UN Agencies Seeks Funding to Aid Western Saharan Refugees
Two leading United Nations agencies on Saturday called on donors to provide at least $1.2 million per month to assist Western Saharan refugees living in remote desert camps in Algeria, according to the UN news website.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN World Food Program (WFP) called on donor countries to assist some 155,000 refugees who have been living in four desolate camps in southwest Algeria since 1976.
"Western Sahara's refugees are in dire need of regular and sufficient aid deliveries," Althar Sultan-Khan, UNHCR's representative in Algiers, was quoted as saying. "They are completely dependent on fragile supply lines while interest in their plight - and financial support - appears to be diminishing."
UNHCR has been forced to reduce its spending for Western Saharan refugees by more than $660,000 due to a dramatic budget shortfall facing the agency. As a result, many of those refugees will not receive clothing material and new tents, said the news service.
WFP has similarly experienced devastating lapses in contributions for the Western Saharan refugees, who this month will receive cereal rations but no oil or lentils. According to a WFP official, the food supply situation is expected to dramatically worsen in September unless more funds arrive immediately.
"Thanks to some recent contributions from the Netherlands, Sweden and France, we will be able to feed the refugees for the next two months," said WFP official Werner Schleiffer. "But without fresh new contributions, our warehouses will again be empty in September."
"Refugees should not be penalized pending a political solution," said Sultan-Khan.
"They need regular and sufficient aid supplies, not drops from the bottom of the barrel."
According to UNHCR, the refugees were initially organized into three camps, each named after a town in Western Sahara: Smara (the sacred town), Dhakla (the largest port) and El Aaiun (the capital of Western Sahara).
A fourth camp, Auserd (a small town in the interior of Western Sahara), was established later as a result of population growth. The camps are located around the water wells south of the oasis town of Tindouf.
Following the arrival of the refugees in southwest Algeria, and despite the supportive efforts of the Algerian government, thousands of the Saharawi people died from famine and epidemics, said the UN agency.
It was not until 1980 that epidemics were wiped out in the camps due to the success of health and hygiene programs – Albawaba.com
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