Desert flood

As if they did not already have enough to deal with, Saharawi refugees who have been living in a remote part of the Algerian desert for more than three decades have now been afflicted by a flood, following torrential rains not seen in the area since 1994. More than half the houses in Awserd, Smara and La’youne camps were destroyed by the floodwaters in February, and 25 per cent were badly damaged. Hospitals were also badly damaged, including pharmacies and medical equipment, and all schools were destroyed in the three affected camps.

UN agencies launched a relief effort, including food aid, since the flood also destroyed the full monthly ration of food that had just been issued. The Saharawis fled into the desert from invading Moroccan forces in 1975 and have been separated from their compatriots in occupied Western Sahara ever since. Western Sahara is the only former colony in Africa that has not been granted a referendum on self-determination – Morocco has consistently refused to allow a vote that could issue in independence.

New Internationalist issue 388 magazine cover This article is from the April 2006 issue of New Internationalist.
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