Two Italian and Portuguese cargo planes transported some 20 tons of tents to the western Algerian region of Tindouf at the weekend, as part of emergency operations bringing aid to more than 50,000 Sahrawi refugees whose homes were washed away by recent floods - Fides reports. The two flights transported 440 light family tents from the UN High Commission for Refugees UNHCR deposit in Jordan to Tindouf and Oran. The tents were then taken by truck to the flood stricken areas and distributed by UNHCR personnel. Other government supplied tents had been distributed previously. UNHCR plans to send 200 tons of emergency aid from various deposits for which air transport is essential. More than 25 flights will be necessary to transport over two thousands tents, dozens of blankets, mattresses, plastic sheeting and water cans. The Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission ECHO, (a partner with Caritas) is giving 500,000 Euro to help provide the stricken people with tents, blankets and other aid. For many years ECHO was one of the principal agencies assisting Sahrawi refugees. The recent floods destroyed more than half of the shelters in Awserd, Smara and Laayoune camps near Tindouf, and damaged 25 per cent. Camp infrastructures were also seriously damaged. The medical centres are out of use and the camp hospitals and medicine depots are also seriously damaged. Three camps schools were destroyed. The Western Sahara refugees started arriving in Algeria in 1976, following Spain's withdrawal from the territory and invasions by Morocco and Mauritania. While the UN has been presiding over the organization of a referendum to determine the future of the territory, in effect it has been annexed by Morocco. Most of the refugees have lived in the desert area of west Algeria for more than 30 years, totally dependent on humanitarian aid. At the moment UNHCR assists 90,000 of the most vulnerable refugees. Source: Fides
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