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Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon: Facts and figures

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(CNN) -- Smoke billowed Monday from a Palestinian refugee camp as Lebanese forces battled Islamic militants linked to al Qaeda for a second day near the northern city of Tripoli.

Here are some facts on the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA):

The camp is situated 16 km north of Tripoli near the coastal road. The camp was established by the League of Red Cross Societies in 1949 to accommodate Palestinian refugees from the Lake Huleh area. The UNRWA started providing services for the refugees in 1950.

Factional violence in the early 1980s inflicted a heavy toll on this camp.

The camp is overcrowded and infrastructure is poor. Although all shelters have indoor water mains, these are linked to an inadequate water supply pumped from the ground source. All shelters are connected to a sewerage system that discharges untreated sewage into the sea.

The UNRWA, with support from the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), rehabilitated 28 shelters in 2003.

Nahr al-Bared in figures

  • There are 31,023 registered refugees
  • 1,598 families of 8,627 persons are registered as special hardship cases
  • One agency health center with an average of 494 patients per day
  • Ten UNRWA elementary/preparatory schools for 5,686 enrolled pupils in 2003/2004
  • One youth center
  • One kindergarten teaching French for 22 enrolled pupils in 2003/2004
  • Two community run rehabilitation centers provide facilities for 64 refugees with disabilities.
  • Of the original 16 official camps in Lebanon, three were destroyed during the years of conflict and were never rebuilt or replaced: Nabatieh camp in south Lebanon, and Dikwaneh and Jisr el-Basha camps in the Beirut area.

    Most of the displaced refugees in Lebanon, about 6,000 families, are originally from these three camps. A fourth camp, Gouraud in Baalbeck, was evacuated many years ago and its inhabitants were transferred to Rashidieh camp in the Tyre area.

    Today, all 12 official refugee camps in the region known as the Lebanon Field suffer from serious problems: No proper infrastructure, overcrowding, poverty and unemployment. The Lebanon Field has the highest percentage of Palestinian refugees who are living in abject poverty and who are registered with the agency's "special hardship" program.

    The number of Palestinian refugees registered with the UNRWA in Lebanon is currently 394,532, or about 10 percent of the population of Lebanon, a small densely populated country.

    Palestinian refugees in Lebanon face specific problems. They have no social and civil rights, and limited access to the government's public health or educational facilities and no access to public social services.

    Most rely entirely on the UNRWA as the sole provider of education, health and relief and social services. Considered as foreigners, Palestinian refugees are prohibited by law from working in more than 70 trades and professions. This has led to a high rate of unemployment among the refugee population.

    Popular committees in the camps representing the refugees regularly discuss these problems with the Lebanese government or with UNRWA officials, and they call for better living conditions for the refugees.

    All the camps in figures

  • 394,532 total registered refugees
  • Registered camp population: 223,956
  • 12 official camps
  • 81 elementary and preparatory schools
  • 5 secondary schools
  • 41,583 enrolled pupils (2003/2004)
  • 25 primary health care facilities
  • 46,235 refugees registered as special hardship cases
  • 2,629 UNRWA Field Office Area staff posts


    Palestinian children cycle past hooded Fatah al-Islam militants patroling in the refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.


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