Nahr el-Bared Camp

Smiling girlThe destruction of Nahr el-Bared camp in 2007 led to the loss of the houses and properties of the Palestinian community. Over 27,000 Palestine refugees were forced to abandon their houses. The UNRWA compound housing the Agency’s health centre, schools and relief office was also completely destroyed. More than a decade later, much of the community remains uprooted and continues to rely heavily on assistance from UNRWA.

The effects of this displacement have compounded the already severe socioeconomic conditions facing these refugees and constitute a chronic humanitarian crisis. While UNRWA has continued to provide urgent relief assistance to displaced camp residents since 2007, shortfalls in available funding have forced the Agency to review its level of relief provision and to target scarce resources at those most desperately in need.

UNRWA FUNDRAISING PRIORITIES

The total estimated cost of reconstructing Nahr el-Bared camp is US$ 329 million. As of March 2021, 85 per cent of the funding has been secured.

DESTRUCTION AND DISPLACEMENT

The destruction of Nahr el-Bared camp occurred between May and September 2007 as a result of clashes between the militant group Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese Armed Forces. Houses, commercial properties, mosques, NGO and community facilities were almost completely destroyed and all roads, as well as water and sewerage networks, were badly damaged or destroyed.

The UNRWA compound, which housed the Agency’s local health clinic, schools and relief offices, was also left in ruins. Roughly 6,000 Palestine refugee families (27,000 residents) and over 1,600 Lebanese residents living in the camp were forced to leave. More than 9,000 Palestine refugees continue to remain displaced, living in temporary accommodation, much of which is of poor quality, and struggle to cope with their reduced socioeconomic circumstances.

Since the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) entered the camp in September 2007, Lebanese authorities have exercised a level of control in Nahr el-Bared camp unlike in the other refugee camps. Currently, five LAF checkpoints at the entrances to the camp control movements into and out of Nahr el-Bared through a permit and access regime covering the area of both the Old Camp and areas adjacent to the camp. While initially very strict, restrictions on movement in and out of the camp have eased somewhat since 2012. Nevertheless, the economic recovery of the camp has remained limited due in part to continuing access restrictions as well as the deteriorating economic conditions in the region resulting from the Syrian conflict. 

The prolonged displacement from Nahr el-Bared resulted in acute humanitarian needs among the affected population, requirements that are distinct from those of the other camps and the gatherings throughout Lebanon. Emergency humanitarian relief provided to the displaced families, including food assistance, additional health care coverage and rental cash subsidies, was reduced in 2013 and was finally discontinued in September 2015 as a result of funding shortages. As a result, families must rely on regular UNRWA services as well as supports provided by other humanitarian and development actors to cover for the needs of the inhabitants of the camps and those displaced awaiting their return. In particular, the cut in rental subsidies exposed many of the 1,470 families who currently remain displaced to increased financial pressure and the risk of eviction.

RECONSTRUCTION

The reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared camp is the largest project that UNRWA has ever implemented in any of its five fields of operation. The project involves the reconstruction of residential units for 4,939 families,1,213 shops, the UNRWA compound and all camp infrastructure. The physical reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared commenced in November 2009 following the removal of over 500,000 cubic metres of rubble and the successful clearance of over 12,500 unexploded ordinances.

Following the conflict, UNRWA rented five plots of land in areas adjacent to Nahr el-Bared to provide temporary shelters/housing units for the displaced. While displaced families have been progressively relocated within new buildings as the reconstruction project progressed, about 270 displaced families continue to live in cramped and sub-standard conditions in these temporary shelters, which were originally built as a temporary emergency solution intended for a period of three to four years only. In addition, the camp had the additional burden of the arrival of refugees from Syria since 2011, with an estimated 504 Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria (as of April 2021), as well as a few dozen Syrian families residing in Nahr el-Bared camp, which resulted in additional strains on already overstretched infrastructure and resources, as reflected elsewhere in the country.

PROGRESS OF NAHR EL-BARED RECONSTRUCTION

As of April 2021, reconstruction of 72 per cent of Nahr el-Bared camp has been completed, enabling 3,550 families to return. The remaining residents continue to live in temporary accommodations in areas adjacent to Nahr el-Bared camp and in nearby Beddawi camp.

In the UNRWA compound, construction of the health centre and five of the six school complexes, including the Siblin Training Centre (Northern Campus), has been completed. In addition, 958 shops have been reconstructed, enabling traders to rejuvenate the camp’s economy and social fabric. Funding for the reconstruction of the Camp Services Office and the NGO offices (Women’s Programme Centre and Audi Club) is also needed.

As of April 2021, available funding will allow 479 additional families to return to Nahr el-Bared camp by the beginning of 2022, meaning that 82 per cent of the camp’s population will have returned.

REFUGEE CAMPS IN Lebanon

We provide services in 12 Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon. UNRWA does not administer or police the camps, as this is the responsibility of the host authorities.