Picking up the pieces in Nahr el-Bared

01 March 2011
Picking up the pieces in Nahr el-Bared


This is the second part of a two-part photo-essay depicting the life of Palestine refugees in Lebanon’s refugee camps. The photographs in this essay are all from the temporary shelters in the areas adjacent to Nahr el-Bared camp and were taken in late September 2010.

Fierce fighting broke out in Nahr el-Bared on 20 May 2007 between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Fatah al Islam group inside the camp. Three months of siege and massive aerial and artillery bombardment left the camp in ruins. Schools, health clinics and relief services offices in the UNRWA compound were also destroyed. All 27,000 refugees fled the camp, mostly to the adjacent areas and neighbouring Beddawi camp. The majority of them left with few or no belongings, thinking they would come back after a few days. Overnight, they lost everything – their homes, personal and household belongings, commercial property and assets, and jobs. A close-knit and once-relatively thriving community was suddenly thrown into impoverishment and protracted displacement – many for the second time in their lives.

Humanitarian emergency

While the fighting was still raging, a large-scale humanitarian emergency operation was organised to support the thousands of refugees fleeing the camp. UNRWA was the lead agency for the operations with coordinated support from the UN Resident Coordinator, the UN Country Team, the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, as well as local NGOs.

Once the extent of the damage became apparent, UNRWA signed a memorandum of understanding with the refugee-based Nahr el-Bared Reconstruction Commission for Civil Action and Studies (NBRC) to jointly agree on the design work for the reconstruction of the camp. It was agreed that this reconstruction would be carried out in eight packages, due to funding constraints. This impressive model in civic participation resulted in the approval of a final master plan approved by the government of Lebanon in May 2009. Reconstruction itself began in June 2009.

Temporary shelter

In the meantime, the Agency secured five plots in the areas adjacent the formal boundaries of the camp to build temporary shelters for displaced refugees. The major donors for the accommodations and schools include the governments of Japan and Germany, the European Union, the humanitarian aid department of the European Commission (ECHO), and the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent. In total there are around 1,080 shelter units housing nearly 680 families.

Over 7,700 displaced refugees (as of July 2010) are still living in Beddawi camp and its surrounding areas.

UNRWA continues to provide adequate (temporary) shelter for some 25,000 displaced Palestinians until their homes are reconstructed, including providing education for 611 students.


In 2011, UNRWA seeks an estimated to be US$ 18.51 million to continue to deliver core relief and recovery activities in the areas of shelter, food security, water and sanitation, health and education. Alongside these relief efforts, UNRWA has also undertaken extensive economic recovery initiatives through business reactivation grants, capacity development, employment service centres, vocational training and apprenticeships.

As of October 2010, out of the eight construction packages in Nahr el-Bared, the Agency has started the reconstruction of packages 1 and 2, and three schools in the UNRWA compound. The major constraint to the reconstruction of the camp is the lack of funding. Out of a total of US$ 328 million required to rebuild the camp, to date only 36 per cent has been secured. There is an urgent need for US$ 10 million to start work on Package 3 and US$ 34.1 million for Package 4. To date, the major donors for the reconstruction include the USA, the Saudi Fund for Development, the European Union and the OPEC Fund for International Development.

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