By Noor Nazzal, Staff Reporter, Gulf News
The living conditions of Palestinian refugees are being showcased by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in an exhibition at the American University of Sharjah (AUS).
The exhibition, which holds a mirror to the difficult conditions and the development of refugee camps through photos, documents and personal accounts by refugees from six camps in Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria, will run until 14 November.
“The exhibition represents a sample of work that UNRWA has done in the development of the 58 camps that are home to 1.5 million refugees out of the five million refugees living in UNRWA’s field of operation,” Issam Miqdadi, Director of Infrastructure and Camp Improvement, at UNRWA said.
The exhibition is being held under the patronage of His Highness Dr. Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, a generous supporter of UNRWA who has recently contributed to an important Palestinian refugee records project.
The exhibition, titled “Space, Time, Dignity, Rights: Improving Palestinian Refugee Camps,” was inaugurated by Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, and attended by Margot Ellis, Deputy Commissioner-General of UNRWA.
During the event Miqdadi spoke about the conditions of refugee camps, adding that although there has been a great improvement, the overall situation remains poor.
“Since the establishment of UNRWA, in 1950 we saw the camps developing from tents to complex cities. However, until this day and time, conditions are very poor, as these camps are overpopulated and there is no living space. During emergency situations, even an ambulance cannot enter inside the camp and the person must be carried outside to get help.”
Sewerage, drainage and water are also poor in these camps, Miqdadi said, although 80 per cent are connected to water supply. “But it does not mean that they have running water," he added.
Last semester, 18 students from the AUS College of Architecture, Art and Design visited the refugee camps in Jordan as part of a course where they interviewed refugees to learn about their problems and housing issues.
One of the students who attended the trip, Noor Al Shawa, a senior studying interior design, at AUS said: “As a Palestinian who got to move away to pursue my education I feel responsible to use my major to help in the betterment of these camps.”
Iraqi-Syrian Noor Jarab, an architecture student who also attended the trip, said that the experience made her more thankful.