

2. PRM/AFR Mary Lange visited Bahai from February 11-13 to
review refugee assistance and protection programs for
Sudanese refugees in Oure Cassoni camp. Officially, the camp
hosted 24,676 by the end of January, although UNHCR and IRC
in Bahai were using a figure of 26,000. Privately, both
UNHCR and IRC admitted that the actual number in the camp was
probably closer to 15,000 to 17,000 refugees plus an
estimated 4,000 Chadians who had registered as refugees in
search of food and non-food assistance. About a kilometer
outside of the camp, another 350 new refugees were camped out
in makeshift shelters, reportedly coming from border regions
in Chad where they had exhausted their food supplies. Most
had been interviewed by the GOC National Commission on
Refugees (CNAR) and had received a small amount of food aid
for the children. UNHCR said these new arrivals would be
included in the mid-February general food distribution.
During a bitter cold weekend of sandstorms, most arrivals
were without adequate shelter. UNHCR reported plans to move
these new refugees into the camp the following week and to
allocate tents to families. It was clear, however, that a
faster and better system for registering and assisting new
arrivals was required.


Protection Concerns


3. Only 17 km from the Sudanese border, Oure Cassoni camp
presents a number of protection concerns for UNHCR and its
implementing partners, International Rescue Committee (IRC)
and ACTED. During a weekly coordination meeting with UNHCR,

IRC reported having observed significant movement of young
men both into and out of the camp. While neither UNHCR nor
IRC have observed arms in the camp, both assume that these
young men are SLM rebels who periodically visit family
members in the camp. IRC noted that one of its refugee staff
admitted he had a son fighting across the border in Sudan.
IRC has also tried to organize youth activities, and many of
the young men in the camp were open to the idea but not being
available for regular meetings (presumably due to other
duties in Sudan). UNHCR and IRC noted the need for increased
sensitization of youth on the need to maintain the civilian
nature of the refugee camp.

4. Also of concern to UNHCR and IRC was the apparent
build-up of Chadian troops in the region. Neither
organization was sure what was behind the build-up other than
perhaps a desire on the part of the GOC to better secure its
border. UNHCR and IRC, recognizing the potential for tension
in the Bahai area, agreed to work together (and with other
actors) on a staff emergency evacuation plan.

5. UNHCR's Deputy Representative for Protection,
Marie-Christine Bocoum, also reported to PRM on February 21
her conclusion (based on her weekend visit to the camp) that
UNHCR needed to augment protection staffing in its field
office in Bahai. Currently, UNHCR only has one international
protection officer, a UN Volunteer, who is relatively
inexperienced. Plans are in place for a more senior
Associate Protection Officer, but this post is currently
vacant. UNHCR has also requested another Protection Officer
from the IRC-Surge project (funded by PRM). Until additional
protection staff come on board, UNHCR will need to find a way
to augment protection coverage using existing staff resources
(already stretched). Aside from the UNV Protection Officer,
UNHCR's only other international presence in Bahai was
another UNV Field Officer on loan from the Guereda office.
UNHCR's Head of Field Office was on her "mandatory absence
for relief of stress" or MARS.

6. In light of concerns that the camp may be frequented by
SLM rebels, UNHCR remains intent on moving camp residents
from Oure Cassoni to a new site further from the border as
soon as one can be identified. The GOC had proposed a site
near Biltine (north of Abeche) which looked promising.
However, traditional leaders and local residents voiced
opposition to the plan, fearful of having refugees (of
another subclan or ethnic group) in their region. Refugees
as well are adament about not moving to Biltine. UNHCR has
not given up entirely on the Biltine site, but is not
optimistic that it will work out. The difficulty will be to
identify another suitable site in the Bahai region which has
the capacity to sustain some 25,000 refugees.

7. For everyday issues within the camp, IRC is working to
promote increased protection through its assistance programs.
IRC expected to have its new Protection Coordinator in place
by February 18. IRC has launched a program of community
patrols, comprised mainly of refugee women, who monitor
activities in the camp and report to IRC and UNHCR staff any
protection issues which may arise. Other than minor disputes
among camp residents, IRC did not report any major problems
in the camp. Some unaccompanied minors had been identified
by the community patrols, but they appeared to be taken care
of by extended family members. IRC is also making efforts to
augment child protection through support for education and
community services.


