During three months in 2007, virtually all of the residents of the Palestinian Refugee Camp of Nahr al-Bared in Northern Lebanon fled when the Lebanese Army laid siege to the camp to root out extremist militants thought to be residing there. Approximately 30,000 refugees, (nearly half of them children according to UNICEF), sought shelter in the nearby refugee camp of Beddawi; assuming the siege would last a few days to a couple weeks, they took very little with them into Beddawi. Three months later the homes and businesses of Nahr al-Bared were largely destroyed, leaving thousands of Palestinian refugee families homeless, jobless and in severe poverty while straining the existing meager resources available to the refugees in Beddawi. Both camps today are still struggling to recover from this devastation. As with all man-made or natural devastation such as this, women and their children suffer the most.
According to a 2009 UNRWA, (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), report, “Palestine refugees in Lebanon have a low social status and are poorly represented in public decision making. The majority continue to exist on the margins of the Lebanese economy and society and their socio-economic situation has been characterized by long-term high unemployment, illiteracy, poor housing, poor levels of nutrition and consequently, poor health.”
Since 2008, Mercy-USA for Aid and Development has supported vocational training for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The project, which focuses on orphans and other vulnerable youth and young adults, is being carried out in partnership with the Women’s Program/ Community Development Centers in the Beddawi and Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian Refugee Camps near Tripoli.
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