Cablegate: Monitoring and Evaluating Icmc's Humanitarian

Published: Thu 5 Jun 2003 02:41 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
B. AMMAN 1587
1. Embassy Beirut cleared this message.
2. As requested ref a, Regional Refcoord monitored the
International Catholic Migration Commission's (ICMC)
humanitarian assistance project for vulnerable Iraqis in
Lebanon on May 13, 2003. Report is keyed to questions
provided ref a.
A. On May 13, refcoord and Embassy Beirut poloff met with
ICMC Forced Migration Specialist Jim Kelly, Project Director
Thomas Vasseur and Caritas/Lebanon Migrants Center Director
Najla Chahda. They also held a separate discussion with the
project's implementing team of one project officer, five
social workers and one unpaid student intern, focusing on the
social and economic conditions facing vulnerable Iraqis in
B. Although ICMC was slow in starting the project (see para
D for details), it is now doing a solid job of providing
services to vulnerable Iraqis. ICMC's new outreach to the
Iraqi community (previously limited to church-based referrals
among the Iraqi Christian community) has revealed a very
vulnerable, marginalized population without access to GOL
services -- and without many other sources of assistance.
With a current caseload of 60 families per week, ICMC should
meet its goal of assisting 900 families by the end of the
C. ICMC spent the first four months of this project
identifying office space and staff. A new international
project director (Vasseur) began work on November 15, 2002,
while key locally hired staff -- including ICMC's first-ever
Muslim social worker in Lebanon -- began work in January
2003. ICMC then conducted staff training and began work in
earnest in February 2003. Due to unforeseen difficulties in
community outreach (see para D), ICMC's initial client base
was quite limited: 44 families in the first three months of
the project and 221 families by mid-May. However, due to
ICMC's ongoing intensive outreach in the poor Beirut suburbs
of Hay El Selloun, Burj el Barajneh refugee camp (where many
poor Iraqis squat in homes abandoned by Palestinian refugees)
and now in southern Lebanon, ICMC is interviewing 60 cases
per week. At the current rate, ICMC most likely will reach
its planned objective of 900 families by August 31. As
outlined in the grant agreement, ICMC is providing outpatient
and inpatient medical care, as well as basic humanitarian
assistance packages. Although ICMC provided primary school
tuition assistance early in the project, it only began the
planned informal afternoon school sessions in April 2003, due
to difficulties in identifying and recruiting qualified
teachers. ICMC admits it did not submit the required interim
report on-time but claims it was submitted to PRM/C in April
2003. ICMC has shared with refcoord only draft project
updates that included neither a detailed breakdown of
services provided nor any financial information.
D. As in the similar PRM-funded project in Jordan (ref b),
ICMC initially had a difficult time reaching out to the Iraqi
community and advertising its services. Most Iraqis in
Lebanon lack legal status and financial resources and
therefore are either afraid or unable to seek assistance;
ICMC social workers report that many Iraqis lack even the
taxi fare to reach the Caritas center in downtown Beirut.
Although ICMC planned to conduct community outreach via an
Iraqi Project Advisory Committee (that would include
representation from the various Iraqi religious and ethnic
communities present in Lebanon), political sensitivities
precluded its formation. ICMC instead sends its social
workers out into the community to spread word of the project
and identify prospective beneficiaries. ICMC reports that
since it has begun field visits in earnest, its caseload has
tripled. Its field work has proven somewhat dangerous in
southern Lebanon, where a social worker was detained by
Hizballah and accused of proselytizing.
Separately, ICMC also seems to have gotten a slow start in
implementing the project due largely to its focus on helping
Caritas Lebanon identify new space for its Migrants Center
and implementing three other projects that were funded at
roughly the same time. (The projects include an EU-funded
human rights for asylum seeker project; a G/TIP-funded safe
house; and a separate PRM-funded legal and social protection
project for non-Palestinian refugees, reported septel.) ICMC
reports that it simply was unable to accommodate all four new
programs in Caritas' existing office space. In addition to
space constraints, Embassy Beirut and refcoord suspect that
ICMC may have taken on more projects and funding than it
could handle.
E. ICMC currently has eight staff working on this project:
Kelly, Chahda and the project implementation team of one
project officer, five social workers and an unpaid student
intern. Kelly and Vasseur (who left the project in late May
to work for the UN in Iraq) have shared the role of project
management. Although Kelly initially planned to oversee the
project on his own, ICMC decided to bring in an additional
international employee (Vasseur) to manage this project after
ICMC was awarded several other grants at the same time. ICMC
reports that only one half of one international salary was
paid by this grant, as stipulated in the cooperative
agreement. Separately, ICMC has rotated the project officer
position between two individuals, who have been detailed
periodically to Syria to assist in the establishment of a
similar Caritas project there. ICMC reports that the project
officer's salary has been paid with PRM funds only for work
performed in Lebanon. The personnel appear to be fully and
gainfully employed.
F. ICMC's project is run from Caritas' brand-new Migrants
Center. The center is spacious and well-equipped with new
furniture and furnishings, all of which appear to be in
working condition. Four offices were equipped and furnished
by this grant, and an acceptable inventory control system is
in place.
G. N/A
H. ICMC plans to seek funding to extend this project for an
additional 12 months, both to continue providing assistance
to vulnerable Iraqis and to help this particular group
prepare for a return to Iraq. ICMC is in discussions now
with partners Catholic Relief Services and International
Orthodox Christian Charities to fold this particular project
(as well as the similar PRM-funded project in Jordan) into a
larger regional return plan. Given the difficult
circumstances facing Iraqis resident in Lebanon (illegal
status, limited work opportunities and no access to GOL
services) as well as the Lebanese Government's likely
unwillingness to allow any local integration of this
population, vulnerable Iraqis will continue to need basic
humanitarian assistance as well as extra assistance in
planning their eventual return to Iraq.
Although ICMC's implementation of the current project has
been far from perfect, refcoord believes that a 12-month
extension of this project would advance PRM's regional policy
goals. There are very few NGOs in Lebanon with existing
Iraqi assistance programs and ICMC is therefore better
positioned than most to take on eventual return assistance
programs. Rather than wasting months in start-up time with a
new NGO partner, PRM could benefit from the existing,
well-trained staff and infrastructure funded by this grant.
Strong words from PRM regarding ICMC's reporting
responsibilities hopefully would encourage ICMC to meet its
obligations in a more timely fashion. Refcoord therefore
recommends that PRM favorably consider ICMC's proposal.
Embassy Beirut agrees that ICMC appears to have overcome its
slow start on this project and is likely to meet the project
goal of assisting 900 Iraqi families. ICMC social workers
are establishing a credible track-record among the Iraqi
community and are well-positioned to provide assistance to
this group and prepare them for eventual return. Embassy
Beirut supports Refcoord,s recommendation for a 12-month
extension of this project and strict reporting requirements
for ICMC.
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