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UNSG Report Strongly Decries Malnutrition in Tindouf Camps

The report found that the level of malnutrition in the camp has worsened significantly since 2016.

Rabat – The peacekeeping operation in Western Sahara, also known as MINURSO has published a report on the situation in the region. The report was submitted by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres on October 2.

The document is in line with the responsibility of the UNSG to issue a report before the expiration of the MINURSO mandate.

The MINURSO’s six-month mandate is due to expire on October 31.

The document provides the Security Council with a summary of the activities of both Morocco and the Polisario Front in Western Sahara, as well as an overview of the MINURSO mission in the region. The report also covers the situation of Sahrawis in the Tindouf camps.

The secretary-general devoted a part of his report to reiterating his concerns over the challenges that the Sahrawi population in the Tindouf camps are facing.  Malnutrition and disease top the list of concerns. 

In the fifth section, paragraph 63, Guterres said that malnutrition is one of the biggest concerns along with the prevalence of anemia.

The UN top official recalled that the UN organizations operating in the camps, including UNHCR “continued to work closely together on the treatment and prevention of anemia, stunting, and malnutrition among young children, girls, pregnant and lactating women.”

The UN chief warned that indicators studying malnutrition and anemia are of major concern.

The UNHCR and the UN World Food Program (WFP) conducted a survey in April, according to the report.

“The results have shown a worsening situation compared with 2016,” Guterres warned.

He said that all indicators of malnutrition in the camps increased from the survey conducted in 2016, “including global acute malnutrition.”

The UNHCR and WFP survey found that global acute malnutrition had increased from 4% in 2016 to 7% in 2019.

Read Also: Report on Western Sahara: UNSG Lists Polisario’s Violation, Defiance of MINURSO Requests

The report added that the cases of stunted growth also increased from 18 % in 2016 to 28%  in 2019, whereas, anemia in children had mounted from 38% to 50 %.

The survey indicated that anemia in women also increased from 43% to 52 %.

UN fails to address the embezzlement of aid

The United Nations Secretary-General has strongly condemned malnutrition in almost all of his recent reports. However, the reports have failed to look at the root of the issue: The embezzlement of humanitarian aid.

Despite the prevalence of malnutrition in the Tindouf camps, the UN has failed over the past than four-decades of the conflict to address the issue of the embezzlement of humanitarian aid from the international community intended for Sahrawis living in Tindouf camps.

Several reports warned against the alleged embezzlement involving the separatist group and  Algeria.

One recent report was an opinion piece published by Spanish news outlet La Provincia, in which president of the Canary Sahawi Forum Miguel Angel Ortiz condemned the embezzlement of aid and corruption in the camps.

Ortiz said that the Tindouf caps witnessed the “misappropriation of some  €2.5 million of humanitarian aid” from the international community destined for Sahrawis living in Tindouf camps.

The article explained that the Polisario Front was unable to justify the expenses related to the grants, “which shows how corruption is deeply-rooted among the separatists.”

In another scandal, last year Pro-Polisario news outlets  Futuro Sahara, reported that Sahrawis were surprised to find popular aid products on display in Algerian grocery shops.

Funding concerns

The secretary-general conveyed concerns from human rights organizations operating in the camps. The organizations mostly complain about funding concerns.

According to the report, the “main challenge for humanitarian actors remained the funding shortfall.”

The secretary-general warned that the UNHCR is not able to meet international standards “in its life-saving activities,” including water and sanitation, health, education, energy, and protection.

Paragraph 66 of the report said emphasized that “None of the targets for 2018 were achieved in these sectors.”

The secretary-general also regretted the brain drain on skilled personnel who are leaving for better-paying jobs in several sectors, such as health and education. He said that brain drain in these sectors is of major concern.

The well-skilled personnel often leave because of the “lack of financial incentives and difficult working conditions,” he explained.

The secretary-general also warned that health infrastructure in the region requires an “urgent need of rehabilitation” to meet the demands of the Sahrawi population.

The water crisis is also prevalent, with Guterres calling for urgent steps to be taken to find new water sources.

“New water sources are urgently required as the population receives on average only about 12 liters of drinking water per person per day, which is well below the minimum standard of 20 liters per person per day,” he said.

This is not the first time that Guterres has condemned the issue of nutrition in the region. In most of his previous reports, the Secretary-General has warned against malnutrition and its consequences on the region’s population.

In his October 2018 report, Guterres recalled the frustration among the Sahrawi population in the Tindouf camps against the “lack of progress in the political process” for Western Sahara. They also decried the “persistent difficulties, such as malnutrition, brought by the steady reduction in humanitarian aid.”

In his October 2019 report, Guterres sought to encourage financial aid to help the UN organizations contribute to the human development of the Sahrawi population in the Tindouf camps.

In paragraph 85, the UN chief said: “I underscore that figures related to refugees in the Tindouf camps are strictly for humanitarian assistance and protection services, and do not in any way constitute eligibility for political settlement or referendum purposes.”

He, therefore, warned that the Sahrawi population is in dire need of aid to overcome the alarming challenges.

“Health and nutrition indicators have reached alarming rates and the provision of drinking water continues to fall well below international standards,” he said.