Work this week has taken me to Beirut, Lebanon, where I had the chance to visit a Palestinian Refugee camp. The ‘camp’ is in Beirut, and the only distinguishable difference from the camp and surrounding area is the lack of streets. There are only twisting alleyways, big enough for scooters, winding through the sprawl. At some point in the past, passageways were wider, but as people built out their homes for more space the streets grew narrower.
Surprisingly, the health care offered by the clinic inside the camp is of better quality than the public health care in the rest of Beirut. The camp has about 6-8 hours of electricity a day, and the water is supplied from 4 wells surrounding the city.
The Palestinians have no legal right to the land, not being citizens. This camp is a legal structure, but because they are refugees, they do not have civil rights in Lebanon. Most families are considered poverty level, although some middle class families exist inside.
Because the buildings were constructed in the 1950’s, and were created by people without engineering or building backgrounds, many of the buildings are crumbling. Chunks of the ceiling fall down, and in places, iron bars embedded in the concrete are exposed. We met one family who had an extra bedroom, but did not sleep in it for fear of pieces of the ceiling collapsing. The couple and their 5 children sleep in an adjoining room, end to end.