The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) said a lack of adequate aid coupled with delivery problems have hurt an estimated 165,000 refugees living in five windswept camps around the western Algerian desert town of Tindouf. Most have been there since leaving their disputed territory nearly three decades ago.In a briefing in Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said the refugees’ rate of acute malnutrition has remained above more than 10 per cent for years, much higher than the local community average. The rate of chronic malnutrition, which can leave victims stunted, is estimated to be more than 30 per cent.”Urgent crises elsewhere in the world all too frequently overshadow their food aid needs, making this literally a hand-to-mouth operation,” Mr. Redmond said.He said the agencies need donors to provide contributions and to help make sure food aid is delivered more quickly and effectively.Next month a joint UN assessment mission will visit the camps near Tindouf, while senior UN officials are holding meetings in the Moroccan city of Rabat today to discuss UNHCR proposals to allow certain refugees to have person-to-person contacts with their relatives across the border.The UN has had a peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara since 1991 after Morocco and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente POLISARIO) agreed to a ceasefire in their dispute over Western Sahara’s status.
“In particular, he calls on the members of the Régiment de Sécurité Présidentielle (RSP) and the national armed forces to abide by the terms of the agreement that they signed on 22 September,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson. According to media reports, the RSP – the presidential guards responsible for the recent coup d’état – are refusing to disarm. “The Secretary-General encourages the transitional authorities to intensify efforts towards the early holding of presidential and legislative elections to allow for the return of constitutional order to Burkina Faso,” the statement continued. It added that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, will continue to work closely with regional and international partners to support national authorities in the lead-up to peaceful and transparent elections.