Ein El Hilweh was established near the city of Sidon in 1948 by the International Committee of the Red Cross to accommodate refugees from Amqa, Saffourieh, Shaab, Taitaba, Manshieh, al-Simireh, al-Nahr, al-Sofsaf, Hitten, Ras al-Ahmar, al-Tiereh and Tarshiha in northern Palestine.
UNRWA began operations in the camp in 1952, gradually replacing the tents with concrete shelters.
Many refugees at other camps within Lebanon, particularly those near Tripoli, were displaced to Ein el-Hillweh during the civil war. The camp became the biggest camp in Lebanon, in terms of both population and area size. It was especially hard hit by violence between 1982 and 1991, which resulted in a high number of casualties and the near total destruction of the camp.
Ein El Hilweh's inhabitants mainly work as casual labourers in construction sites, orchards and embroidery workshops, or as cleaners. There is quite a high drop-out rate in schools as students are often forced to leave school in order to support their families.
Shelters in the camp are small and very close to each other. Some still have metal sheet roofing. UNRWA constructed a multi-storey housing complex in 1993-1994 to accommodate some displaced families, mainly from the Nabatiyeh camp, destroyed by Israel in 1974.
A number of displaced refugees continue to live on the edge of the camp in extremely poor conditions.