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Tindouf flood relief effort: UNHCR thanks Algerian authorities, Italy, Portugal, European Commission

Briefing notes

Tindouf flood relief effort: UNHCR thanks Algerian authorities, Italy, Portugal, European Commission

21 February 2006 Also available in:

Portuguese and Italian air force cargo planes delivered some 20 tonnes of tents to western Algeria's Tindouf region over the weekend as part of ongoing efforts to provide emergency shelter for more than 50,000 Sahrawi refugees left homeless in three camps following recent heavy rains and flooding.

The two flights carried 440 lightweight family tents from UNHCR's regional warehouse in Jordan to Tindouf and Oran in western Algeria. They were then transported by Algerian trucks to the flood-hit camps, where UNHCR teams began distributing them yesterday (Monday). Algerian authorities also provided tents, which were distributed earlier.

In all, we plan to deliver more than 200 tonnes of relief supplies to the camps from our stockpiles elsewhere, so the airlift is crucial and we continue to appeal for additional air and financial support for the operation. More than 25 flights will be needed to airlift all of the supplies, including more than 2,000 tents, plus tens of thousands of blankets, mattresses, plastic sheets and jerry cans.

The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) is providing 500,000 Euros to help supply tents, blankets and sheets to the affected population. ECHO has been a major donor of assistance to Sahrawi refugees for some years.

More than half of the houses in Awserd, Smara and Laayoune camps near Tindouf were destroyed by the floodwaters, and 25 percent were badly damaged. The camp infrastructure also suffered enormous damage, including collapsed community buildings. None of the health clinics can be used. Hospitals were also badly damaged, including pharmacies and medical equipment. All schools were destroyed in the three affected camps.

Sahrawi refugees started arriving in Algeria in 1976 after Spain withdrew from the Western Sahara and fighting broke out over its control. 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. UNHCR is currently supporting 90,000 of the most vulnerable refugees.