ALGIERS – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and five NGO partners urgently need $15 million to respond to the public health needs and immediate humanitarian consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic in the Tindouf refugee camps in Algeria.

Fighting Coronavirus in the desert

With the coronavirus pandemic testing health care systems around the world, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and their partners are calling attention to the challenges faced by Sahrawi refugees in Algeria. The current global public health emergency has exacerbated an already difficult situation for a population that has been living under harsh conditions in the Sahara Desert for the past 45 years and is dependent on external humanitarian assistance.

“As governments across the world are taking extraordinary measures to contain the spread and mitigate the impact of COVID-19, we must not forget vulnerable populations such as the Sahrawi refugees. I would like to express our gratitude to the Algerian Government for its continued support to this refugee population and for including them in all the COVID-19 national response strategies,” said Agostino Mulas, UNHCR Representative in Algeria.

“On behalf of all humanitarian actors, I humbly call on donors, whether governments, foundations or individuals, to support these efforts and help the humanitarian community working in the Tindouf camps to face this unprecedented crisis.”

How the UN plans to help Sahrawi refugees during COVID-19

The joint COVID-19 response outlines measures to:

  • (1) prevent transmission of COVID-19 among Sahrawi refugees;
  • (2) provide adequate care for patients affected by COVID-19 and to support their families and close contacts;
  • (3) adapt programs in health, education, food security, protection, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic.

To read the full appeal, with response plan, click here or go to

Although the camps are currently under lockdown, the UN humanitarian agencies are working through NGO and community partners to continue to provide live-saving activities and essential health, nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene, and food services without disruption. The requested funding will allow the UN agencies and partners to sustain this support during this critical period.

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About the agencies

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. We work to ensure that everybody has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge, having fled violence, persecution, war or disaster at home. Follow UNHCR on Twitter @Refugees and @unhcralgeria

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. Follow UNICEF on Twitter @unicefAlgerie and Facebook

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change. Follow WFP on Twitter @wfpusa @wfp @wfp_media @wfp_mena

For more information please contact:

  • Katharina Meyer-Seipp, WFP/Algiers,, Mob. +49 1577 3961803
  • Russell Fraser, UNHCR/Tindouf,
  • Selma Hamouda, UNICEF/Algiers,, Mob. +213 661 50 84 44


Hunger in Refugee Camps

Refugees in Algeria are suffering from food insecurity and nutritional deficiencies. You can help us deliver lifesaving food and school meals.

Refugees in Algeria live in harsh desert conditions, which limit their ability to be self-reliant, resulting in food insecurity and malnutrition.


of Sahrawi refugees are food insecure


camps for Western Saharan refugees


of women suffer from anemia today

Refugee women and children sit and wait for food at a camp in Algeria
Sahrawi refugees wait for food at Laayoune camp in Algeria. The community has been living in the desert for more than 40 years.
Photo: WFP/Lourdes Melendo

one of the Longest refugee Crises in the world

Algeria has been hosting refugees from Western Sahara since 1975, making it one of the longest-running refugee crises in the world. The Sahrawi refugees live in five camps near the town of Tindouf – a harsh, isolated desert environment of western Algeria where opportunities for self-reliance are limited, forcing them to depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival. 30% of Sahrawi refugees are food insecure and 58% are at risk of food insecurity.

The prevalence of anemia in Algeria is alarmingly high, with more than half of children under the age of 5 and women of reproductive age affected. In addition, poorly diversified diets and a lack of nutritional awareness result in overlapping nutritional problems including mineral and vitamin deficiencies and overweight/obesity in women.

Despite continued negotiations, the political situation remains unsolved so refugee camps have been the only alternative for Sahrawi refugees. The status quo has fueled anxiety and disillusionment, especially among the young population, which could lead to increased insecurity and tensions in the sub-region.

The harsh and isolated desert environment of Western Algeria limits opportunities for self-reliance and, as a result, the refugees depend on humanitarian assistance for their survival.
Photo: Photo: WFP/Lourdes Melendo

WFP’s Work in algeria

At the request of the government of Algeria, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been supporting the hungriest refugees since 1986, covering basic food and nutrition needs.

In 2021, WFP programming supported 138,421 people in Algeria. 23,022 MT of food was distributed and nearly $1M distributed through cash-based assistance.

Food Distribution

WFP distributes almost 134,000 food rations to refugees per month. Food baskets are handed out through 116 distribution points in all five refugee camps and include several types of cereals, beans, sugar and vegetable oil.


WFP combines prevention and treatment approaches to address anemia, stunting and malnutrition among children under the age of 5, and pregnant and nursing women through 29 nutrition centers.

School Meals

To encourage children to enroll in, and attend school, WFP provides daily mid-morning snacks – in the form of milk and fortified biscuits– to around 40,000 children in all 31 kindergartens, 26 primary schools, 10 intermediary schools, 10 special needs centers and five koranic schools in the refugee camps. WFP also rehabilitates and constructs school kitchens and stores.

Livelihood Projects

WFP implements complementary activities that improve Sahrawi refugees’ food security and nutrition. This resilience-building approach includes activities like green fodder production using low-tech hydroponics and a fish farm.

Help save lives by sending food

You help deliver food to vulnerable populations in Algeria and other countries by donating to WFP.

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