Emergency aid is being rushed to three refugee camps in western Algeria, where torrential rains last week triggered floods. More than 50 thousand Sahrawi refugees are without shelter in Algeria’s Tindouf region. Astrid Van Genderen Stort is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Geneva, she spoke with my colleague Joe De Capua about what’s being done to help.
“At the moment we’re preparing an emergency team to go to western Algeria to help the team already on the ground. We are also preparing to send non-food items such as tents, as well as blankets, mattresses, jerry cans and some other items. They will be sent from our regional warehouse in Jordan, where we keep our stocks for the Iraq operation. But presently we’re preparing the transport, so it will take a couple of days before that will be able to arrive.”
In the meantime, UNHCR staff is assessing the damage to the camps. She says, “Three camps are badly damaged. Apart from 50 percent of the houses, there are also hospitals affected. There are no more schools apparently and other infrastructure has been severely damaged.”
Preliminary casualty reports say at least one woman died in the floods and others were injured. However, exact figures may not be known for days. Five refugee camps in western Algeria are home to about 90,000 Sahrawi, who fled Western Sahara in 1975, when fighting broke out for control of the territory after Spain withdrew from the region.