Refugees in Algeria

Rachel Chimits

God has not forgotten a people living in one of the planet’s harshest environments, largely ignored by the rest of the world.

When refugees come up in conversation, many listeners may think only about the crisis in Syria and the many people who have fled the war-torn Middle East.

However, many other camps of refugees exist around the world, several having now held people for a generation or more. Such is the case in Algeria where tens of thousands of refugees have lived in camps since 1975.

The largest group fled from Morocco during the Western Sahara War between Moroccan forces and the Sahrawi Polisario Front. These evacuees ended up in rural Algeria. Most of them have never left, and their children and grandchildren have never seen life outside of the camps.

They are known as the “forgotten refugees.”

The Blessing of the Moringa

The hammada is a vast, flat plain in the Sahara Desert. Historically known as "The Devil's Garden" with temperatures soaring over 120°F and frequent sand storms, it was chosen for the refugees’ camp since few others lived in such an inhospitable landscape.

Water is a constant issue for camp residents. Access to clean water is always limited, and in some cases, there simply isn’t enough for everyone. In addition, the soil is very poor, and next to no vegetation grows in the area.

World Challenge partners wanted to reach out to these people who are confined and constantly on the brink of deprivation and bare-bones survival.

In the Tindouf Camps, they’ve started schools where children can gain an education, and they’ve also worked together with locals to figure out how to plant community gardens. In addition to seeds, the team has brought in and distributed moringa trees to more than 800 families.

Fast growing and drought-resistant, the moringa could prove to be a game-changer for the refugees. Its seed pods are very nutritious with high levels of C and B vitamins and can be used to combat malnutrition. Their unique properties also allow them to be used for water purification.

Recently, the team also hosted a business team along with the dean from a respected university to assist in a business training program for interested refugees.

If these people will not be allowed to leave, then World Challenge’s partners want to give them a chance to find new life in this land. Their work often brings up the question, “Why are you helping us?”

This evident compassion opens the door to share God’s good news. 

An Unexpected Return

The ministry extends to anyone who has an open heart, though.

One team member became friends with a refugee guard. He was able to invite this man to tea and opened up with conversation about the most important thing in the world, life in Jesus. 

After a few visits, the guard asked for a Bible, but shortly after that, he lost his job. The team had no idea what had happened to him, and none of the other guards would give them any details.

Three years passed, and life moved on. One day, the team member was walking to the school. He arrived at the building, was shocked to find it empty, then remembered that classes weren’t meeting that day.

Groaning, he prepared for the trek back through the camp. Then there was a scratch at the door, and he found a strange man outside. After a second, he realized it wasn’t a stranger but rather the old guard.

They sat down to catch up on everything that had happened over the past three years. With a smile, the guard told him, “I have been reading the Bible, and now I am a true believer in Jesus.”