Algeria has hosted refugees from Western Sahara since 1975 in what has become one of the world’s most protracted refugee crises. The Sahrawi refugees live in five camps near the town of Tindouf in Western Algeria, characterized by extreme heat and very low rainfall. The harsh and isolated desert environment limits livelihood and economic opportunities, leaving the refugees highly dependent on humanitarian assistance.
Despite over 30 years of uninterrupted assistance, 30 percent of Sahrawi refugees are food insecure and 58 percent are at risk of food insecurity. Although recent assessments show improvements in malnutrition among children aged 5 or less, every 5th child in the camps is stunted and global acute malnutrition affects 5 percent of children.
At the same time, the anaemia prevalence is alarmingly high – at some 39 percent among children aged 5 or less, and 45 percent among women of reproductive age, possibly indicating a dietary iron deficiency. In addition, poorly diversified diets and a lack of nutritional awareness result in overlapping nutritional problems including mineral and vitamin deficiencies and overweight/obesity in women.
Despite continued negotiations, the political situation remains unsolved, so refugee camps have been the only alternative for Sahrawi refugees. The status quo has fuelled frustration and disillusionment, especially among the young, which could lead to increased insecurity and tensions in the sub-region.
At the request of the Government of Algeria, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been supporting the most food insecure refugees since 1986, covering basic food and nutrition needs.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Algeria
NutritionWFP combines prevention and treatment approaches to address anaemia, stunting and malnutrition among children aged under 5, and pregnant and nursing women, targeting some 22,500 people under its Mother and Child Health programme through 29 health centres. WFP assistance includes the provision of oil, sugar and specialized nutritious foods, and focuses increasingly on improving nutritional awareness through Social Behavior Change Communication (SBCC).
Food assistanceWFP currently distributes 125,000 in-kind rations to meet the basic food and nutritional needs of food insecure refugees. The diversified food basket consists of 9 commodities and includes several types of cereals, two types of pulses, sugar, vegetable oil and blended food for an overall caloric value of 2,100 calories per person per day. The food is distributed through 116 final distribution points in all five camps.
School feedingTo encourage children to enrol in, and attend school, WFP provides daily mid-morning snacks – in the form of milk and fortified biscuits– to around 40,000 children in all 31 kindergartens, 26 primary schools, 10 intermediary schools, 10 special needs centers and five koranic schools in the camps. WFP also rehabilitates and constructs school kitchens and stores.
Complementary activitiesWFP also implements complementary activities that improve refugees’ food security and nutrition, by providing them with livelihood opportunities in the Sahrawi refugee camps. The new resilience approach includes livelihood activities, such as green fodder production using low-tech hydroponics and a fish farm.