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Algeria floods: Govts answer appeal for refugees

Governments answer UN appeal for Sahrawi refugees affected by Algeria floods

Governments have answered an urgent appeal by the United Nations refugee agency to help fly about 150 tonnes of relief supplies to some 60,000 Sahrawi refugees left homeless by severe flooding in three camps in western Algeria, the agency said today.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) made its appeal last week, after heavy rains and flooding in early February severely damaged three of five Sahrawi refugee sites around Tindouf.

“The French Government offered us two C-130 sorties, which over the weekend transported some 20 tonnes of relief items to Oran, west of Algiers. Today, a Turkish C-130 loaded with 5,100 blankets is expected to take off from Amman to Oran airport,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told a press briefing in Geneva.

“In addition, the United States confirmed to us yesterday that it will provide two An-124 sorties on 6 and 8 March which will carry the remaining 110 tonnes of tents, mattresses, plastic sheets and blankets to the flood-stricken refugee camps.”

Mr. Redmond also said that there had been assistance from Italy, Portugal, Spain, Algeria and that last weekend 600 tents provided by Norwegian Church Aid had been flown in by the Russian military.

The relief items have been flown from UNHCR stockpiles in Jordan and Mr. Redmond said that the international assistance had now helped deliver almost 700 family tents, 500 large plastic sheets, 600 mattresses and close to 10,000 jerry cans to the affected refugees, who began 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, and UNHCR is currently supporting 90,000 of the most vulnerable.

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