Western Sahara

Western Sahara

Use High Level of Caution

Western Sahara is a disputed territory located in northern Africa on the Atlantic Ocean. The territory shares borders with Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania. The legal status of the Western Sahara has been a long-disputed issue between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front. Morocco controls the west and the Polisario Front (the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) controls the east. The population of the territory is about 250,000 people.

The area became a Spanish province in 1934 and was known as Spanish Sahara. In the early 1970s, the nomadic group, the Saharawis, began a guerrilla insurgency against colonialism; and in 1973, the Polisario Front set itself up as the representative of the Saharan people. In 1976 Spain withdrew. The Polisario Front proclaimed the Western Sahara’s independence. Morocco and Mauritania also laid claim to the territory.

The guerrilla war ended in 1991. The United Nations made efforts toward a referendum to give the people a chance to choose between independence or integration into Morocco. Due to disagreement on voter eligibility and other issues, the referendum has never taken place.

Morocco has established a heavy security presence in this territory. Some neighbouring countries recognise the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, and others recognise Moroccan sovereignty. At the time of writing, Western Sahara is listed by the United Nations as a Non-Self-Governing Territory. The flag shown is that of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Currency MAD; DZD; MRO: Moroccan dirham; Algerian dinar; Mauritanian ouguiya
Language Arabic
Capital El Aaiún
Recent Alerts None
Latest Alert Not Available

Diseases To Be Aware Of

The diseases listed below are those which occur most often in Western Sahara. Other, less frequently encountered diseases might be displayed within the Travel Alerts section if they have occurred recently.

Hepatitis A

There is a significant risk for hepatitis A virus exposure in Western Sahara through contaminated food or water.

Hepatitis B

There is a significant risk for acquiring hepatitis B in Western Sahara.

Typhoid Fever

Unvaccinated people can become infected through contaminated food and water in Western Sahara, especially when visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas where food and water sources may be contaminated.

Rabies

Rabies occurs in Western Sahara. Travellers involved in outdoor activities (e.g., campers, hikers, bikers, adventure travellers, and cavers) may have direct contact with rabid dogs, bats, and other mammals. Those with occupational risks (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, researchers) and long-term travellers and expatriates are at higher risk.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis occurs in Western Sahara. Travellers to Western Sahara are at risk for tuberculosis if visiting sick friends or family, working in the health care field, or having close prolonged contact with the general population.

Malaria

There is a very low risk of exposure to malaria in this country. Anti-malaria medications are not recommended.

Vaccinations to Consider

The following is a list of recommended vaccinations for travelling to Western Sahara.

Hepatitis A Vaccine

There is a significant risk of exposure to hepatitis A for this country, therefore, the vaccination is recommended.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

There is a significant risk of infection with hepatitis B for this country, therefore, the vaccination is recommended.

Typhoid Fever Vaccine

There is a risk of exposure to typhoid fever in this country through consumption of unsafe food and water. Since exposure to unsafe sources is variable within this country, the vaccination against typhoid fever is generally recommended, especially when visiting smaller cities or rural areas, where food and water sources may be contaminated.

Rabies Vaccine

Vaccination against rabies is recommended for travellers involved in outdoor activities (e.g., campers, hikers, bikers, adventure travellers, and cavers) who may have direct contact with rabid dogs, bats, and other mammals. Those with occupational risks (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, researchers) and long-term travellers and expatriates are at higher risk and should be vaccinated.

Medications to Consider

The following is a list of recommended medications for travelling to Western Sahara.

Anti-malarial Drugs

Anti-malaria medications are not recommended.

Safety and Security in Western Sahara

Emergency Numbers

Western Sahara has no police force or emergency services.

Personal Safety

Be vigilant to personal safety and security when travelling in Western Sahara.

There have been reports of banditry and of people being robbed when giving local people rides. Officials advise against picking up hitchhikers.

The area between the Mauritanian police checkpoint and the Moroccan security wall has been reported to be dangerous. Be particularly vigilant if travelling in this area.

There are thousands of unexploded land mines in Western Sahara. Avoid driving off main roads. Remain in official tourist areas. The area near the Moroccan security wall is surrounded by land mines. If travelling in Western Sahara, get advice from local authorities and hire only official guides.

Extreme Violence

Due to the French military intervention in Mali, there is a threat of retaliatory terrorist attacks against Western interests.

Kidnapping is a risk in remote and border areas.

Political Unrest

Demonstrations occur regularly. Always avoid public demonstrations or protests, since these situations can escalate and turn violent unexpectedly.

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