UN Agencies In Algeria Urge Continued Food Assistance To Refugees From Western Sahara

Published on 25 February 2015

ALGIERS – The World Food Programme (WFP) and other UN agencies appealed today to donors to support the food needs of refugees from Western Sahara living in Algeria, warning of insufficient funding to cover their needs in the second half of this year.

“Sahrawi refugees live in a desert area near the town of Tindouf, where living conditions are extremely harsh and they remain heavily dependent on external humanitarian assistance to survive,” said WFP deputy country director in Algeria Francesca Caponera. “A halt in WFP food assistance would have a severe impact on the food security and nutritional status of the refugees and may also have unpredictable consequences on the stability of the area.”

WFP made this appeal during a briefing session held today in Algiers and was joined by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Children’s fund (UNICEF). WFP is facing a shortfall of US$10 million until the end of this year.

“The unprecedented scale of humanitarian emergencies around the world has overshadowed the long-lasting Sahrawi refugee crisis and negatively impacted donor support,” said UNHCR Representative in Algeria Ralf Gruenert. “Food assistance is particularly affected and unless new funding becomes available, the UN will be forced to suspend part of its food assistance in July 2015.”

Through its operation in the camps of Tindouf, WFP provides 90,000 general food rations and an additional 35,000 to the most vulnerable every month. The food provided includes a variety of staples with a nutritional value equivalent to 2,166 kilocalories per person per day, the recommended daily intake in this kind of situation.

To deal with insufficient funding, WFP has already reduced the number of food items in the food basket from nine to seven, no longer providing beans and chickpeas. The WFP ration will now include wheat flour, rice, lentils, yellow split peas, vegetable oil, sugar and super cereal. This has an impact on dietary diversity, something that is of primary importance for long-term refugees.

“There is great anxiety among the camp population about cuts in food aid, as coping mechanisms are very scarce,” said Thomas Davin UNICEF Representative in Algeria. “UN agencies present in the camps are jointly advocating for these refugees not to be forgotten so that their survival needs are covered”.

WFP has been supporting refugees from Western Sahara in Algeria since 1986. In the Sahrawi camps, general food distributions are combined with activities to prevent and treat undernutrition and with a school-feeding programme, aiming at maintaining enrolment and attendance of refugee children in schools.  All WFP assistance in Algeria is carried out and monitored in collaboration with national and international organizations to make sure the assistance reaches the people for whom it is intended.

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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 75 countries.

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For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):
Maria Gallar, WFP/Algiers, Tel. +213 21 60 80 66, Mob. +213 660811407
Abeer Etefa, WFP/Cairo, Tel. +202 2528 1730, Mob. +20 1066634352.