|© UNICEF Lebanon/2007|
|UNICEF is working to create safe spaces for children affected by conflict in the Nahr el Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.|
By Eliane Asmar
NAHR EL BARED, Lebanon, 17 December 2007 – Since May, when conflicts between the Lebanese military and Fateh el Islam militants began, life for children in the Palestinian refugee camp here has been a mixture of fear and disillusionment.
Of the more than 6,500 families who fled the camp, over 1,000 have now returned, bringing with them 650 children aged 12 and under.
Although local and international relief agencies have been providing essential services in the camp, what children seem to miss most is the small sense of security that they once felt in Nahr el Bared. Harshly affected by the loss of home, friends and, in some cases, family members, these children find their only safe haven in school.
In an effort to expand on the safety created by the school environment, UNICEF and the local Beddawi Popular Committee have rehabilitated a three-room storehouse, turning it into a common space for the entire community.
‘Hope in a brighter future’
The centre offers remedial classes and a play area for recreational and educational activities. The hope is to provide young people with a greater feeling of optimism that can resonate despite the backdrop of recent destruction.
“UNICEF is the solid rock on which we lean for support,” said an activist in the Palestinian cultural club, Rawad Sadeh, “and most importantly, for our hope in a brighter future without violence, hatred and discrimination.”
Meanwhile, along with many other relief agencies, UNICEF has assisted the refugees living in the camp by providing water and sanitation assistance and other aid. UNICEF also worked with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society to supply 17 containers that have been dispatched through the camp – one to be used as a mobile health clinic and others for storage of hygiene kits and water supplies.