|09DUSHANBE792||2009-06-30 09:06:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Dushanbe|
VZCZCXRO3342 RR RUEHLN RUEHSK RUEHVK RUEHYG DE RUEHDBU #0792/01 1810906 ZNR UUUUU ZZH R 300906Z JUN 09 FM AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0483 INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0168 RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 1034
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUSHANBE 000792
1. (U) SUMMARY: Heavy rainfall in recent months has left several
communities in Tajikistan under water or mud. Districts in
Khatlon province south of Dushanbe have been hardest hit. The
situation will have several short-term effects on health and
local hygiene. Damage to crops and livestock poses long-term
economic risk for the country, already struggling in the ongoing
economic crisis. Though the government and international aid
community have begun to respond, a lack of credible and
consistent data makes it difficult to discern the true extent of
the damage. END SUMMARY.
HEAVY RAINS CAUSE EXTENSIVE DAMAGE
2. (U) Spring is traditionally rainy in Tajikistan, but 2009 has
seen unusually heavy rain much later in the year than normal.
Heavy rainfall in April and May caused damage in 14 of 23
districts in Khatlon province, and 12 of 13 districts in the
Region of Republican Subordination (RRS), including Dushanbe.
In Khatlon, Khuroson, Panj, and Kulob districts were
particularly affected. In the RRS, Tursunzoda, Hissor,
Tavildara, and Jirgatol districts fared worst. Most of the
damage was the result of floods, mudflows, and landslides.
DISLOCATIONS AND PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS
3. (U) Excessive rains have taken a serious toll on local
livelihoods. A Disaster Management Partnership in Tajikistan -
Rapid Emergency Assessment and Coordination Team (REACT) report
estimates 12,000 people have been directly affected. Twenty-six
weather-related deaths have been reported; additionally, 439
families have been forced to relocate, 13 hospitals have been
damaged, and 49 schools have been left inoperable.
4. (U) The dislocations are giving rise to public health
concerns. While many of those affected are hosted by relatives,
in some communities, the national, provincial, or local
governments have set up tent camps. There have been reports of
shortages of food and potable water. In addition, several camps
are located in malaria-prone areas. Residents and the local aid
community are calling for mosquito nets, food supplies,
children's clothing, and medicine.
LONG-TERM EFFECTS ON AGRICULTURE AND LIVELIHOODS
5. (U) Tajikistan's economy relies heavily on agriculture, and
this year's floods and mudflows coincided with the most critical
planting season for many crops. A Ministry of Agriculture
official estimated that the agrarian sector sustained
approximately $10 million in damage, though other reports put
the figure as high as $20 million. Agriculture is particularly
important in Khatlon province, where the government estimates
heavy rainfall damaged 40,000 hectares of cultivated land.
Cotton, the chief crop in Khatlon, suffered the heaviest damage
(22,000 hectares). Additional losses were sustained in areas
under cultivation in grain (8,000 hectares) and potatoes and
other vegetables (960 hectares).
6. (U) Livestock has also suffered. An estimated 3,000 animals
have perished in flooding and mudflows. Additional damage to
irrigation systems, food storage facilities, and food processing
facilities suggests that the effects of the recent storms may
persist through the summer and autumn harvest season. Much of
Tajikistan's population is already food insecure due to
declining remittances as a result of the world financial crisis
(ref A), and there are concerns that this year's natural
disasters and failed harvests may increase the suffering of the
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DUSHANBE 00000792 002.2 OF 002
7. (U) A recent locust infestation is further damaging
Tajikistan's agriculture, and is also taking the harshest toll
in Khatlon. So far, 55,000 hectares of farmland across
Tajikistan have been affected in 2009, 41,000 of them in
Khatlon. A 2008 locust infestation destroyed 114,000 hectares
across the country.
8. (U) On May 15, the Government of Tajikistan issued an appeal
for aid to the international community. It noted a shortage of
building materials, fuel, food, medicines, tents, and
generators. The government estimated the collective damage from
the storms at $100 million. The government sent round-the-clock
medical teams to many of the tent camps, and delivered food
rations to some displaced families and plans to provide
dislocated families one-tenth of a hectare of new land for home
reconstruction. The Khatlon provincial government helped by
allocating one-time cash payments of between US $110 and $330 to
affected households, depending on the level of damage sustained.
The UN, Red Cross/Red Crescent, and NGOs have facilitated many
of the government's aid efforts. Despite these efforts,
however, there continue to be complaints that the government's
response has been both too weak and too slow.
9. (U) Post responded quickly to the situation. The Ambassador
declared a state of disaster on 22 May and requested $50,000 in
USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) funds for the
purchase of hygiene kits and other necessary supplies (ref B).
In addition, a State Department-funded program that prepositions
humanitarian goods was able to respond by providing tents and
over 400 beds. These goods were valued at over $200,000.
10. (U) Comment: Although obtaining accurate damage assessments
has been a challenge, it is clear that the recent round of
natural disasters struck Tajikistan at a particularly bad time.
The global recession is increasingly being felt here, with
remittances from Tajiks working abroad down 40% compared to last
year. The loss of this crucial lifeline for many Tajiks has
increased their vulnerability to other shocks. The crucial
issue in the months to come will be the success of the harvests.
If yields are low, many rural Tajiks may not have the income to
provide for themselves through the coming winter. A return of
U.S. food aid to Tajikistan would help stave off the most severe
food insecurity and help communities to recover from two
successive years of emergencies.