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The Western Sahara is officially considered a non-self-governing territory in the process of decolonization. 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 lives in refugee camps in Algeria. The rest lives in the western part of the Territory 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 program is implemented in close coordination with local partners.
The 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 Sahrawi refugee camps in southwest Algeria for more than 40 years. Children are born and grow up there. Over the years, the nature of our interventions changed, taking into account the protracted nature of the crisis and the changing needs of the population. The programme has evolved from urgent humanitarian aid towards the provision of humanitarian support, the strengthening of our partners’ capacities and the creation of meaningful opportunities for young people.
Providing food, addressing malnutrition
Oxfam’s humanitarian programme (financed by the European Union) is currently focused on distributing fresh food products (potatoes, carrots 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 cooking techniques that help maximize the nutritional value of the fresh food. Oxfam also distributes eggs to the most vulnerable groups in society.
We are currently examining the possibilities for cultivating moringa in the region. Moringa is a highly nutritious plant that can grow in the desert. This fits in with the wider support Oxfam provides to local production of fresh food, through a Sahrawi cooperative that we later integrate into the humanitarian distribution chain of fresh produce.
Oxfam further helps to increase the logistical capacities of the Sahrawi Red Crescent and has revived the Centre for Food Provision with eight cooling rooms. This centre aims to improve the logistic chain and the quality of the products supplied.
Supporting youth and grass-root initiatives
Conscious of the growing frustration in the camps, especially among young people, Oxfam is working to improve their opportunities to have their voices heard and to take control of their lives. Oxfam is supporting the youth organization NOVA in its effort to promote and preserve the non-violent approach Sahrawi communities have adhered to while struggling to ensure that their rights are upheld, both within and beyond the Sahrawi society in the camps.
Together with the UNHCR, Oxfam has launched a call for a proposal that will enable young Sahrawis to put forward local community projects. Among the selected projects was a driving school for women, an entertainment park for young children, an computer center and a grain mill.
Finding a fair, sustainable political solution
Oxfam continues to raise awareness about the severe humanitarian situation in the refugee camps globally and calls on international stakeholders to ensure that a fair and sustainable political solution is found. Such a solution must be acceptable to both parties while also being in accordance with international law.