US embassy cable - 05NDJAMENA283

REFUGEES IN CHAD: PRM VISIT TO BAHAI

Identifier: 05NDJAMENA283
Wikileaks: View 05NDJAMENA283 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Ndjamena
Created: 2005-02-23 10:34:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PREL PREF PHUM KAWC CD SU Humanitarian Operations
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

231034Z Feb 05

ACTION PRM-00   

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    
FM AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 1026
INFO AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
DARFUR COLLECTIVE
USMISSION GENEVA 
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 
USLO TRIPOLI 
UNCLAS NDJAMENA 000283 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
LONDON AND PARIS FOR AFRICAWATCHERS, GENEVA FOR RMA, 
ADDIS/KAMPALA/NAIROBI FOR REFCOORDS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL, PREF, PHUM, KAWC, CD, SU, Humanitarian Operations 
SUBJECT: REFUGEES IN CHAD:  PRM VISIT TO BAHAI 
 
 
 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. 
 
--------------- 
Recommendations 
--------------- 
 
13.  The following recommendations are offered with the 
intent of improving protection and assistance in Oure Cassoni 
camp: 
 
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. 
WALL 
 
 
NNNN 

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