- Title: LEBANON: Two years on, Nahr al-Bared suffering persists
- Date: 30th June 2009
- Summary: BOY WALKING ON ROAD PEOPLE CROSSING THE STREET VARIOUS OF TAXI DRIVER SITTING IN CAR
- Embargoed: 15th July 2009 13:00
- Location: Lebanon
- Country: Lebanon
- Topics: Health
- Reuters ID: LVA3CHQVNLCXB078P7QJHWKTJKYI
- Story Text: Time moves slowly in the Lebanese refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. Exactly two years ago to this day, fierce fighting was raging between the Lebanese army and Islamist militants holed up inside the camp.
Once the Lebanese army had restored control of the camp, hundreds of people were dead and much of the camp was left in ruins.
A taxi driver sits in his car, awaiting passengers that do not show up. Children play in the streets amid piles of rubble of what used to be their homes since schools have remained closed. Shop owners wait by the door for clients to flow in, but business is slow.
The refugee camp in northern Lebanon was the centre of fighting between the Lebanese army and Islamist militants for five months in 2007. By the time the fighting ended, the camp had been almost completely destroyed and as a result thousands were made homeless.
The incessant drilling noise of reconstruction that pierces through the air for most of the day is a constant reminder of the severe destruction inflected on the residents. However many complain that efforts to rehabilitate the battered camp has been too little and too slow.
One of the residents said the financial condition of locals was so bad that students were dropping out of schools after failing to pay their tuition fees. A 500 Dollar donation made recently by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to students was apparently not enough to cover their monthly university expenses, he added.
10,000 residents have returned to the camp after rebuilding works began in March, but they say the hardships persist.
"Honestly, the situation is miserable. Unfortunately, since the war ended two years ago the situation is tragic and living conditions are very difficult," said resident Bashar Nassar.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in charge of reconstruction works, says it is doing its best to speed up the process but the agency also says it needs an overall addition of 250 million dollars to fund all eight phases of reconstruction it had planned. So far, there is only enough money available for phase one, two and half of three. Until the money is secured, the residents of Nahr al-Bared will have to bear the difficulties.
An international donors conference in September 2007, shortly after the fighting ended, raised some 20 million dollars, for the reconstruction. The Lebanese government estimated at the time that more than 380 million euros were needed.
In late 2008, the European Commission offered to pay eight million euros for the camp reconstruction at the donor conference in Vienna, Austria.
The Nahr al-Bared camp was home to some 40,000 people before fighting erupted. The 15-week battle, the worst internal violence since the civil war, killed more than 420 people, including 168 soldiers.
During a tour on Monday (June 29) at the camp, an UNRWA official emphasised the importance of reconstruction efforts.
"It is important that this (reconstruction process) begins because the people have been suffering for too long. It has been two years since Nahr al-Bared has been destroyed and the people are still living in displacement in hardship conditions. We have just had a meeting with the committees representing the refugees and they have expressed to us a lot of frustrations and problems. And we are trying to address them one by one. It's a difficult situations but the beginning of the reconstruction means that we can see now the light at the end of the tunnel," said UNRWA Deputy Commissioner General Filippo Grandi.
"We all understand the suffering of the residents of Nahr al-Bared who were victims of a vicious adventure that destroyed their dreams and civil peace and these ruins present the evidence," added Abbas Zaki, the representative of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in Lebanon.
Lebanon is host to some 400,000 Palestinian refugees, descendants of those Palestinians driven from their home in 1948 when Israel was created. Half of them living in 12 poor and overcrowded camps across the country.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2011. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: Footage contains identifiable children: users must ensure that they comply with local laws and regulations governing the publishing of this material.