Western Sahara 
Western Sahara refugees in Algeria needing donors

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afrol News, 8 June - Two leading United Nations agencies today called on donors to provide at least US$ 1.2 million per month to assist Western Sahara refugees that have been living in remote desert camps in Algeria for over two decades.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) called on donor countries to assist some 155,000 refugees who have been living in four desolate camps outside the south-western Algerian town of Tindouf since 1976.

- Western Sahara's refugees are in dire need of regular and sufficient aid deliveries, stressed Althar Sultan-Khan, UNHCR's representative in Algiers. "They are completely depending upon 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 Sahara refugees by more than US$ 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, agency spokesmen report.

WFP has similarly experienced severe lapses in contributions for the Western Sahara refugees, who this month will receive cereal rations but no oil or lentils. 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 Mr. Sultan-Khan. "They need regular and sufficient aid supplies, not drops from the bottom of the barrel."

The majority of the original population of the Western Sahara territory's population has been living outside the territory since a Moroccan occupation triggered a war over the rights over Western Sahara. The present population in Sahara is predominantly Moroccan, following large state subsidies for countrymen willing to resettle in the occupied territory.

Algeria, hosting the Sahrawi refugees, has supported the liberation movement POLISARIO Front in its armed struggle against Morocco since its beginnings. Algerian officials have also urged a stronger support to the Sahrawi refugees and their cause in international forums. 


Sources: Based on UN and afrol archives

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