European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Algeria / Western Sahara

Bringing fresh food to the desert. Photo credit: EU/ECHO/Zaidi Rafik

What are the needs?

Caught in the cross-fire of the conflict opposing Morocco and the Polisario Front over the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara since 1976, tens of thousands Sahrawian refugees have been living in the Algerian region of Tindouf for almost 40 years. They are settled in five camps in the area named after cities of Western Sahara - Laâyoune, Ausserd, Smara, Boujdour and Dakhla.

The climate in this region is extremely harsh. Access to basic resources such as food, water, healthcare, housing and education is very limited. The largely isolated camps offer almost no employment opportunities, creating a dependency of the refugees on remittances and international aid. In such a remote location, logistics also play a key role to ensure regular distributions of relief items to the refugee population. Another important factor is the safety and security of humanitarian workers, which has improved over the past years but still remains a daily challenge.

How are we helping ?

Since 1993, the European Commission humanitarian funding has helped to meet their basic needs in food, water, housing and medical care. In 2016, the Commission gave €9 million to improve the living conditions of the Sahrawi refugees. Food aid is a major component of this funding: over €5 million has been allocated to supply basic food items and to pilot vouchers through the UN World Food Programme and Oxfam.

Water is one of the major concerns for the refugees and the Commission helps to ensure the availability of safe drinking water in sufficient quantities. Projects have been implemented to connect the camps directly to water sources through piped networks and water trucking. Two water treatment plants have also been installed to provide clean water, implemented by UNHCR.

Funding also goes towards the provision of essential medicines and improved sanitation in hospitals, to people with disabilities, and to the provision of materials for tents. Monitoring of food distributions and improvement of the security environment in which EU partners operate are other important elements of the aid.

Last updated 23/03/2017