The smell of displacement and poverty emanates from the Sanayeh Park ten meters before we reach it. At first sight, the children’s view, running after a flock of pigeons nibbling the bread crumbs, doesn’t tell that those children hadn’t have any sleep for days, after they have been ripped off from their little pillows and toys.
Mahdi, a young kid at the age of six, complains, while devouring his “Mankousheh” (thyme sandwich), only from the mosquitoes and fleas that are biting his little body and the strong heat. His brother Ali, eight years old, looks more in control. He says firmly “our house is just below the bridge leading to the Airport, when Israel attacked us, we came here, left our pillows, beds, and the fan, and ran away.”
In the playground, an essential part of any public park, refugee children sleep under the trees and suffer from high fever and nausea. Neither the flies stay away nor does the bad smell defused from the toilets encourage them to keep breathing. In the future, those children will think twice before visiting a public garden.
Some families from the southern suburb of Beirut and from Tyre (a city in the South of Lebanon) refused to leave the park to public schools located in Karantina. Karantina is very close to the Israeli battleship anchored in the Lebanese territorial water. According to F.H., afraid to mention his name in front of the media, “I came with my sisters from Kfarshima, where the Israeli balloon fell down. Would you imagine what would have happened to us had we stayed there? We ran away. We didn’t get any clothes or money. All what we want is a safe place. I do not want to get close to the sea”.
Mostafa Ahmad Radwan (65 years) is very afraid too. He decided to leave his wife behind in their home in Haret Hreik (in the Southern suburb of Beirut) to come to the park after the Israeli bombardments that targeted their region several times since the Israeli assault. He took his wheelchair on a motorcycle and headed to the park. “I brought my mattress and came. I am frightened from the bombardment and my wife refuses to leave”.
The pain and the suffering spread in the park make the gray air surrounding Lebanon for the past weak becomes heavy on the lungs and heart. The flies cover the children, women and elderly and nobody cares. The only source of potable water inside the park is two gray tanks with a faucet for each. The water spelling on the ground is mixed with the sand to become mud invading the corridors of the park covered with dirt.
On three mattresses and few cheese sandwiches live the eight-member family of Amina Fattal, together with her daughter’s family of six children. She says “When they hit the battleship, we left our home in Ouzai. We sleep in the open air and we share the mattresses and the mosquitoes. We couldn’t find one vacant school in Beirut to receive us. Oh God! How I wish the war would come to go back home”.
The park, a square of pain, is also a square for some relief work that did not bring much benefit but minimized the weight of the crisis.
The volunteer in charge of providing help in the park, Sarjoun Kintar, explains that the park has been transformed for the past days into a “an emergency shelter camp for the displaced, we do our best to secure the basic needs such as water, medicine for chronicle diseases, and diapers and milk for children. The park suffer from crowdedness. Yesterday 500 people arrived and the state is unable to meet the people’s needs due to the deteriorating living conditions in the schools also”.
Kintar has also revealed that there are attempts to vacate the park as it is not safe against Israeli attacks and it risks the spread of diseases in the coming days if the situation persists. He added, “we talked with the Higher Relief Committee and we will work together to vacate the park or at least minimize the crowdedness. So far we were able, from some individual donations, to provide basic meals to the displaced, however the food reserve would be depleted soon.”
This article was printed in An-Nahar Newspaper on July 18, 2006. It was translated from the Arabic by Sawsan Al-Masri.