• Crisis Severity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Impact ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Humanitarian Conditions ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Complexity ?
    0 Very low
    Very high 5
  • Access Constraints ?
    No constraints
    Extreme constraints

Key figures

  • 0 People displaced [?]



Over 173,600 Sahrawi refugees are estimated to live in five camps (Awserd, Boujdour, Dakhla, Laayoune, and Smara) in Tindouf province, Algeria, on the border between Mauritania, Morocco, and Western Sahara. The exact number of refugees in the camps is not known, mainly because of political disputes between Morocco and the Sahrawi authorities on the number of eligible voters for the independence referendum. The figure 173,600 is not used anymore; the number of 90,000 refugees is used as a planning figure to be considered for humanitarian assistance in 2022. ? The refugees in Tindouf were either born in the camps or have been displaced for over 45 years after fleeing the conflict between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario), Mauritania, and Morocco in 1975. ? 

Refugees face harsh desert conditions and rely almost fully on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. Air temperature exceeds 40 degrees Celsius in summer, reaching highs of 50 degrees and lows of 10 degrees in winter. These weather conditions result in poor agricultural production, the death of livestock, and increased needs for water and shelter. The Sahrawi refugee camps are vulnerable to flash floods and sandstorms. A severe sandstorm in September 2020 resulted in serious shelter damage and high needs for shelter rehabilitation. ?

Latest developments


No recent significant humanitarian developments. The crisis is being monitored by our analysis team.

Key Priorities


Food insecurity: 30% of Sahrawi refugees are food-insecure, and 58% are at risk of food insecurity. According to the last food security assessment in 2018, 94% of the refugees depended on humanitarian food assistance. ? 

Access to water is a main challenge for Sahrawi refugees, who rely mostly on water trucking provided by humanitarian responders. ? 

Education quality is decreasing because of the low incentives and high turnover of teachers, the shortage of educational resources, and very limited opportunities available for refugee students after graduation. ? 

Health: 50% of Sahrawi children and women suffer from anaemia. The camps need COVID-19 vaccination and awareness-raising. The high turnover of qualified staff caused by low incentives and limited growth opportunities is a challenge to health response. ? 

Protection: feelings of stagnation, desperation, loss of sense of time, and hopelessness have been reported, particularly among the Sahrawi youth, leading to a high risk of radicalisation because of conflict, limited opportunities, and an unknown future. ? 

Newly displaced: according to camp authorities, some of the 4,700 Sahrawi refugees displaced from the conflict areas (with Morocco) to Tindouf camps in November–December 2020 still require humanitarian assistance such as shelter, food, and livelihoods. ?

Information Gaps and Needs

  • There is insufficient information on the humanitarian situation in the refugee camps in Tindouf, as well as on the exact number of people affected and in need. Multisectoral needs assessments to inform humanitarian actors on how to respond are lacking.

  • The exact number of Sahrawi refugees in Tindouf is not available, and the available numbers are not disaggregated by age and gender.
  • There is limited information on the vaccination campaign in the camps.
  • The number of students in the camps is not available.
  • Information on mental health services in the camps is not available.
  • Out-of-camp population numbers are not available.

COVID-19 Outbreak


As at 28 November 2021, about 1,800 COVID-19 cases have been recorded in total in the camps, including 74 deaths, 1,696 recoveries, and 28 active cases. COVID-19 variants, insubordination to preventive measures, the lack of PCR tests, and the scarcity of protective equipment will likely aggravate the situation in the next four to six months. ? 

Although the pandemic has resulted in movement restrictions and the evacuation of expatriate staff, basic humanitarian assistance has continued. Movement restrictions, aggravated by conflict-related tensions near the wall (in Western Sahara territory), have affected the crossing areas and trade, limiting the availability of some goods in the camps. ? The measures have also affected humanitarian operations, which continued with only the implementation of lifesaving activities, minimum visits to the camps, and limited interactions with refugees.? 

Despite the availability of some vaccines, hesitance among the population has kept vaccination numbers very low. As at 10 October 2021, 2.5% of the camps’ population has received the first dose, and only 0.56% has received both doses. Sahrawi health authorities and humanitarian actors have conducted vaccination and awareness-raising activities in the camps, but more awareness-raising is likely needed. ?