- The United Nations has launched a mission to assess the Western Sahara refugees situation in Algeria following reports of malnutrition and rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis, the UN refugees agency has announced.
According to the UN High Commission for Refugees spokesperson, Ron Redmond, a three day mission resuming today aims to see first-hand the situation in the sites and to assess the overall conditions of the refugees in the camps.
Mr Redmond said in the last survey conducted in 2008, 61 percent of the children and 66 percent of pregnant women in the camps were suffering from anaemia, a situation reported to be critical by the World Food Programme.
The mission which is comprising of the UNHCR, WFP and other international aid agencies is also expected decide on whether to include additional foodstuffs with high nutritional value in the food assistance, specifically targeted to children, pregnant and lactating mothers.
The UN said in the last five years the donor funding has been unreliable and in 2008, UNHCR only received 39 percent of its budget, and both the agency and WFP still need additional funding for 2009.
Sahrawi refugees started flocking in Algeria in the mid-seventies fleeing the rebellion between the Polisario Front and Moroccan government over the status of Western Sahara which has been dragging for decades since Morocco annexed Western Sahara in the 1970’s.
The mission is expected to visit two of four refugee camps and will meet with beneficiaries, refugee leaders and Algerian authorities.
The UNHCR said refugees have been living in four deserted camps in south-west Algeria since the mid-seventies, with aid declining every year.
Since 1991, the UN mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has been tasked with monitoring the ceasefire between the two parties and organising a long-stalled referendum on self-determination.
WFP and UNHCR have been working very closely together to highlight the plight of the refugees through joint donor visits and joint assessment missions.
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