BEIRUT, 31 May 2007 (IRIN) - With no immediate end in sight to the stand-off between the army and Islamist militants in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon, and with neighbouring Beddawi camp already full to bursting, aid agencies have delivered relief to several hundred families displaced further to the east and south of the country.
According to figures from the UN Palestinian relief organisation UNRWA, some 309 families, or about 1,500 people, have fled Nahr al-Bared for the camps of Borj Barajneh, Shatila and Mar Elias, located in and around Beirut.
Sixty-one families have fled the north for the eastern Bekaa valley, staying with host families in villages or in the Wavel camp, while in the south 90 displaced families are being hosted by relatives in Rashadiyeh and Al-Buss camps in and around Tyre. A further 120 families have found shelter in Sidon city or Ein al-Helwe camp.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has delivered food and hygiene kits to scores of displaced Palestinian families in and around various refugee camps across the south and east of Lebanon over the past few days. On 31 May it distributed a further 20,000 litres of water and 800 hygiene kits into Nahr al-Bared camp, through its partners in the Palestinian Popular Committee.
Sultan Abul Aynan, overall commander in Lebanon of the secular and dominant Palestinian faction Fatah, told IRIN that all of Lebanon’s 12 refugee camps - home to just over half the country’s 400,000 Palestinians - remained on a high security alert, but played down the prospects of further security breakdowns.
Under a 1969 Arab agreement, the Lebanese army may surround but does not enter any of the camps, leaving security inside to the Palestinians.
“The situation in the camps is under control and the Lebanese army is allowing us to get our necessary supplies,” Abul Aynan said.
UNRWA is now taking the lead on delivering aid to the estimated 20,000 people displaced to Beddawi camp, 10km from Nahr al-Bared, and to those who fled further south.
Water and electricity services at Beddawi camp, which is just two kilometres square and whose original population numbered about 16,000, are struggling under the strain of the huge influx. The agency’s single clinic in Beddawi camp is now running 12 hours a day in an effort to meet the huge extra demands.
UNRWA said it is looking into the possibility of erecting prefabricated temporary accommodation on the edge of the camp and installing mobile generators, portable showers, toilets and water tanks.
Some Palestinians quoted in local media reports, however, rejected the proposal, fearing it could encourage the full-scale destruction of Nahr al-Bared camp and decrease their chances of returning home.
“The needs in Beddawi are still very great,” said Hoda al-Turk, spokeswoman for UNRWA in Lebanon. “The food situation is alright but we still face a lack of clothes and hygiene kits.”
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