UNDP and UN-Habitat are helping Palestinian refugees from Syria stay warm and survive the cold winter months
Last winter was bitter for Hassan and his family of 11. After fleeing from their home in Damascus, Syria, they found shelter in Lebanon in a two-room apartment with a leaky ceiling, no doors and no hot water.
"A relative of mine offered us these rooms," Hassan says, whose home in Damascus was destroyed in 2012 during the conflict. "But our kitchen and bath turn into an oven in the summer and a swamp in the winter."
And since his son recently married, the two-room apartment in a Palestinian gathering--or a neighborhood of Palestinians refugees living together--has begun to feel even more cramped.
- Palestinian gathering: neighborhood or community of Palestinian refugees Project implemented by UNDP and UN-Habitat
- Donors: Government of Germany, the Swiss Agency for Development and Coordination (SDC), and the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM)
- 19 host gatherings and nine surrounding localities have been prepared for the winter. 54 infrastructure projects in 22 of the most vulnerable Palestinian gatherings and seven surrounding towns are constructing water tanks, heaters, washbasins, and fully functioning latrines.
Like Hassan and his family, more than 35,000 Palestinians--and some Syrians--have sought refuge in Lebanon's 42 Palestinian gatherings, whose population now reaches 110,000. Originally built during the early years of the Palestinian exodus between 1948 and 1950 and during the Lebanese civil war from 1975 to 1990, the gatherings do not officially fall under the domain of any municipality. And with no authority providing infrastructure and services, the gatherings are some of the most vulnerable host communities in the country.
For those living in overcrowded shelters, safety is also a concern. In a struggle to survive, heating water using insecure electricity wires is one of many threats to their already precarious existence.
Since 2012, UNDP and UN-Habitat have joined efforts to improve services, infrastructure and overall living conditions in the 42 gatherings across Lebanon. So far, the project has helped rehabilitate and modernize more than 300 shelters. The new constructions include water tanks, heaters, washbasins, and fully functioning latrines. In addition to improving the shelters, 54 urgent infrastructure projects in 22 of the most vulnerable host gatherings and in seven surrounding towns are providing water, sewage, solid waste management, road networks, storm water drainage, and electricity.
The two agencies have helped prepare 19 gatherings for the upcoming winter as well as nine surrounding communities. They have also helped Palestinian families living in tents find adequate shelter.
“So far, we helped over 2000 refugees from Syria living in the most vulnerable Gatherings to benefit from enhanced shelter conditions, not to forget around 40,000 dwellers and Lebanese inhabitants who have now better access to basic urban services,” says Nancy Hilal, the project manager. “With more than 30 Palestinian families from Syria crossing the Lebanese border every day, we are now working on expanding our projects to support more families in desperate need of shelter and basic urban services,” she adds. “Because we ensure targeting Palestinian original dwellers and the Lebanese neighboring communities in our projects, our works have contributed to reducing tensions between original and arriving dwellers, and between the Lebanese and Palestinian communities,” states Hilal describing the “more important” social impact of the project.
The projects not only improve living conditions for refugees living in shelters, but also bring together Palestinian refugees, local Lebanese communities and surrounding municipalities. By encouraging active participation and collaboration, the projects aim to mitigate tensions between refugees and their host communities, and between the gatherings and the surrounding neighborhoods.
The joint initiative helps restore the right of dwellers in Palestinian gatherings to safe environments and adequate shelters and gives back some of the dignity and privacy that the refugees lost in their displacement journey.
For Hassan's family, this has meant a brand new room, doors and windows and a new roof over their heads. This not only allows family members more privacy, but will also keep them warm through the coming winter months.
"We have hot water this year and we can finally cook in our kitchen" Hassan says. He looks up at the new, waterproof ceiling of his home. "We will outlast this winter," he says.