WFP today welcomed a US$3.3 million contribution from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department to its operation in Algeria which currently assists 90,000 Western Saharan refugees.
“The European Commission continues to be very generous in funding our work to help these refugees, who pending a resolution to this conflict are extremely dependent on humanitarian aid,” said Marius de Gaay Fortman, WFP’s Country Director in Algeria.
The Western Saharan refugees arrived in Algeria in 1975 after fleeing a territorial conflict.
These people risk being forgotten. WFP is committed to supporting them as long as they require assistance
Marius de Gaay Fortman, WFP Country Director
They settled in four temporary camps near Tindouf, a remote town in the middle of the desert, where they continue 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 and until the conflict is resolved, the Western Saharan refugees will remain in Algeria, continuing to rely almost totally on assistance from the international community.
“Notwithstanding that the plight of the Saharawis has gone on for nearly three decades, the international community continues to have strong concern about their well being,” said de Gaay Fortman.
WFP is concerned, however, that if more contributions do not come in, the operation may face a food shortfall in the first quarter of 2006. The operation, which costs US$42 million, has received only 52 percent of the resources needed.
“These people risk being forgotten. WFP is committed to supporting them as long as they require assistance, but our resource levels continue to be very fragile,” warned de Gaay Fortman.
WFP also warned that the difficult living conditions, in which many households cannot afford to buy food because of limited income, are having an obvious impact on the health of the refugees.
An estimated 40 percent of the population is under 14 years old and many are suffering from malnutrition.