News / Middle East

In Lebanon, Refugees Turn to Refugees for Help

Ain Helweh Palestinian refugee camp near the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon, March 23, 2009
Ain Helweh Palestinian refugee camp near the southern Lebanese port city of Sidon, March 23, 2009
Ain Helweh is the largest of a dozen camps in Lebanon for Palestinian refugees who fled the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and has been a cramped home for 80,000 Palestinians the past half-a-century. But now Palestinian Syrians are arriving and the camp is struggling to respond. 

The direct translation of Ain Helweh is “sweet water spring,” but there is nothing sweet about the camp outside the town of Sidon that has housed refugees from northern Palestine since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Overcrowded and oppressive, the camp’s poorly built dwellings and confined streets have been grossly insufficient for the population for decades.

Now more refugees are squeezing in - Palestinians fleeing the conflict in neighboring Syria.

The longer-term residents are sharing what limited space they have in their homes with some of the newcomers. Other arrivals are camping on small patches of wasteland in shelters constructed of cardboard boxes and plastic sheeting.

Munir al-Maqdah, commander for the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Fatah faction in the camp, was born in Ain Helweh when the original refugees were all still sheltered in tents.

This new wave of Palestinians brought back sad memories, he said, as he toured a squalid makeshift campsite arranging cash for food.

“We have 80,000 people living in one kilometer square. Twenty-seven thousand Syrian refugees came to the camp. Those are our families. We are going to split the piece of bread in half with them. The sewage system can’t hold anymore. Even the water supplies can’t handle any more. We have to split our water and our food with them,” he said.

The Fatah camp leader remained angry at the little assistance coming from the Lebanese government and international aid organizations.

“People need some money in order to buy their stuff. The most important thing is a place to live and to have continuous money for those families. It is just shameful for all the international community that people are still living in tents,” he said.

Abu Ahmad Fadel Taha, the political representative for Hamas, the PLO’s rival, agreed. “The U.N. sometimes gives them small amounts of money. They are hungry, they are really hungry,” he said.

After a visit to the camp last month, U.N. agency officials appealed for $65 million to cover the needs of Palestinian refugees from Syria from January to December 2013. Of that sum, the agency has received over $25 million, and has confirmed pledges of an additional $3 million.

Ain Helweh is not only the biggest of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. It is also considered the most dangerous. There are 17 armed factions - including hard-line jihadist-aligned groups - represented in the camp and tensions are running high. Recently, a jihadist shot a Fatah bodyguard in the camp.

And some Palestinian gunmen from the camp joined in fighting in Sidon last month between radical Lebanese Sunnis and the Lebanese army. 

Palestinian leaders meet regularly and have reached an agreement about trying to contain the tensions.

“Now we have an agreement. There is an agreement, at least there's an agreement. But sometimes some things get out of line and can’t be controlled,” said Abu Ahmad Fadel Taha.

Palestinian leaders believe they can keep the peace but they admit they are worried.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Role in Fighting IS Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Enter Public Office in Record Numbers

A steady deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid