Briefing Notes, 24 February 2006
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 24 February 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR is urgently appealing to donors for support to continue an emergency airlift of relief supplies from our stockpiles in Jordan to some 60,000 Sahrawi refugee flood victims in camps near Tindouf, western Algeria. After two flights last weekend by Portuguese and Italian military C-130 cargo planes carrying a total of 20 tonnes of supplies, and a further Italian flight scheduled for this weekend, we have no more air support in sight and do not have the funds to commercially airlift the remaining 150 tonnes of supplies to the refugees.
It is critical that we get these supplies quickly to the refugees, whose homes literally dissolved after three days of rare, torrential downpours nearly two weeks ago. More than 50 percent of infrastructure in three camps was also severely damaged, much of it on the verge of collapse.
The first two flights last weekend brought in 440 lightweight family tents and other supplies, but even when added to the 4,000 tents given by the Algerian authorities, this is inadequate to cope with the number of refugees made homeless.
We have over 150 tonnes of relief items – 800 tents, 43,000 blankets, 10,000 mattresses, 3,000 plastic sheets and 8,000 jerry cans – waiting in Jordan for transportation. Another 10-15 flights by C-130s would be needed to get the supplies to Algeria.
On the ground in Tindouf, UNHCR and its partners are working hard to ease the suffering of the refugees and get them adequately housed. Most of the refugees are temporarily housed in tents and surviving on aid rapidly provided by Algeria, Spain, UNHCR and various international and local agencies. The World Food Programme, WFP, has provided food from its emergency stocks as well as other relief items.
With much of the camp infrastructure destroyed, more emergency tents are needed for use as temporary classrooms, nurseries, kindergartens and community centres for youth, women and children.