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Brussels, 4 June 2009

Western Sahara: Commission to provide €10 million in humanitarian aid for the "forgotten refugees"

Consistent with its strategy of focusing on regions of great humanitarian need and on forgotten crises, the European Commission has allocated €10 million for the Sahrawi population living in camps near Tindouf, western Algeria. The funds will help to meet the refugees' basic needs for food, healthcare, clean water and proper sanitation as well as providing tents and basic household items. The funds are channelled through ECHO, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid department.

Olli Rehn, Acting Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian aid said: "These refugees are trapped in one of the world's oldest "frozen" and forgotten conflicts. As long as this conflict remains in a political and diplomatic deadlock, the refugees remain almost totally dependent on international aid for their survival. The Commission is committed to assisting these vulnerable people until a political solution can be found for their plight."

The Sahrawi refugees have been living in four camps located in the desert region of Tindouf for over 3 decades and the EU has been the largest donor in this long-term humanitarian crisis. Since 1993, the Commission has provided more than €143 million in aid to the Sahrawi refugees - an expression of solidarity with the victims of this prolonged crisis.

Under this new decision, €5.5 million has been allocated to provide regular and diverse food assistance: basic food aid, provision of fresh food including food for the Ramadan, and nutritional support ensuring that the refugees have access to an appropriate vitamin and micronutrient intake. A further €4.5 million is dedicated to improving the living conditions of the refugees by ensuring adequate access to basic services such as health, water, waste management and essential items including tents and hygiene products

Activities will be implemented by ECHO operational partners: NGOs, United Nations agencies and the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement.

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