Palestine Refugees in Lebanon Risk Their Lives in Search of Dignity

Palestine Refugees in Lebanon Risk Their Lives in Search of Dignity

Palestine refugees on the busy Abo Alfoz Street in Beddawi Palestine refugee camp in northern Lebanon. (Photo: UNRWA)

“In Lebanon, an increasing number of Palestine refugees tell UNRWA that “anything” is better than their lives today.  As the world is looking elsewhere, Palestine refugees continue to take dangerous risks in search of a better life.

UNRWA said in a press release issued on Friday that unprecedented levels of poverty, skyrocketing unemployment rates and increasing despair are spreading across the country, severely hitting the Lebanese people and Syrian and Palestine refugees.

This comes amid one of the worst economic crises in recent history, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, poor governance and an almost total collapse in basic services. Palestine refugees, living in overcrowded camps and marginalized by discriminatory policies, are historically one of the poorest people in the country. They are at the end of their rope. 

According to UNRWA, almost every Palestine refugee in Lebanon lives in poverty.  The average cost of the food basket has increased six-fold in the last year one of the highest increases the world has recorded this year. The cost of water, fuel, electricity, gas, transport and health care is now three to five times higher. Medicines are increasingly unavailable on the market and families are unable to afford them since government subsidies have been lifted. Too many Palestine refugee families are no longer able to afford secondary health care. Some are skipping lifesaving treatment to avoid accumulating debts.

“Dying from poverty will not be much different from dying at sea. Life in Lebanon has become unbearable with one crisis after another. Youth are those seeking to emigrate to escape this reality though entire families are now selling everything and risking their lives just to have a decent life”, Iman, a mother of three, living in Mar Elias refugee camp told UNRWA. 

“While UNRWA has been helping, providing cash assistance and other basic services, our assistance is a drop in an ocean of despair. With UNRWA’s emergency humanitarian appeal heavily underfunded, Palestine refugees are often unable to even scrape by.  Much more is immediately needed to avert more tragedies unfolding.

UNRWA is urgently appealing for US$ 13 million for Palestine refugees in Lebanon in order to provide much-needed cash assistance to families, continue running primary health care services and keep schools open to the end of the year.

Some 210,000 Palestine refugees (180,000 Palestine refugees from Lebanon and 30,000 Palestine refugees from Syria) live in 12 official refugee camps, and outside the camps in overcrowded living conditions. 

According to the latest UNRWA survey, 93 per cent of all Palestine refugees in Lebanon are poor. 

According to WHO, Lebanon recorded 18 cases of cholera this month and two probable deaths. This is the first cholera outbreak in Lebanon since 1993.

Palestine refugees in Lebanon are banned from 39 professions, including in the areas of general medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, occupational therapy, and law, among others. 

Security conditions in some of the camps have deteriorated over the years. There has been an increase in violence and use of arms. Many refugees have resorted to negative coping mechanisms, including the use of drugs.

The majority of those attempting to migrate by informal routes are from the Beddawi and Nahr el-Bared Palestine refugee camps in northern Lebanon.

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