Ein El Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp is the largest and most crowded camp in Lebanon. Situated just southeast of the city of Saida, Ein El Hilweh’s population has recently swelled to over 120,000, almost twice the number of refugees it housed before the Syrian war started in 2011.
With the influx of refugees from Syria, camp residents are now facing even more difficulties in day-to-day life, including crowded living conditions, unemployment and outbreaks of violence. Major problems the camp faces include
- A high ratio of out-of-school youth
- Small, overcrowded shelters
- Poor living conditions
- Limited employment opportunities
ANERA has been working to create better living conditions in Ein El Hilweh for eight years by supporting the rehabilitation of infrastructure and addressing health care and education issues.
Better Buildings for Childhood Learning
ANERA recently renovated a camp preschool, providing a healthy environment for children to access quality education and inspiring them to learn. The center provides a safe and intellectually stimulating space for preschoolers to find normalcy in their lives, which are too often disrupted by violence and instability.
After ANERA’s renovations, bright colors and fun toys adorn the rooms of this Lebanon preschool in Ein El Helweh camp.
The rehabilitation includes enhanced security features, freshly painted classrooms, child-size fixtures, an updated playground, and sealed roofs and windows. And the renovations go beyond construction: the school has been equipped with high-quality children’s books, toys, and furniture, ensuring a interactive and innovative learning environment.
Emergency Relief in Ein El Hilweh
Emergency response and humanitarian relief are paramount to ANERA operations in Ein El Hilweh because many families are unable to meet their most basic needs and conditions in the camp are often unstable. With the surge of refugees from Syria, many of whom are Palestinian and not allowed to work in many professions in Lebanon, conditions in the camp are deteriorating and opportunities to improve one’s economic situation are limited.
In 2013, ANERA was awarded a grant from UNOCHA to help refugee families prepare for the winter. ANERA selected 2,300 of the Palestinian refugee families from Syria who were most in need and an additional 450 host families who had generously shared their homes with new refugees. These families received kits containing winter blankets, quilts, heaters, rechargeable emergency flashlights, hygiene items and warm clothes. ANERA met the needs of female family members by providing gender-sensitive kits.
Another aspect of the program involved teaching families about various winter-related illnesses and emergency health issues common to the camp. ANERA worked with the Najdeh Association, a local partner, to train health workers to provide in-depth public health education, making the program more sustainable and impactful for years to come.
ANERA provided winter relief for this family living in a tent they built themselves out of plastic sheets and blankets.
ANERA continues to provide winterization support to Ein El Hilweh each year by delivering winter blankets, emergency lights and other necessities with the help of many community-based organizations and in-kind donations from our partners.
Education and Youth Development for Refugees
In response to low school enrollment rates and a high dropout rate among youth, ANERA has implemented a comprehensive youth development program in refugee camps throughout Lebanon. These projects aim to provide youth with transferable skills they need to re-enter the formal education system, obtain jobs in the workforce, or develop on a personal level.
Students in ANERA’s basic education classes work on their Arabic.
In partnership with UNICEF, ANERA has planned and executed remedial education courses and vocational training workshops designed to appeal to refugees who are interested in pursuing an education but are unable to attend school for various reasons. Many of them cannot afford tuition fees or must work to support their families. Others have disabilities that public schools can’t accommodate or have been out of school for many years due to the Syrian crisis and have fallen behind in their studies.
Programs like these allow students that have fallen through the cracks to step back into an educational community. Partnering with six local organizations in Ein El Hilweh, the project provides the following services to youth:
- Basic Education: Courses in literacy (English & Arabic), mathematics, and computers.
- Life skills: Short classes in civic engagement, conflict management, hygiene and health promotion, and leadership and employability training.
- Vocational Skills: Workshops in photography, soap-making, job interviewing skills, basic first aid, cooking classes, customer service, office equipment use and more.
- Sports for development: activities, thematic tournaments and events, physical rehabilitation of sports fields and facilities, and hygiene and recreation kits for youth.
To date, the program has supported more than 1,750 youth in Ein El Hilweh through the non-formal education and skills-based training courses. Holistic in nature and diverse in content, the program has achieved excellent student retention rates. The project is also proving successful at engaging Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese youth living in the camp, which is a significant feat due to the turmoil among various sects.
Health Education & Medical Relief in the Refugee Camp
ANERA’s holistic programming in the Ein El Hilweh camp integrates health education into both non-formal education courses and life skill classes. To implement the health awareness element, ANERA trains health tutors who know how to appropriate and effectively discuss personal hygiene, home hygiene, nutrition and other sensitive topics.
The interactive teaching methodology and hands-on class sessions provide safe spaces for student to contribute to discussions, bringing the topics to life. Students are also equipped with hygiene kits to further reinforce positive personal hygiene practices that lead to better overall health. Awareness sessions for the parents of younger children are sometimes help to make sure the community acknowledges the importance of child health education. Many parents have said that the hygiene kits and proper training have enabled their families to build healthier habits, even in the tough conditions in which they’re forced to live.
72-year-old Hussein was treated at Human Call for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. His medicines and breathing tube were prodvided by ANERA in 2011.
Providing medicines and medical supplies to camps and clinics in Ein El Hilweh is vital to ensuring the health and safety of refugees. For instance, ANERA equips Human Call Hospital — the only 24/7 emergency clinic in the camp — with about 30% of its medical supplies. Since the hospital treats 50-60 patients per day, the support of ANERA’s donor community positively affects thousands of patients.
Training Ein El Hilweh Youth in Sports and Life Skills
In Ein El Hilweh, sports programs give youth the opportunity to cultivate a passion and temporarily escape their difficult living conditions. They also offer an opportunity to teach teenagers key life skills, such as conflict mitigation and healthy lifestyle habits.
Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese teens came together for a day of sports and bonding.
The innovative program has the capacity to reach thousands of children because ANERA trains coaches and community leaders to carry out the program. They develop relationships with players on and off the field, implementing disciplinary techniques, promoting hygiene and teaching the players to diplomatically resolve problems.
This year, ANERA held 11 technical sessions to train 26 coaches. Then, 22 sports clubs were were given equipment and uniforms for boys and girls. Games, open sports days, and practices are held regularly. ANERA staff takes careful measures to ensure that girls get to participate in the activities as well by providing female coaches and meeting with parents when necessary. In the latest tournament, 166 youth participated in the games.
Finally, ANERA is nearing the final phase of renovating a sports field in Ein El Hilweh, so the youth have a safe, inviting place to learn and play. When the renovation is complete, the Ein El Hilweh community will take ownership of their space through a Playfield Committee of elected officials charged with creating rules and regulations regarding usage, maintenance and sustainability.
Youth in Ein El Hilweh participated in a mini-marathon race under the slogan “Together we run.”