On August 15th, a strong storm accompanied by heavy rains hit Laayoune Camp – one of the 5 Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf, in Western Algeria. According to the refugee community and the Sahrawi Red Crescent, 11 refugees were injured, and 6 were evacuated to Tindouf Regional Hospital in order to receive appropriate medical care. In addition, damages to shelters, tents, public infrastructure and the loss of food were reported.
The storm occurred almost a year after extreme weather conditions in October 2015 caused severe floods that led to an unprecedented level of destruction in the Sahrawi refugee camps.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) immediately launched, on August 16th and 17th, a Rapid Joint Assessment , in coordination with the Sahrawi Red Crescent and the Saharawi leadership along with the World Food Programme (WFP), UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the NGOs operating in the camps. The assessment which covered shelter, health, water and sanitation sectors, as well as education and food, focused on the most affected areas located in the 3 districts (dairas) of the Layooune camp, namely Dawra, Bukraa and Dchira.
According to UNHCR, the lead agency in the humanitarian assistance to refugees, 40 staff members of 12 International Organizations and partners participated in this effort, quickly expressing on the occasion to their visit to the camp their support and empathy towards the families affected by this unfortunate situation, which comes during the peak of the heat season in the region.
As a quick and initial response, UNHCR started on the 16th of August the rehabilitation of a damaged water reservoir in the camp and will proceed to providing tents, Hygiene Kits, bleach and soap to affected families.
Six out height schools suffered severe damage while the school year starts in just a few weeks on September the 7th. With local authorities, UNICEF and NGO partners engaged rehabilitation plans while looking for concrete solutions so that children can go back to school without delay.
As immediate response, WFP issued on August 17th an emergency distribution of mixed commodities (wheat flour, barely, sugar, vegetable oil and super cereal) to replace the partially lost August food rations, and to cover the basic food needs of affected families.
Shelter damages are to be addressed shortly after completion of all necessary assessment and mobilization of the required resources.
UNHCR is hereby coordinating to secure the appropriate humanitarian response and assistance to affected refugees.
UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF and WHO urge donors and concerned parties to contribute to enable the humanitarian agencies and their partners to address the dire humanitarian situation in the 3 districts of the Laayoune camp which have been the most affected by the storm. Similar events, exacerbate an already difficult situation of a vulnerable refugee population that has been hard-hit by continued reduction in funding level.