The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed a US$1.3 million contribution from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) to its operation to provide food aid to Western Saharan refugees in Algeria.
"Time and again the European Commission has shown its generosity and concern by funding WFP's work in assisting these refugees, who remain extremely dependent on humanitarian aid," said Marius de Gaay Fortman, WFP Country Director in Algeria.
The Western Saharan refugees arrived in Algeria in 1975 after fleeing a territorial conflict. They settled in four temporary camps near Tindouf, a remote town in the middle of the desert, where they have to endure harsh climatic conditions, including extreme temperatures in summer and winter, isolation and a chronic lack of economic opportunities.
WFP has been assisting the refugees since 1986. Western Saharan refugees continue to rely almost entirely on assistance from the international community.
Despite the support from the international community, there is continuing concern about the nutritional status of the refugees, who have limited access to fresh food and other required micronutrients. Results from the last nutritional study in 2005 indicated that 39 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, while two out of every three women of childbearing age suffer from anaemia..
WFP is concerned about a continuing lack of contributions which has caused serious breaks in food distributions over the last six months. The 30-month operation, which costs US$43 million, is currently facing a shortfall of US$13 million, critical for purchasing 6,000 metric tons of food necessary assistance over the next five months.
"These people risk being forgotten. WFP is committed to supporting them as long as they require assistance, but to do so we will need continued funding from the donor community," stressed de Gaay Fortman.
Donors include the European Commission (US$12 million), Spain (US$5.0 million), Switzerland (US$2.6 million), the United States (US$2.1 million), Canada (US$1.2 million), Finland (US$648,000), France (US$609,000), Austria (US$428,000), Ireland (US$368,000), Germany (US$237,000), Japan (US$40,000) and Italy (US$20,000). A further US$5.4 million has come in multilateral contributions and US$20,000 from the private sector.
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