The Western Sahara is a territory full of potential and rich in natural resources. Following the armed conflict in 1975, the majority of the Sahrawis fled to neighbouring Algeria where they continue to live in refugee camps. Opportunities for self-reliance in the harsh, isolated desert environment where the camps are located are extremely limited, forcing the refugees to rely on international aid for their survival.
Malnutrition rates are high among the refugee population, with global acute malnutrition at a critical level of 18.2 percent, chronic malnutrition at 31.4 percent and underweight at 31.6 percent.
Anaemia rates are also high with 62 percent of children aged 6-59 months suffering.
Oxfam’s programs provide vital humanitarian assistance, working to ensure the right to life and security that everyone deserves.
Oxfam in Western Sahara
Oxfam has been operating in refugee camps in Algeria since 1975. Our humanitarian program, which is implemented through local partners, focuses on food security and reducing the risk of disaster in the territory. When we think of refugees we often imagine a temporary situation. However some people have been living for over 35 years in the refugee camps in Algeria, children have been born and grown up there. This requires us to look at positive solutions to a harsh situation.
Focus of our work
Providing Food, addressing malnutrition:
With our partner, the Sahrawi Red Crescent, we work to improve the health and living conditions of the Sahrawi refugees by providing fresh food products supplementing the basic diet provided by the World Food Programme providing additional important nutrients, such as fresh food, in order to diversify diets.
Disaster Risk Reduction, safe housing:
The south-west of Algeria, where the camps are situated, is subject to strong winds, extreme heat and occasional flooding. For the refugees, the effects of extreme weather can be devastating for their housing and already scarce livelihoods.
We increase the resilience of housing and animal sheds in the area by implementing robust construction techniques. In cooperation with a French organization of architects, families are taught different building techniques and how to apply them to ensure more stable housing.
Addressing the root-causes of vulnerability
Having decades of experience and presence in different countries across the region, Oxfam works with local communities and civil society organizations to implement its programs. Responding to humanitarian needs of those affected by dispute of the Western Sahara, Oxfam is well placed to draw the attention of the international community to the devastating effects of the dispute on the communities concerned.
A just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution according to international law is the most effective manner to address the humanitarian situation in the longer term.