News / Middle East

Palestinians in Lebanon Hold Little Hope for Reconstruction

Three years after the war between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam has ended, most of the Nahr el-Bared camp remains in ruins, 05 Nov 2010
Three years after the war between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam has ended, most of the Nahr el-Bared camp remains in ruins, 05 Nov 2010
Heather Murdock

They call the temporary housing "barracks" or "containers."  Some of the two-story blocks of rooms are made of concrete, and they are decorated.  Others are made of tin.

For more than three years, about 10,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have been living in the barracks, after their camp was destroyed in a three-month-long battle between the Lebanese Army and an Islamic militant group known as Fatah al-Islam.

“This house is for animals,” said Ahmed Abueid, as he poked his head into a single metal room that houses six Palestinian refugees on the outskirts of the Nahr el-Bared camp in northern Lebanon.   “Animals cannot live like this.  We want to go to our houses in old camp.  Quickly."

Abueid is one of about 30,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon displaced by the war that left 400 people dead and the camp demolished.  Most of the camp's buildings are still heaps of gray rubble, riddled with bullet holes.

Abueid said he was promised a new home after his building was flattened in 2007, but now has little hope that the camp will be rebuilt.

Families say in the over-crowded temporary housing, their children are often sick.
Families say in the over-crowded temporary housing, their children are often sick.

In the barracks, displaced families say they rely on the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency for small amounts of food and medicine.  In neighboring towns, displaced families receive $150 a month to help pay the rent.

But the United Nations says the families may be cut off in the next few months for lack of funding.  The agency has not been able to raise any of the $18 million needed to sustain these basic services in 2011.

Agency spokesperson Hoda Samra Souaiby said if help does not arrive soon, families will stop receiving aid before the end of the year.

"If the funding does not come,” she said, “more than 3,400 families would be left without rental subsidies, of course, and the whole relief operations will have to stop.  But I do not think we will reach this stage, and I certainly hope that we would not reach this stage."

The reconstruction process has long been marred by delays and lack of funding.  The United Nations says it has only enough money to rebuild about 25 percent of the camp.

Souaiby said there is no way of knowing when more of the camp might be completed, because the agency still needs $209 million for the project.  

"Previous camps that have been destroyed in Lebanon were never rebuilt,” she added.  “This in itself is a challenge.  It is the reconstruction of a whole city, a whole town."

Nancy's mother says her temporary apartment is infested with mice or rats. When she was 2-years-old, Nancy was bitten several times in the face.
Nancy's mother says her temporary apartment is infested with mice or rats. When she was 2-years-old, Nancy was bitten several times in the face.

The apartments in the barracks are cramped, leaky and sometimes infested with mice and bugs.  Teenage girls are sometimes forced to share rooms with their brothers, which is considered shameful by many Palestinians.  They say the food, medicine and small cash subsidies they receive from the United Nations are not nearly enough, and work is scarce.

Those who do find jobs with construction companies rebuilding the camp say the pay is low, and often late.

Mahmoud Getawi is a displaced refugee, working on reconstruction of the camp.  He often has to wait weeks for payments.  When he asked the company why, his supervisors blamed international donors who pledged funds but have not yet delivered it.  Construction is often halted when the companies do not have money.

Getawi said he thinks his new home might be finished when his children, one of which is unborn, are adults.

“Maybe they will be for my children,” he said, laughing.  “Not for me.”

The United Nations estimates as many as 60 percent of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are un-employed or underemployed.  Even though there are several generations of Palestinians living in Lebanon, they are considered foreigners and need special permits to work.  They are banned from working in many professions, like medicine, engineering, and law.  They cannot buy or inherit property.

Wafa Abdulla Abuaudi said three years ago, after the war, international organizations provided enough food for the refugees to survive.

“After one year, they stopped,” she said, huddled in a concrete doorway in one of the barracks.

Now, every three months she gets enough food to feed her family for two weeks and has no hope that she will ever move into a new house in the camp.  The first buildings might get finished, she said, but after that, the money will be gone, and the international community will forget about Nahr el-Bared.

Other women who were born and raised in the Nahr el-Bared camp, and have never been to Palestine, joked about the reconstruction. "We'll get to move back to Palestine,” one woman said, “before we are able to move into those houses.”

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs