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Aid being sent to more than 50,000 flood victims in Algeria refugee camps

Briefing notes

Aid being sent to more than 50,000 flood victims in Algeria refugee camps

14 February 2006

UNHCR is preparing to rush relief supplies to three camps in western Algeria's Tindouf region, where more than 50,000 Sahrawi refugees were left homeless when rare torrential rains caused severe flooding late last week.

An airlift currently being arranged will deliver lightweight tents, blankets, jerry cans, mattresses and plastic sheeting from our regional warehouse in Jordan. We are also sending an emergency team - including a site planner and water and sanitation specialist - to the Tindouf region to join the UNHCR team already on the ground. We are working closely with WFP, which is planning an emergency food distribution to affected families.

Since last Thursday, the highly unusual non-stop torrential rains destroyed up to 50 percent of the mud brick houses in Awserd, Smara and Laayoune refugee camps, leaving another 25 percent of shelters seriously damaged and on the verge of collapse. One woman was reportedly killed and several people injured by the floods.

UNHCR staff in Tindouf today reported heavy destruction by the flooding, including the loss of much of the camp infrastructure. All schools were destroyed in Awserd and Smara. Most of the buildings are of simple mud brick construction, so there was heavy structural damage. UNHCR staff have now managed to reach Laayoune camp, which until yesterday had been inaccessible. Initial reports this morning indicate the damage there is less than in the other two camps.

No serious damage has been reported from the two other refugee settlements in the region.

The five camps in the Tindouf area host refugees who fled Western Sahara in 1975 during the conflict over the right to govern the Territory after Spain withdrew from the region. UNHCR is presently supporting 90,000 of the most vulnerable refugees in the five camps.