Here is a copy of my article and photo-essay for this month’s Al Jazeera’s digital magazine, available for free on iTunes.
|One of two bathrooms serving 80 Palestinian refugee families from Syria at Ain El Hilwe. The children are getting sick with fever and diarrhea.|
The surrounding urban sprawl is no picnic either. Notorious for its militias, Ain El Helweh is one of the most violent and impoverished neighborhoods in Lebanon. It was set up on farmland to “temporarily” house Palestinians escaping the 1948 war. In the intervening decades, those tents have been replaced by breeze block homes cut by narrow alleys that are the site of frequent gun fights involving Palestinian factions and the Lebanese army.
It is this lawless evolution of Ain Al Hilweh that has discouraged the Lebanese government from setting up new camps to house over one million Syrians that have poured over the country’s borders in the last two years.
|Trembling with anger, this camp resident said: “Everyday journalists like you come here–three to four per day–but nothing changes.|
|60 tents have been crammed into a dirt field in Ain El Hilwe, which was set up in 1948 to “temporarily” house refugees escaping from Palestine.|
|close up below:|
|The Bekaa Valley is dotted with informal tent settlements, which often outnumber nearby local villages.|
|In rural Jeb Janine, most students at the local school are Syrian. But some are turned away because they cannot produce transcripts.|
|Around 1,000 refugees live in Jeb Janine’s informal settlement. Most children will not be able to attend school, but there are other priorities.|
The UNHCR has asked for $1.2 billion to fund its operation in Lebanon, but has received just 38 percent of that goal. According to a report this month by Oxfam, the main weapon’s suppliers in Syria including Qatar and Russia, have provided just 3 percent of their fair share of the UN’s humanitarian appeal. France and the United States meanwhile have delivered only around half of their respective shares, the report said.
|23-year-old Zahra (left) says her family is surviving on potatoes. She says they have received no aid or blankets.|
Meanwhile, down the dirt path that cuts through the camp– and will most certainly turn into a mudslide this winter– is 60-year-old Mariam and her 16-year-old son. Mariam suffers from seizures but also says she has not received any assistance since arriving in the camp four months ago. Like many others, she depends on neighbors to provide food. But when pressed by an aid worker, Mariam admits she has not registered with the UNHCR. It’s unclear why the neighbors whom she depends on have not alerted her to the process.
|60-year-old Miriam suffers from seizures and has not applied for aid. She and her 16-year-old son share food with neighbors.|
|18-year-old Abir is among 30 percent of refugees who have been cut off from aid by the UNHCR due to lack of funding. She doesn’t know how she will feed her 10-month-old daughter.|
Back in Beirut at UNHCR’s bustling offices in a converted apartment building, Communication officer Roberta Russo says the agency is doing its best with the limited resources it has. She acknowledges that voucher distribution takes about a month from registration but says families simply cannot receive aid until they have registered. She concedes that some fear registration or are illiterate, but maintains that all families crossing the border receive information pamphlets. Those that were cut off from aid can appeal the decision, she says.
|Some families in the Bekaa say they are surviving on water and potatoes; others eat half rotten foods.|
|A local Bekaa market is dominated by Syrian businesses. Government officials warn that cheap Syrian labor will put put tens of thousands of Lebanese out of work.|
See full news report here:
|Many of the tents are made up of canvas and cardboard picked out of the garbage and will undoubtedly wash away during the upcoming winter downpours.|
At the Ain El Hilweh settlement, many are fed up with journalists reporting on their situation. While taking notes during interviews, a tall man as thin as bones walks up and grab this reporter’s pen, then slaps it back down on the notebook.