The Western Sahara is officially considered a non-autonomous area in the process of decolonisation. It stretches across an area of 266 000 km² between the Atlantic Ocean, Morocco and Mauritania. It is divided in two by the ‘Border Wall, a sand wall almost 2 700 km long that was built by the Moroccan Government. A large proportion of the sahrawi population live in refugee camps in Algeria. The rest live in the western part under moroccan rule or in the eastern part that is in the hands of the Frente POLISARIO.
Oxfam in Western Sahara
Oxfam has been active in the Algerian refugee camps since 1975. Our humanitarian programme, which benefits from european financing, is put into action there by local partners. The emphasis is placed on food security.
Focus of our work
Providing support to refugees:
When we talk about refugees, we often imagine a temporary situation. Yet some people have been living in the refugee camps in Algeria for more than 35 years. Children are born and grow up there. This means that creative, positive solutions need to be found in a particularly difficult setting. Oxfam has been supporting the sahrawi population since the exodus to Algeria in 1975. Over the years, the nature of our interventions has changed. We have tried to adapt them better to the needs of the population. Thus the programme has evolved from urgent humanitarian aid towards the provision of humanitarian support and strengthening our partners’ capacities.
Providing Food, addressing malnutrition:
Our humanitarian programme (financed by the European Union) is currently focused on distributing fresh food products (potatoes, tomatoes, onions etc) to supplement the basic diet provided by the World Food Programme. Furthermore, we organise awareness campaigns in partnership with the Sahrawi Women’s Union to improve knowledge of storage methods and good eating habits. In partnership with the Sahrawi Ministries of Social Affairs and Public Health, Oxfam also distributes eggs and other basic foodstuffs to the most vulnerable groups in society.
We are also researching the possibilities for cultivating moringa in the region. Moringa is a highly nutritious plant that can grow in the desert. Oxfam helps to increase the logistical capacities of the Sahrawi Red Crescent and has resurrected the Centre for Food Provision. This centre aims to improve the logistic chain and the quality of the products supplied.
Finding a fair, sustainable political solution:
Oxfam has also entered into a partnership with AFAPREDESA (the Association of the Families of Sahrawi Prisoners and Disappeared). This association’s work emphasises that human rights abuses are directly linked to the failure to apply international resolutions and international law as a whole. AFAPREDESA is working to get the conflict recognised at international level. It also invests in training and increasing awareness among young sahrawis. A fair, sustainable political solution that is acceptable to both parties and in accordance with international law is, in any case, the most efficient way of dealing with the sahrawi people’s humanitarian situation in the long term.