Refugee Camps and the Saharwis Struggles (Western Sahara Special Part V)

This is the fifth and final installment of our Western Sahara Special.  Click the following for previous articles in the series: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

Refugee Camps
Five separate refugee camps exist in southwestern Algeria. Named after Western Saharan towns, the camps house people who are now dependent on assistance from the United Nations and the Red Crescent.  The older generation bares the scares of war, while the younger increasingly calls for a renewal of war.  Officially led by the Polisario Front, many women have taken at least de facto leadership roles in the camp.  Many of these roles have been born out of necessity due to the large number of men who died in the previous century's conflict.   

Financial Challenges
Outside of medical care and security jobs for the camps, there are few jobs available.  Each person without a camp job is provided with aid, but one must wonder what happens if the aid runs out.  By some estimates, funding for the camps is about half of what it needs to be; including funding for food.

Nutritional Challenges
Some animals are kept in the camps for milk and meat, but for most vegetables, the refugees are dependent on aid.  Anemia runs high in the camps; mainly due to lack of iron-rich foods.  

Ideological Challenges
Terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram have steadily increased influence in North and West Africa.  The Polisario Front, predominately Muslim, states that its citizens are free to choose their religion.  Because of this stance, leaders are increasingly worried and threatened by terrorist groups.  Another worry is that younger refugees will be more susceptible to the pull of these terrorist organizations.

The Future
The Saharwi people face many difficult challenges ahead and from many different fronts.  Do they accept Moroccan control in the name of peace, continue to live out their existence in refugee camps, or fan the flames of war in an attempt to fight a much stronger Moroccan military?  Can they continue to rely on diplomatic measures, while continuing to witness zero change?  How will they combat the growing terrorist threat? The challenges are many, but there is also hope.  
A sign at one of the camp headquarters reads,

"If the present is a struggle, the future is ours."  


Thanks for reading.

For more information on Western Sahara, check out the following links:

From Reuters, an article on the refugee camps.

This PBS article nicely sums up the entire situation and uses really helpful maps.

Cultures of Resistance Films created a simple timeline about the conflict. You can compare it to's timeline.

Al Jazeera presented a feature about Western Sahara and also published a rebuttal from the Moroccan government.

Newsweek published an article more about the prospects of future aggression; as did The Telegraph.

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