Cablegate: Eastern Chad Refugees: Contingency Planning

Published: Tue 24 Oct 2006 04:05 PM
DE RUEHNJ #1256/01 2971605
P 241605Z OCT 06
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: Ndjamena 1255
1. Summary. UN and NGO contingency planning for new
refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in
eastern Chad is significantly constrained by site
availability. Sites exist on a permanent or transit
basis for roughly 35,000 refugees. If an influx
exceeds this absorption capacity, UNHCR may transfer
refugees directly to an undeveloped site at Hadjer
Ibaid and send Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) and Oxfam
to provide services on an emergency basis. Food and
non-food contingency stocks are in place toaccommodate
50,000 people. Humanitarians are truggling to
establish new IDP sites in the Goz eida as IDPs
increase due to insecurity. End sumary.
The Nut and Bolts of Refugee Contingency lanning
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2. From October 1-21, PRM/AFR NeilAhlsten visited the
twelve refugee camps in easern Chad and three IDP
camps near Goz Beida and Koukou to evaluate
humanitarian programs and contingency planning. Over
the past year, UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF and numerous NGOs
have worked on various contingency plans for the
arrival of new refugees or IDPs. UNHCR is the lead for
refugee contingency planning, while IDP planning
largely follows the UN cluster-lead approach. In
practice, some NGOs in health and shelter have used
private funding to provide IDP services independent of
the UN system. Most of the food and non-food items for
new refugees and IDPs are incorporated into one plan
with stocks of most items available for 50,000 people,
while contingency site planning for the two populations
are distinct. Contingency planning must be revised
frequently because of the multiple, overlapping
security factors that fluctuate frequently, including
security in Darfur, volatile relations between Chad and
Sudan, the movements of Chadian rebels and attacks
against humanitarian assets.
3. UNHCR's primary strategy for accommodating 50,000
new refugees is to leverage the existing camp capacity
to provide temporary space and services. UNHCR would
establish reception points in the border areas where
new refugees arrive, screen them to ensure there are no
combatants, provide high nutrition energy biscuits and
transport the most vulnerable back to existing camps.
The bulk of the refugees would move on foot to secure
midpoints away from the border from where they would be
moved by truck to existing camps. Gaga Camp would be a
permanent site for up to 15,000 refugees, and Mile Camp
a site for up to 3,000. The rest would be transferred
to new camps once they are developed, though past
experience in eastern Chad has shown that it is
extremely difficult to move refugees from temporary
sites (Am Nabak and Oure Cassoni Camps are clear
examples where a highly-charged political environment
has hardened attitudes among refugees against
4. UNHCR has contingency stocks for roughly 36,000
people in Abeche and 2,000 in each of its field
offices, though site visits revealed that their field
offices frequently dipped into these stocks to meet
immediate shortfalls. UNHCR has built and maintained
its contingency stocks by cutting back on distributions
to the current caseload of refugees. UNHCR/Chad has
operated at 80 percent of its original 2006 appeal due
to the global UNHCR funding shortage, and the original
country budget did not include the addition of new
stocks. Consequently it has freed up resources by
lowering distribution quantities of items such as soap,
blankets and jerry cans. UNHCR has stopped tent
distributions for all except the new arrivals, and is
encouraging refugees to construct their own housing.
WFP is rebuilding its contingency stocks following the
rainy season, and expects to have a two month food
stock for the existing refugee and IDP populations
which would it would draw from in the event of a new
influx. In addition to WFP's contingency stock of
food, IFRC maintains a two month food supply for 20,000
in Hadjer Hadid.
Rethinking Contingency Planning In the Face of
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5. Conflict has either put into question or eliminated
altogether some of the absorption capacity that was
originally identified in existing sites. Goz Amir and
Djabal Camps, which were slated to host temporarily a
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combined 15,000 new arrivals, are near the site Chadian
rebel incursions and close to attacks against non-Arab
villages (see reftel A). Oure Cassoni Camp was also
slated to be a temporary site for 15,000 new arrivals.
However, Oure Cassoni Camp in currently in the process
of being moved following the JEM and SAF confrontations
within 7km of the camp on October 8 and UNHCR has
essentially eliminated it from contingency planning.
6. To maintain the 50,000 figure in the face of the
deterioration in security, UNHCR boosted on paper the
number of refugees to be temporarily housed in other
camps even though this may be far beyond their actual
absorption capacity. The figure for Iridimi and
Touloum camps grew from 2,000 to 8,000, which would
drop the water supply to an abysmal emergency ration of
5 liters per person per day were the plan to be
enacted. These camps are already stretched beyond the
resource availability and goodwill of local authorities
with the existing number of refugees and would be
extremely hard pressed to absorb new refugees for even
one or two months. The outgoing head of UNHCR's field
office in Iriba said that the plan for Iridimi and
Touloum "is simply not viable." He noted that UNHCR
would also face significant resistance from local
authorities if it were to attempt to bring this many
new arrivals, especially if they are from non-Zaghawa
tribes. The bottom line is that temporary sites are
realistically available for 35,000 new refugees if Goz
Amir and Djabal Camps are secure, and 20,000 if they
are not.
7. In response to this lack of sites, UNHCR is
developing a complementary emergency plan for 20,000
new arrivals. Local and national authorities have
provisionally accepted the establishment of a new site
in Hadjer Ibaid, which is halfway between Abeche and
Goz Beida. The site is located alongside a wadi that
appears to have significant water potential. If
inflows exceed the 35,000 person capacity of the
existing camps, UNHCR would directly transfer refugees
to this undeveloped site. MSF and Oxfam have already
agreed that they would provide immediate, though
rudimentary, assistance in health, nutrition and water,
which would provide a minimal level of basic assistance
alongside shelter and non-food items distributions from
UNHCR and food rations from WFP.
8. Humanitarians generally expect that they will be
able to maintain at least a minimal amount of access to
the refugee camps despite the rise in insecurity.
Armed escorts or six-ton trucks have proven to be
fairly effective for getting humanitarian workers to
and from the camps, though by hardening these
humanitarian targets along the roads they have probably
hastened the phenomena of carjackers attacking in towns
and NGO compounds. If humanitarians are forced to
evacuate, plans are still in place to have refugees or
local Chadians run essential services such as primary
health care, nutrition, food distributions and water
delivery systems. A two-week fuel supply is in place
for water pumps at most camps. IRC increased the fuel
stock in Oure Cassoni Camp to one month because of the
precarious circumstances. Thus far, no one has
targeted the water pump fuel supplies in the camps.
Contingencies for Newly Displaced Chadians
9. Given the deteriorating security situation in the
Goz Beida area, WFP, UNHCR, UNICEF and several NGOs
continue to revise their contingency planning for new
IDPs. Humanitarians and local authorities have agreed
to find multiple sites for populations of 2,000 to
3,000 newly displaced on the basis that these smaller
sites would be more sustainable and have less of an
impact on surrounding villages in the event that they
stay more than a few months. However, persistent
insecurity around Goz Beida is greatly slowing the
process of site identification and establishment. In
practice, the development of water in existing IDP
sites has been very slow and will likely remain a
weakness for the establishment of new camps.
10. Thus far, NGOs such as INTERSOS and MSF have been
able to use some private funds to support NFI
distributions. It is unclear if they will be able to
continue doing so if there are additional arrivals.
ICRC maintains a contingency stock in Goz Beida for
5,000 - 6,000 families, including 2862 plastic sheets,
1885 jerry cans, 6,106 mats, 6,081 blankets and 996kg
of soap. In the event of a major new displacement,
UNHCR's refugee stocks would likely be drawn upon.
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