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UN seeks funding to aid Western Sahara refugees in remote camps in Algeria

UN seeks funding to aid Western Sahara refugees in remote camps in Algeria

Two leading United Nations agencies today called on donors to provide at least $1.2 million per month to assist Western Sahara refugees living in remote desert camps in Algeria.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) called on donor countries to assist some 155,000 refugees who have been living in four desolate camps in south-west Algeria since 1976.

"Western Sahara's refugees are in dire need of regular and sufficient aid deliveries," stressed Althar Sultan-Khan, UNHCR's representative in Algiers. "They are completely depending upon fragile supply lines while interest in their plight - and financial support - appears to be diminishing."

UNHCR has been forced to reduce its spending for Western Sahara refugees by more than $660,000 due to a dramatic budget shortfall facing the agency. As a result, many of those refugees will not receive clothing material and new tents.

WFP has similarly experienced severe lapses in contributions for the Western Sahara refugees, who this month will receive cereal rations but no oil or lentils. The food supply situation is expected to dramatically worsen in September unless more funds arrive immediately.

"Thanks to some recent contributions from the Netherlands, Sweden and France, we will be able to feed the refugees for the next two months," said WFP official Werner Schleiffer. "But without fresh new contributions, our warehouses will again be empty in September."

"Refugees should not be penalized pending a political solution," said Mr. Sultan-Khan. "They need regular and sufficient aid supplies, not drops from the bottom of the barrel."