While the intense fighting between the Lebanese Army and Fateh el Islam escalates in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian refugees — both within the camp itself and the tens of thousands who had previously fled the camp — continues to be dire.
The majority of the international aid, such as the aid from UNRWA, is being directed to the centralized locations of schools, while only approximately 20% of the refugees from Nahr el Bared are in schools and the majority of them are seeking refuge in (already crowded) homes in other Palestinian refugee camps.
In response to this growing humanitarian crisis — and particularly in response to the gap in humanitarian relief — a group of faculty and students from the American University of Beirut (AUB) and other institutions in Lebanon initiated the “Nahr El-Bared Relief Campaign.” The Campaign is working with civil society groups and grassroots organizations on the ground and providing basic necessities to families not receiving support from large national or international organizations in the camps of Beddawi, in the north, and Shatila, Mar Elias, and Bourj El-Barajneh in Beirut.
The Nahr el Bared Relief Campaign just completed a house-to-house assessment in Shatila camp in Beirut, and discovered, contrary to earlier reports, that 230 families (not 100 families) from Nahr el-Bared have sought refuge in the Shatila camp, with around 30 people to each two-room flat in addition to the family already living in these homes.
Marcy Newman, an AUB visiting professor and the overall coordinator for the Campaign, commented that “families fled with only the clothes on their back, and sometimes a small plastic bag of medications for people with chronic illnesses. [In addition to Shatila camp], in nearby Mar Elias camp, there are two families and in nearby Bourj El-Barajneh refugee camp, there are also 250 families (636 people) from Nahr al-Bared who are also camped on the floors of people’s homes after fleeing the violence in their northern camp.”
In essence, the poor are being forced to take care of the poorer.
The Nahr El-Bared Relief Campaign is working to alleviate the pressure on the refugees, and, particularly, to ensure that relief will still be available after the large international aid agencies tire and leave in a week or two.
The Task Force for Reconstruction and Community Service (TFRCS) at AUB, initially formed in response to the 2006 July war, is endorsing the Nahr El-Bared Relief Campaign and is providing the Campaign with financial sponsorship. Thus, the TFRCS is serving as an official channel for soliciting funding and volunteering services to provide relief to the displaced refugees.
The Relief Campaign is currently “adopting” 50 families on a daily basis, in addition to many more families who were served on an ad-hoc basis (around 300). Each family requires at least $10 a day to cover basic needs. Thus, to assist 50 families, a minimum of $500 a day is needed.
The Relief Campaign has succeeded in raising more than $10,000 from individual donations, small organizational donations, and efforts by its few volunteer members. These funds have been critical in immediately providing the families with food, medicine, and other basic necessities. Funds are still required, however, so that this necessary provision of goods can continue.
Nahr El Bared Relief Campaign Contacts:
- Sharif Bibi, Head of Operations, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +961-(0)3-087-289 (mobile)
- Marcy Newman, Overall Coordinator, AUB visiting professor, email@example.com, Tel: +961-70-977-812 (mobile)
- Rami Zurayk, Financial Coordinator, AUB professor, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +961-(0)3-733-227 (mobile)
- Rania Masri, Media Coordinator, University of Balamand assistant professor, email@example.com, Tel: +961-(0)3-135-279 (mobile)
The Nahr El Bared Relief Campaign website: <www.nahrelbaredcampaign.org>.