Yesterday, I trekked up to Nahr el Bared refugee camp to talk to people about the camp’s reconstruction efforts, or lack thereof. It’s been a couple of years since I last visited the camp — as a senior in college, I was part of an ad hoc group called the Nahr el Bared Relief Campaign that tried to provide help to those displaced by the war the Lebanese army ruthlessly waged on that camp.
That was in the summer of 2007 and little has changed since then. Though the Lebanese government was granted tens of millions of dollars in reconstruction money (admittedly this is only a small fraction of the amount needed to complete reconstruction) little progress can be seen.
A variety shops — mechanics’ offices, clothing stores, pastry shops– line the streets of what’s known as ‘the new camp’. But this happened very much in spite of state efforts. As soon as the Army re-opened the camp in October 2007 to (a select few) Nahr el Bared residents, the refugees scrambled to recover Nahr el Bared’s previously thriving economy by setting up shop on top of the mud and the rubble. But with the Army’s unrelenting grip on the camp’s borders, Nahr el Bared’s marketplace is practically empty. The vast majority of the shop’s market prior to the war came from the camp’s surrounding regions. Now virtually noone is willing to endure the inspections and demeaning and tyrannical attitudes of the soldiers at the camp’s entrances in order to consume Nahr el Bared’s relatively cheap goods and relatively skilled services (many Palestinians who have engineering and medical degrees have no choice but to offer their services inside refugee camps, since in Lebanon they are not allowed to practice their professions — Lebanese with similar credentials have converged on rich, urban areas: Beirut and Tripoli, with only a widely dispersed few in the very provincial far North where Nahr el Bared is located).
That’s to say nothing about the so-called Old Camp, the larger, more densely populated part of the camp that was all but razed to the ground by the war on Nahr el Bared. Those that hail from the Old Camp have been holed up in make-shift housing for three years, waiting for the Lebanese state to deliver on its promises to reconstruct their houses…
I’m writing an article now that will describe this situation more elaborately than what’s been stated above. I’ll include some interviews with the amazing Nahr el Bared refugees as well as some activists who have been working to fix things up.
In the meantime here are some pictures I’m digging up from the internet to better illustrate the destruction, the neglect.
Pictures of Nahr el Bared before and after the war: