UN refugee agency to begin airlift to flooded Sahrawi camps in Algeria

“Dozens of flights are needed during the coming week to quickly bring more than 2,000 lightweight tents, blankets, mattresses, plastic sheets and jerry cans to the affected refugees, said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva.Most of the Sahrawi refugees have been living for more than 30 years in the desert regions of western Algeria, totally dependent on outside assistance. They started arriving in Algeria in 1976 after Spain withdrew from the Western Sahara and fighting broke out over control of that Territory.UNHCR is presently supporting 90,000 of the most vulnerable refugees in five camps in the Tindouf area.Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium and the United States have offered support to the airlift, the agency said. Today, relief supplies from UNHCR’s regional warehouse in Jordan will be loaded onto a Portuguese plane that will fly to Oran, near Algiers, from where the Algerians will transport them on to Tindouf. A UNHCR emergency team – including logistics, emergency, and water and sanitation specialists – arrived in Tindouf yesterday to reinforce our team already on the ground.At the same time, a high-level UNHCR delegation, including the Geneva-based deputy director for the region, is visiting Tindouf with representatives from various donors. The agency said they visited the Awserd camp yesterday and were shocked by the level of destruction. The Laayoune and Smaara camps will be visited today.

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