Western Sahara

Norwegian Church Aid in Western Sahara

  • Been here since: 1998
  • Money spent in 2017: 4.6 million NOK

Norwegian Church Aid has worked with nutrition for Western Sahara refugees in Algeria since 1999.

Refugees hit by disaster in Western Sahara

Western Sahara became occupied by Morocco in 1976, after Spain withdrew as a colonial occupier. Morocco's occupation and attempted annexation of the country are in violation of international law, and are not recognized by any country. According to the UN decolonization programme, the people of Western Sahara is to decide through a referendum whether they want integration with Morocco or independence.

Already in 1988 a peace solution was attempted between Morocco and the liberation movement Polisario, and in 1991 a truce was reached, which meant that a referendum in 1992. The referendum was never held as a result of dispute between the parties over who should be eligible to vote. As a result of the Moroccan occupation, about 165,000 Western Saharans live as refugees in camps in southwestern Algeria, where they have now lived for soon 40 years.

Algeria has formally relinquished its sovereignty over the area where the refugee camps lie to the Western Sahara government in exile (Polisario), and the area is thus legally a sovereign state within Algeria. The exile state is organized in line with bureaucratic norms and has ministries, a health care system and its own legal system. But the camps are located in middle of the Sahara, and the refugees are totally dependent on outside assistance.

Our work

Access to health care services: Norwegian Church Aid operates a nutrition project at nine hospitals in the refugee camps in Algeria. Norwegian Church Aid has, in collaboration with Oslo and Akershus University College, conducted nutrition studies that show that there are major challenges with malnutrition and under-nutrition in general, and especially among vulnerable groups like children and pregnant women.

The project provides hospitals with food and ensures nutritious food for about 1,000 patients on a daily basis. In addition we support health clinics in camps with food for patients and staff. The project also focuses on nutritional training for hospital staff, treatment and prevention for vulnerable groups, as well as nutrition research. In recent years, Norwegian Church Aid has worked with Western Sahara's exile government, other non-governmental organisations in the area and with the UN system to develop a comprehensive nutrition strategy for the population.

For the time being Norwegian Church Aid also focus on:

  • Prevention and treatment of malnourished children in health clinics and camps.
  • Pollution in water and milk, both with an unnatural high level of iodine and inflicted pollution of heavy metal and hazardous substances.


Important documents