Lebanon 2010

Refugees International Japan visits refugee communities around the world on a regular basis so that we can see at first hand the kind of impact your donations have. We are used to hearing bad news from countries affected by war. However, the people we meet, who are doing their best for their families and their communities, always impress our teams. Their resilience is amazing. The programs we fund help them to rebuild their lives and prepare for the return home.

Palestinian Refugees
Refugees fled from Palestine in two waves. The first was in 1948 at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel and the second in 1967 when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many of them took refuge in Lebanon, where they and their descendants remain today. Refugee Situation There are currently over 400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, the majority of which have never seen their homeland and have limited access to basic civil and social rights. Considered foreigners, Palestinian refugees are denied access to public health care, public schools, and social security. Stringent legal restrictions interfere with their ability to gain employment and thus to support themselves and their families. The right to citizenship is denied even to those who marry a Lebanese citizen. Palestinians are also prohibited from owning or transferring properties, or reconstructing houses. Consequently, most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in camps run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) or in unofficial gatherings, and are dependent on the basic services offered by the UNRWA and local and international NGOs. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have the worse socio-economic situation in UNRWA’s five areas of operation (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza, and West Bank), with an estimated 60% living below the official poverty line. Refugees living in gatherings rather than UNRWA camps are further deprived of direct UNRWA services such as education, and water and sanitation. This has resulted in poor living conditions, increased health problems, and depression.

Projects in Lebanon

Popular Aid for Relief and Development
PARD seeks to improve the health and environmental conditions of marginalized and vulnerable groups in the Palestinian camps and gatherings in Lebanon.
RIJ has funded two projects operated by PARD. In 2006, RIJ provided funds to rehabilitate the water supply in 4 villages near the southern border following a bombing incursion that destroyed infrastructure and homes.

In 2007, RIJ funded the provision of water heaters to needy families in the Nahr el Bared Camp in the north after the camp was torn apart by fighting between Fatah al-Islam and Lebanese soldiers.

Women’s Humanitarian Organisation
WHO aims to improve the quality of life and economic status of women and children living in Palestinian refugee camps by implementing education classes, vocational and skills training, income generating opportunities, and social services.
With the funding support of RIJ in 2008, Children’s Mobile Activity Centre was implemented by WHO to address the psycho-social and developmental needs of 19,000 children exposed to the trauma of war and life in Nahr Al Bared Camp.

Children’s Mobile Activity Centre provided a safe and healthy community environment in which children can heal through painting, acting, singing, and dancing. It also used puppetry, clown shows, and printed material to increase the awareness of children about their rights, tolerance, peace, conflict resolution, participation, and helping and accepting others.

Inside the camps and gatherings:
While human rights, such as the right to work, is an urgent issue for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, it became evident during our visit that the problems facing the communities within the camps and gatherings are much more complicated.
During our visit, we met with Olfat Mahmoud from WHO and discussed the problems of the camps. Depression is a major issue. Unemployment is high, which leads to feelings of failure among men as the traditional bread-winners of the family. Older and middle-aged women, a traditionally respected group with an important role in Palestinian communities, also find themselves sidelined.

We also spoke with a youth group in the PARD centre in Shabriha, a gathering south of Lebanon. There were six participants, all of which finished school after 7th grade because they could not afford to continue their formal education at a better school. While there is a sense of unity and solidarity in the gatherings, the lack of opportunities often leave young people feeling frustrated and unmotivated.

The prevalence of depression and frustration sets off a cycle of violence, in which children are neglected and, more disturbingly, become targets for brain-washing. This emphasizes the importance of RIJ funding of psycho-social programs. Creating space for play is also important for the mental development of children. Other than the initiatives of WHO, we also met with Salvatore Lombardo, director of UNWRA affairs in Lebanon, who told us about pilot schemes with Right to Play to encourage sports and recreation. This may be a project for RIJ to consider.