Political observers and activists have been voicing concerns with Polisario’s embezzlement of humanitarian aid intended for Sahrawis living in the Tindouf camps.
Rabat – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has again voiced concerns regarding hunger and malnutrition in the Tindouf camps, where thousands of Sahrawis live in uncertainty due to the ongoing Western Sahara conflict.
In his annual report on the situation in Western Sahara, the UN chief stressed the hunger pandemic and a high prevalence of anemia afflicting “Sahrawi refugee children and women” in the camps.
The hunger pandemic, according to Guterres, has prevailed in the camps for several years.
The report comes a few weeks before the UN Security Council meeting scheduled at the end of October is set to vote on a new resolution regarding MINURSO, the mandate of the UN peacekeeping operation in the region.
UN challenges in Western Sahara
According to the UN, the main challenge for humanitarian actors in the region remains the resource shortfall and a “lack of predictable funding.”
The UNHCR and UN-sponsored NGOs have struggled to meet the needs of refugees and improve food security and nutrition in the region.
The UNHCR, UNICEF, and WFP received only 58% of their combined resource needs for the 2020 regular programs.
Due to the embezzlement of humanitarian funds, world stakeholders in the international community have started to lose confidence in the Polisario Front for its alleged involvement in diverting aid directed to Sahrawis in the Tindouf camps.
Several reports linked Polisario and Algeria with humanitarian aid embezzlement.
Spanish news outlet La Provincia published an opinion piece last year by the president of the Canary Sahrawi Forum Miguel Angel Ortiz, who accused Polisario of embezzling important aid directed to Sahrawis.
Ortiz linked the Front to the “misappropriation of some €2.5 million of humanitarian aid” from the international community.
Pro-Polisario websites such as Futurosahara have also published reports about the embezzlement of aid.
In 2018, Futurosahara reported that Sahrawis found popular aid products at Algerian grocery stores.
Guterres said despite the efforts of UN agencies in the Tindouf camps, the bodies struggled to meet living standards related to shelter, water and sanitation, health, nutrition, education, energy, provision of non-food items, and livelihoods.
The report also pointed out that several international actors gave up their jobs in the camps because of a “lack of adequate financial incentives.”
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and anemia problems among women and children in the camps, the report also addressed the poor infrastructure of health facilities.
Guterres said that health facilities in the Tindouf camps are in “urgent need of rehabilitation and the distribution of hygiene kits to women and girls of product reproductive age was insufficient to meet needs.”
The report also addressed the “chronic” shortages of vaccines and key immunization supplies, describing the lack of materials as a “challenge.”
Despite the increasing concerns and challenges in the camps, there has been little progress in the Western Sahara conflict.
After productive developments in 2018 and 2019 thanks to roundtables held at the initiative of former UN Envoy Horst Kohler, the Western Sahara dossier has deadlocked.
The stalemate began after the UN envoy announced his resignation last May due to health issues. More than a year later, the UN is yet to appoint a new envoy, with Guterres vowing that the search for the appropriate candidate is ongoing. The COVID-19 pandemic also played a crucial role in leaving the Western Sahara dossier in delay.
Despite COVID-19 concerns, Morocco’s government has been reiterating its support for the UN-led political solution in Western Sahara, calling on all parties to engage in dialogue to end the conflict.
Like the UN, Morocco continues to stress the importance of Algeria’s involvement in dialogue and political processes to end the conflict.
Algeria, however, continues to refuse its responsibility in Western Sahara, claiming that a solution should be only the responsibility of Morocco and Polisario.
Morocco’s government, however, considers Polisario an illegitimate party to represent Sahrawis, arguing that many of the refugees in the Tindouf camps are held there without consent.
Despite the issues in the camps, Algeria continues to show support for Polisario’s separatist agenda, without helping to address UN concerns with the situation of Sahrawis.