Approximately 27,000 Palestine refugees were displaced from Nahr el-Bared camp (NBC) and its adjacent areas in northern Lebanon in mid-2007, as a result of the conflict between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the extremist Fatah Al-Islam group. The camp was pounded with heavy artillery and aerial bombardments during the three month siege and an estimated 95% of all buildings and infrastructure were either destroyed or damaged beyond repair. The first stages of a major reconstruction and recovery effort - to rebuild the camp and allow displaced refugees to return to their homes - are now underway. A phased approach to reconstruction is planned, through which families will begin to return to their homes inside the camp by the end of 2009. The reconstruction is due to be completed by mid-2011.
From the outset, UNRWA has led the relief effort for displaced refugees, in close coordination with the Lebanese government, through the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), and a wide range of local and international partners. Families fled without any belongings and with only limited resources and the initial emergency response focused on provision of critical life saving assistance, including food, water/sanitation and basic healthcare and shelter. As the extent of the crisis became clear, interventions have been enhanced to meet the basic needs of families facing a long period of displacement. Temporary shelters and related infrastructure were upgraded and facilities and equipment at prefabricated schools and health centres improved. Livelihoods activities have also been initiated, to support the social and economic recovery for displaced communities.
However, the socio-economic conditions of most refugee families displaced from NBC remain poor. Already high unemployment and poverty levels have risen further as a result of the conflict; only a quarter of businesses active in NBC and its adjacent areas before May 2007 have reactivated and most of those are functioning at reduced capacity, with a limited customer base.
The trauma of the conflict, and the prospect of protracted displacement, is having a damaging effect on psycho-social health and well-being, with children and youth particularly vulnerable, and continuing to show signs of anxiety and anger. Whilst displaced families are living in safety and have access to adequate basic utilities, including water, sanitation and electricity, many are housed in cramped and unsuitable conditions and are struggling to rebuild their lives. Dependence on aid remains high.
In light of continued need amongst families affected by the NBC crisis, and in parallel with the reconstruction and recovery plan, UNRWA is launching a new appeal for relief and early recovery assistance, covering the period September 2008 to December 2009. Interventions will ensure the continuation of social safety net support for the most vulnerable, including food aid, health care and shelter, and will guarantee access to basic education, health and social services. Improved water and sanitation services will also be provided, whilst a broad range of protection strategies are planned to help refugees cope with the aftermath of the conflict. Funding is also sought for a limited number of early recovery initiatives, aimed at supporting the reconstruction and recovery effort, including through employment, skills training and the completion of rubble removal work. The approach proposed reflects the UN Country Team efforts in mainstreaming employment and decent work in the various phases of the NBC recovery and reconstruction process. The employment related initiatives presented in this appeal are aimed at ensuring stabilisation, socio-economic integration and long-term inclusive and remunerative employment opportunities. In all cases, priority will be given to particularly vulnerable groups, including women, children and youth, the elderly and the disabled.
Over the duration of the Appeal and as early recovery activities gather momentum, UNRWA will seek to transfer increasing numbers of families from food assistance rolls to livelihoods programes, including employment support and skills training. Throughout, assistance will be provided on the basis of need. In total, the Agency is seeking US$ 42,711,715 for relief and early recovery interventions covered in this appeal.