Young refugees in Lebanon overcome barriers

16 March 2012

To prepare for the Engaging Youth conference and to provide context for discussions, we have gathered stories from our fields of operation about the work we do to engage young Palestine refugees throughout the region.

Engaging youth in Lebanon

16 March 2012
Beirut, Lebanon

Dawn breaks in Saida city in the south of Lebanon. Abdullah rises from his bed hastily and gets ready for another day at work. He gives his son of six years a kiss, then heads to the city square where he catches a bus to Beirut.

Abdullah Abu Na’aaj, 35, still remembers the day he was hired at the American University Medical Centre in Beirut 15 years ago. He felt that his life had begun anew.

Education critical for refugee youth

As a Palestine refugee who grew up in Lebanon, he always faced significant barriers to getting both an education and a job. Yet UNRWA’s programmes for refugee youth gave him a chance to achieve more.

His academic success at an UNRWA school secured him a scholarship to attend the American University of Beirut. Graduating with high marks from the nursing programme, he was quickly offered a job at the university’s hospital.

“I moved from the nursing ward to the liver transplant ward, where I have now been working since 2009,” he explains. His progress within the hospital led him to even more opportunities, becoming a member of a health charity and travelling overseas for training in hospitals abroad.

Challenges for Palestine refugees in Lebanon

Although Abdullah has managed to overcome many hurdles, many remain. Like many Palestine refugees of his age, he was born and raised in Lebanon, but has no access to social security because of his refugee status.

“Despite all that I achieved,” he says, “I also can’t be a member of the nurses’ association, because I’m Palestinian.”

Yet he remains steadfast in his commitment to public health, and is still optimistic that he can accomplish more. “My main goal is to contribute in whatever way to improving public health within the Palestinian community,” Abdullah says. “It’s my community.”

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
Help send a Palestine refugee child to school