In 2007, a three-month conflict between the radical militant group, Fatah Al-Islam, and the Lebanese Armed Forces destroyed the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp (NBC) in northern Lebanon. Areas surrounding the camp also sustained severe damage. It was the single largest act of destruction in Lebanon since the end of the civil war in 1990.
The neighbouring UNRWA compound – which housed the Agency’s schools, health clinics and relief offices – lay in ruins, as did homes, commercial properties, mosques, and NGO and community facilities. All roads and water and sewage networks were also badly damaged or destroyed.
At least 27,000 refugees were forced to flee and abandon their homes, many seeking refuge in nearby Beddawi camp, the city of Tripoli and the surrounding areas.
In the aftermath of the conflict, services were developed to meet the needs of families facing a long period of displacement. Over time, UNRWA’s initial emergency response has transformed into a sustained and coherent relief programme.
The long-term recovery of Nahr el-Bared camp and its residents is by no means assured, and UNRWA’s support to those displaced continues to be vital. UNRWA’s emergency assistance objectives for displaced NBC families are to:
provide adequate shelter for displaced families until their homes are reconstructed
enhance the food security of displaced refugee families
improve the access to education of young displaced Palestinians from the camp
ensure access to health services and medication for all Palestine refugees from NBC.
As well as its relief and recovery programme, UNRWA is simultaneously managing the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared camp. After a number of setbacks, reconstruction finally got underway in 2010. In April 2011, the first families received the keys to their reconstructed homes. Since that time, over 300 families have been able to return to their newly built homes in the camp.
The community has been fully involved in the planning process, which represents an impressive model of civic participation. Each family was able to work with the architects to design their new homes according to their specific needs, including those with disabilities.
To date, the Agency has received only 44 per cent of the US$ 345 million needed to fully reconstruct the camp, including the UNRWA compound. An additional US$ 183 million is needed for reconstruction activities. UNRWA will continue to provide relief and recovery assistance to displaced NBC residents until the camp has been fully reconstructed.