Rafah camp

Rafah refugee camp, established in 1949, is located in the south of Gaza, near the Egyptian border. In the year after Rafah camp was created, thousands of refugees moved from the camp to a nearby housing project at Tel El-Sultan, making the camp almost indistinguishable from the adjacent city.

Originally home to 41,000 refugees who had fled from the hostilities of the 1948 war, Rafah is now home to more than 120,526 refugees. High population density is a major problem, with people living in crowded shelters along extremely narrow streets.

Rafah camp. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan
Rafah camp. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

The blockade on Gaza has made life more difficult for many refugees in the camp. Unemployment levels remain very high, leaving a staggering proportion of the population dependent on UNRWA food and cash assistance. 

Export of carnations was a key element of the Rafah economy before the blockade. However, since the start of the blockade in June 2007, only a small number of truckloads of carnations have been permitted to be exported from Gaza.

School buildings

With a school population that increases by an average of 10,000 children per year and a ban on legal building materials for schools, UNRWA had to find an urgent solution to accommodate students. One solution was to have some classes held in the school yard.

In Rafah, a school was built from shipping containers. Each of 15 classrooms is made from two containers welded together, with a door and windows cut out. For the school’s 453 students, the hot months are extremely hot and the rainy months are very cold due to a lack of ventilation and insulation in the steel containers.

Major challenges

90 per cent of the water available to camp residents is unfit for human consumption, which is having an adverse effect on health and hygiene. Overcrowdedness and high unemployment levels are also among the major challenges facing camp residents


We provide services in 8 Palestine refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. UNRWA does not administer or police the camps, as this is the responsibility of the host authorities.

Quick Facts

Refugees in camps

More than 120,526 registered refugees live in Rafah camp

Official camps

It was established near the Egyptian border in 1949

Unrwa In Rafah camp


UNRWA operates 15 school buildings, with some running on double shifts to accommodate 21 schools

Health Centre

UNRWA runs two health centres in Rafah refugee camp and three others in the surrounding areas to provide primary health care to refugees living in and around the camp

UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
Join the #DignityIsPriceless campaign to stand up #ForPalestineRefugees