Reem Alsalem

Lebanese struggle to repair far wider damage than destroyed houses

From a distance, the lack of obvious destruction lends a deceptive look of normality to towns like Marjayoun. Look closer and you discover that interiors of houses have been wrecked, services like electricity are non-existent, rotting rubbish lies uncollected and the fields cannot be entered because of unexploded munitions. “What we had here was a tsunami. That is the only way to explain it,” said the mayor of Marjayoun, Fouad Hamra. A convoy of 3,000 fleeing inhabitants came under air attack as they tried to leave on August 11. “The problem is that since there are few destroyed houses, people think that we have not been that much affected by the war.” 

Lebanese who cannot return home fear being forgotten

Jamila Mehanna joined the rush back to her village in south Lebanon the moment the shooting stopped. Two weeks later she is living with other displaced Lebanese in a public building in Sidon, not sure when she will again be in her own house. “After the ceasefire came into effect, I went immediately with my kids to check out the house. I found the Israeli tanks at the outskirts of the village and so I turned around. I prefer to wait for the Lebanese army to take control before I go home,” she said. Amid the emphasis on getting daily convoys of UNHCR aid into battered villages and the return of most Lebanese to their homes, victims of the war like Jamila fear they could be forgotten by the refugee agency and other organisations.