The biggest show presently being witnessed by people in the region is the siege of Nahr al Bared camp, with the [Lebanese] army on the outside and the terrorist group Fatah al Islam on the inside.
But we, as spectators, are not the ones paying the price; rather it is the people living in the camp, over 200,000 in number. During the past week many of the camp’s residents have moved to Beddawi refugee camp, in which relief efforts have been sponsored by the UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) since 52 years ago.
According to the international agency, Beddawi camp hosts over 16,000 Palestinians who, like the residents of other camps, live under appalling circumstances where they are not allowed to work or move. The majority depends on aid and lives in dilapidated houses where sewage water runs through their neighborhoods.
But if the conditions of the camp were once miserable, they have now become painful because more than 10,000 refugees have departed from Nahr al Bared camp and moved into Beddawi camp. As a result, Beddawi is fast becoming the second camp on the verge of another humanitarian crisis due to the overcrowding and the absence of basic services, food, medicine and housing.
If something must be said about the events taking place in Lebanon today, then we shouldn’t be hurling insults at one another and marking up red lines; rather we should be offering relief aid as soon as possible.
Where are the Arab governments? But before that, where is the Lebanese government and where are the international organizations? Some maintain that the security situation does not permit sending medical rescue teams to the Nahr al Bared camp, which is understandable ¬¬¬¬– especially after it was revealed that Fatah al Islam was opening fire on people both inside and outside of the camp.
The proffered alternative at Beddawi camp is the provision of speedy relief for its residents, sending medical teams over and fixing what can be fixed so that accommodating thousands of refugees becomes a manageable task. Roads are open, the camp is secure and not a single political Lebanese group will object or be opposed to offering assistance to the camps embroiled in this crisis.
Moreover, I do not think anyone will object to entrusting the UNRWA with the supervisory task of providing relief [for those in need]. The organization is a humanitarian relief and development agency that is entitled with the provision of education, health care, social services and emergency relief to over 4 million refugees living in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Throughout the UNRWA’s experience in the region, it has never been a source of conflict owing to its persistence and its lack of involvement in the political differences between refugees. Furthermore, it bases its management method on employing Palestinians and camp residents as doctors, engineers, teachers and workers to manage their own affairs.
One does not want to raise the issue of the refugees in terms of how they are treated on a local, Arab or Palestinian level in light of the political conflict, or the parties they are affiliated to; but above all, with regards to the peace project that cannot be achieved without first offering a just solution for their cause. However, the least that can be said is the importance of providing assistance to the two ravaged camps, and perhaps – preparing other camps that could face a similar fate in Lebanon as a result of the political exploitation we are witnessing today at the Nahr al Bared camp.