ALGERIA & WESTERN SAHARA
Presence in the country:
Community-based Animal Health Workers trained
In the late 70s, after the Moroccan forces advanced through Western Sahara, thousands of Saharawi refugees fled to Algeria. Located in the western part of the Algerian desert, Saharawi refugee camps are the second-oldest political refugee camps in the world after the Palestinians. They are divided in 4 districts (wilaya), which are self-organized by the Saharawis themselves, represented by the different authorities of the Saharawi Government and civil society.
VSF Italy has been working in Sahrawi camps since 1997 with food security projects, in collaboration with Africa 70, another Italian NGO. Together, the two NGOs have been supporting livestock keeping (mainly sheep and goats) and farm activities, and strengthened the Saharawi veterinary services though trainings and equipment. A veterinary school was also built, where animal health auxiliaries are formed. As result the Veterinary Directorate counts now with 28 veterinarians, para-vets and auxiliaries, and is equipped with a diagnostic laboratory, where serological and bacteriological analyses are performed.
Across time, the interventions have benefited directly and indirectly all the population residing in the camps (165,000 people estimated), who, despite the status of refugees and their confinement, have continued to keep livestock. The nomadic pastoralists living in the drylands of Western Sahara (liberated territories) have also benefited from better animal health services for their herds.
In its projects, VSF Italy has deepened and validated the knowledge of traditional saharawi veterinary medicine, with the goal to reduce dependence on extremely expensive western medicines. More recently, VSF has been engaged in the promotion of Moringa oleifera. Due to its high nutritional values, this plant, recently introduced in the Saharawi camps, is of great interest to supplement the poor diet of the population, and is also used to improve livestock feeding.
What we do:
- Training and capacity building of the Sahrawi veterinary services;
- Enrichment and diversification of diet for Sahrawi refugees through a comprehensive approach to food security;
- Strengthening of women’s cooperatives for the production, transformation and commercialization of food products;
- Pilot testing of forage production for the improvement of animal diet (e.g. with moringa oleifera);
- Rehabilitation of infrastructures.