In reaction to the UN Security Council's renewal of the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSU) today, Oxfam in Algeria Country Director, Haissam Minkara, said:
"Oxfam welcomes the decision but warns of the continued suffering of over 170,000 Sahrawi refugees in Algeria as the conflict marks its 45th year this October. Sahrawi refugees have endured decades of exile, living in the most inhospitable Algerian Sahara and surviving almost entirely on humanitarian aid.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has fuelled chronic hunger and poverty in the camps even further - in April 2020, Oxfam and other agencies launched a joint appeal calling for $14 million to meet the immediate needs of the Sahrawi refugees in the wake of the massive impact of the pandemic. Six months on, this appeal is only 60% funded. Meanwhile, the number of households able to eat a healthy diet had dropped to a shocking 23% from an already meager 44% in December 2019. Nevertheless, achieving a peaceful resolution to this protracted conflict remains deprioritized by the international community.
"Oxfam calls for the immediate appointment of a new UN Personal Envoy for Western Sahara to restart the peace process without any further delay. After 18 months without an Envoy, the positive momentum towards a political solution that former Personal Envoy, Horst Koehler, had begun has been lost, and the sense of frustration and abandonment within the Sahrawi refugee camps continues to grow.
"In light of the conflict's 45th anniversary, Western Sahara and the Sahrawi refugee crisis are an important reminder that if the international community does not actively pursue solutions to secure sustainable peace and security, Sahrawi refugees are set to live in deepening hunger, poverty, and further denial of their fundamental rights. The international community must live up to the expectations of the Sahrawi people and achieve a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable political solution which provides for self-determination in line with international law."