Annette Rehrl

Hardy souls return to clean up the mess in southern Lebanon

Haddatha is a mess. Located close to Lebanon’s border with Israel, the village was heavily damaged during the five-week conflict that ravaged the eastern Mediterranean country this summer. The village centre is unrecognisable, with a mosque, shops and about 100 houses reduced to rubble. Some families have returned to rebuild their homes, but with winter approaching and their rural livelihoods destroyed others of Haddatha’s displaced inhabitants whose homes were ruined are staying away. One of the returnees, Mustafa Nasser sits in what is left of his family’s living room. 

Reaching out to worried families in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley

Local and international attention has focused on rebuilding southern Lebanon and parts of Beirut since the end of Israel’s military incursion, but this area in the north was also badly hit during the summer conflict. Israeli air strikes caused substantial damage to houses, farmland, industrial plants and infrastructure, while thousands of traumatised and scared civilians fled from the Bekaa Valley to neighbouring Syria. They started flooding back across the border right after the August 14 ceasefire was announced, but many returned to scenes of devastation in their home areas. 

UNHCR links with social development centres to help Lebanese IDPs

World attention may have shifted away from Lebanon, but many people continue to suffer from the recent conflict - including hundreds of displaced people in Beirut’s crowded Hai Al Sullam area. Before the five-week war, the southern suburb’s 275,000 permanent residents - mostly Shia Muslims and poor - lived cheek by jowl with migrants and Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers. They have since been joined by hundreds of displaced Lebanese, whose houses in neighbouring districts were destroyed by Israeli fire or who fled from the south to stay with families in the capital until it is safe to return. Uncertainty among the internally displaced people (IDPs) is high.