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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid