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Western Sahara

Western Sahara

Summary

A disputed territory, Western Sahara is largely covered in desert and has a small population of about 500,000 of native Sahrawi people and immigrants from Morocco 1. 80% of Western Saharan territory, largely on the eastern side of the country, has been occupied by Morocco since the Spanish withdrawal in 1976 (1). The rest of the land, mostly uninhabited desert, is sparsely populated. The de facto government of Western Sahara is based in Algeria, which is the location of over 150,000 Sahrawi refugees 2. Because of the political turmoil, lack of infrastructure, and nomadic culture, reliable statistics and censuses about Western Sahara specifically are nonexistent 1.

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Environment
Family
Human Rights
Education
Poverty
Religion
Clean Water
Economy
Government
Health
Children
Animals

Environment

Slash and burn farming has depleted much of the already sparse plant life in Western Sahara. There are no waste facilities in the country, so waste is poured into rivers or onto the land surrounding communities.1 Both of these factors have caused harm to the environment and ecosystems.

Family

Most of the population lives in urban areas, with 40% of the entire population living in the administrative capital of Laayoune.1 Families are large, with an average of four children being born to every woman.1 Women play an important role in society and in pro-independence groups; this is typically attributed to the liberal interpretation of Islam in Western Sahara.2

Human Rights

The Sahrawi people are subject to discrimination by the Moroccan government in both occupied and free parts of Western Sahara.1 Moroccan law prohibits reporters from criticizing the occupation of Western Sahara, and even with this law there is a lack of internet and satellite access to distribute any type of reporting.2 Sahrawis are also not allowed to form any type of non-governmental organization or host protests, and there are reports of protesters and other prisoners being subject to torture and unfair trials.3

Education

There is no data on education specifically in Western Sahara. However, occupied areas are under the Moroccan school system.1

Poverty

There is no data on poverty in Western Sahara because the de facto government does not perform censuses and Morocco does not include the occupied territories in their own.1

Religion

Nearly all of the people of Western Sahara practice Sunni Islam.1

Clean Water

Because of a lack of infrastructure, waste is thrown into rivers and makes drinking water contaminated.1

Economy

Western Sahara has a small economy based on fishing, phosphate farming, and nomadic activities. With an arid landscape, agricultural activities are essentially nonexistent, forcing the country to import most of their food.1 Although there are likely significant natural resources to be mined, these are often exploited by foreign companies. There is no credible free market inside Western Sahara.2

Government

80% of Western Sahara is controlled by the Moroccans, and there is a massive sand wall manned by Moroccan troops and surrounded by land mines to divide the country.1 Although occupied, the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) has declared the independent state of Western Sahara and demanded the Moroccans withdraw.2 However, the SADR are a government in exile, attempting to operate from neighboring Algeria, and have no power to control the land.3 Citizens of the Moroccan controlled side of Western Sahara are permitted to participate in Moroccan elections, but on the other side of the border sand wall there is essentially no functioning governing body.3 The U.N. has not recognized either the Moroccan government or SADR as having sovereignty over the land, but the Read More African Union has declared support for SADR, which is at odds with many western nations who endorse Morocco.3 Show Less

Health

The life expectancy is 63 years.1

Children

There are no statistics available.

Animals

Animal populations like foxes and antelope are being depleted because of poor hunting laws and insufficient regulation.1

Western Sahara

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