Assistance Programs: IRC and ACTED


8. Unlike other UNHCR field office sites, Bahai seemed
lonely and isolated with only IRC and ACTED (a French NGO)
working as implementing partners (compare this to UNHCR's
Iriba field office which has at least five NGO partners as
well as representatives from UNICEF, ICRC, and WFP).
IRC/Bahai is responsible for camp management, infrastructure,
shelter, water, sanitation, community services, education,
and health and nutrition. ACTED, which took over from World
Vision in January, will do food and non-food distribution as
well as environment programs (including wood distribution and
introduction of kerosene stoves).

9. IRC was doing an adequate job on all basic services, but
assistance programs appeared much weaker and less
comprehensive than in other camps further south. IRC has not
only been over-stretched during the past year but has also
had a very difficult time retaining staff in Bahai. Living
conditions for IRC staff remain sub-par with inadequate
sanitation facilities and irregular meal preparation. Under
new direction in Bahai, IRC now feels confident it is
addressing these problems and has turned the page with a new
team in place (or almost in place). PRM/AFR Lange was
somewhat less confident that all of IRC's shortcomings in
2004 were past history. Bahai will remain a difficult place
to live and work, and the nearly-complete reliance on IRC for
most of the camp basic services will continue to place undue
stress on one organization and its staff. Lange spoke to
both UNHCR and IRC about the possibility of shifting some of
IRC's load to another NGO. One option proposed by UNHCR was
to bring MSF to Bahai to manage health and nutrition
programs. IRC is reluctant to give up its health
responsibilities, however, noting it has a strong health team
in place and a well-functioning health system in the camp.
Another alternative, also discussed with UNHCR, is shifting
education and community services to an organization such as
Norwegian Church Aid. UNHCR intends to pursue these
discussions with IRC. Depending on the outcome of these
discussions, PRM may need to review the level and extent of
its planned support for IRC in FY05.

10. As noted above, basic needs of refugees appeared to be
being met. Lange visited Oure Cassoni camp on February 12
and 13 and, through a haze of sand and dust, managed to
observe the health center, primary school, and water system.
The health situation of refugees is reportedly much improved
from last year, with no major or unusual health problems
reported (other than the standard respiratory tract
infections, diarrhea, and skin diseases). Malnutrition rates
have fallen to 20% global and 1.7% acute malnutrition. IRC
reported only 9 children now in therapeutic feeding and 764
in supplemental feeding programs. A CDC representative,
along with USAID/DCHA/FFP Poland, is visiting the camp
February 21-23 to look more into concerns about the still
relatively high global malnutrition level and food aid
issues. USAID Poland will report septel.

1. Based on a refugee population figure of 26,000 water
and sanitation wer well below SPHERE standards with around
11 liters of water per person per day and 1 latrine for every
76 persons. These rates improve somewhat if a lower
population figure is used, but remain sub-standard even
calculating only 15,000 refugees in the camp. IRC is
constructing additional latrines and believe they can reach
an acceptable latrine coverage within the coming two months.
Water availability is more difficult to increase, as the
water system relies on nearby run-off and an intricate water
filtration and treatment system. No long lines for water
were observed, and people were freely using water to begin
construction of mud-brick shelters throughout the camp.

12. Education and community services appeared to be sectors
in need of input and strengthening this year. IRC's
Education Coordinator has been working with UNICEF to support
schools in the camp, and UNICEF school tents and some school
supplies had finally arrived in Bahai. With no regular
UNICEF presence however, and with IRC's Education Coordinator
leaving after only two months in Bahai, support for education
services appeared lagging. PRM Lange did not have the
opportunity to observe IRC community services activities but
sensed that these as well were far behind what was being
provided in camps further south by CARE and other NGOs.
Education and community services may be sectors where another
NGO could easily take over without disrupting too much the
activities that IRC has already started.




13. The following recommendations are offered with the
intent of improving protection and assistance in Oure Cassoni

a. UNHCR should quickly fill its vacant Protection Officer
post in Bahai and the request for a Surge protection officer.
UNHCR needs to be able to much better monitor the security
situation in the region and in the camp itself.

b. Renewed efforts must be made by UNHCR and the GOC to
identify a new camp site for the Oure Cassoni population.
Preferably, this site would be in the Bahai region where the
refugees have some ethnic ties to the local population
(unlike in Biltine).

c. UNHCR and IRC should review IRC's responsibilities with
the aim of shifting some of IRC's burden to another NGO.
Education and Community Services sectors may make the most
sense, as these sectors are less developed than others.

d. PRM should continue to support IRC in Oure Cassoni camp,
working with IRC to strengthen operations in FY 2005.

14. Khartoum and Tripoli Minimize Considered.