27 October 2010 - A top United Nations official today appealed to the international community to fulfil their pledges to help rebuild a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon that was destroyed by deadly violence three years ago, while noting that the displaced could begin to return to their homes in early 2011.
Michael Williams, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, noted that the pace of reconstructing the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp has been slower than what the UN or the Palestinians would have liked to have seen.
However, "the good news is that... very soon, early in the New Year, we hope to see people begin to return to the camp," he stated during a tour of the camp. "I think this will be a very important watershed."
As many as 30,000 Palestinians were displaced from the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in mid-2007 amid heavy fighting between Lebanese Government forces and Fatah el-Islam gunmen.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been assisting those displaced by the violence at the camp, including taking care of their rent and food until they can begin moving back into the camp.
The Agency and the Lebanese Government have sought $445 million for rebuilding the camp, the largest project in UNRWA's 60-year history. The reconstruction requires the building of a new town with houses, schools, health centres, mosques and other community facilities, as well as a UN compound and associated infrastructure.
"What still needs to be done is very very substantial," he said. "I take this opportunity now and I will do so in the future, to appeal to all donors, Europeans, North Americans, or Arab, to fulfil the commitments already made and to take the occasion of the return of the people to make new pledges for the future."
Also today, the Special Coordinator met separately with former Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karameh and parliament member Samir Jisr, as well as with the Mufti of Tripoli, Sheikh Malek Shaar.