In particularly vulnerable situations, concrete help to the local population can also get a “creative” twist.
That is the case of one of the latest interventions that CISP has brought to the children of the Sahrawi camps through the project "Right to Education, right to the future for the new Sahrawi generations".
Funded by the Otto per Mille of the Waldensian Church and the association "1514 Oltre il Muro" and implemented by CISP together with a network of partners, the project has brought concrete support to schoolchildren with a double objective: to increase nutrition, often insufficient, of boys and girls and at the same time counteract school drop-outs.
Starting from April 2021 and for an entire school cycle, CISP and its project partners distributed snacks such as eggs, bread, juice (according to availability and differentiation criteria) to pupils of 6 primary and secondary schools of the Wilaya (province) of Dahla, one of the five constituencies of the Sahrawi refugee camps. The Wilaya od Dhala was chosen for its greater concentration of vulnerable families, including many displaced from the Western Sahara after the lastest resumption of the war.
Started with 3,200 children registered in schools, the project ended with an increase in attendance, reaching 3,450 childrenreceiving snacks, a result that signals the effectiveness of the strategy: bringing food to schools can achieve the double objective of feeding those who in need, but also to keep school attendance high.
The project was proposed by a network of Italian associations in solidarity with the Sahrawi people. These associations have been supporting the Sahrawi people with humanitarian actions and in the celebration of the referendum on self-determination that the UN has been proposing to hold since the 1960s. The project is carried out by CISP and the Sahrawi Ministry of Education, in collaboration with the associations: "1514 Beyond the Wall"; “Jaima Saharwi”; "Help for Children"; “Amici del Lago-Legambiente"; "El Ouali".
The Sahrawi population has been displaced for 47 years in three situations created after Spain – which had colonized from 1850 to 1975 – withdrew from Western Sahara, a region that was then immediately occupated by Morocco.
According to the United Nations estimates, over 173,000 people live as refugees in southern Algeria, in the Tindouf Region; about 200,000 live in the territories occupied by Morocco and over 100,000 in the Western Sahara territories under the control of the Polisario Front, the organization for the independence of Western Sahara.
The armed conflict between the Polisario Front and Morocco, which began in 1975, was suspended in 1991, thanks to the mediation of the United Nations, but resumed in 2020, causing a movement of displaced persons, many of whom reunited with Sahrawis residing in refugee camps in Algeria.
In refugee camps, access to primary school is compulsory for everyone without distinction and it is an opportunity to acquire, together with other skills, group cohesion, the strengthening of one's identity, defense from extremism and from ambiguous opportunities, recognizing oneself in the values of respect, equality and democracy.
The difficulties of a precarious and isolated context completely dependent on external aid do not allow optimal conditions to encourage school attendance: the distance of schools from home, as well as insufficient nutrition are among the reasons for the progressive risk of school dropout.
CISP’s commitment in the Sahrawi camps
CISP has been following the Western Sahara issue since 1984 by intervening in the Sahrawi refugee camps and in the territories under the control of the Polisario Front with humanitarian aid to guarantee basic rights to the population: food, education, health. At the same time, it supports the implementation of the self-determination referendum proposed by the UN through information and advocacy actions.