BEDDAWI, Lebanon – Children trying to forge a future and live as normal a life as possible within a stiflingly crowded Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon today face a much brighter future than previously envisaged, with access to health care and education, thanks to funding from the European Union, EFE reported Friday.
A school set among the narrow streets of the populous Beddawi refugee camp near the northwestern Lebanese port city of Tripoli harbors some 682 pupils aged between 6-12 years, most of whom are Palestinian, though there are also some Kurdish and Syrian children who attend, as corroborated by a delegation of Members of the European Parliament.
“We learn here and we derive great benefit from the knowledge we acquire,” said 10-year-old Amina, who has a yearning to become a doctor when she grows up.
Each classroom of the school, which is administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and was recently renovated by the EU, can accommodate between 40-46 children.
The institution also has a library, as well as capacities to teach children with special needs, including those with dyslexia or problems with their sight or hearing.
Lebanon, a relatively small country, nearly 50 times smaller than Spain, has the most refugees per capita in the world, and according to the UNRWA, there are some 450,000 Palestinian refugees there.
Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has estimated there are about 1 million Syrians who have fled to Lebanon due to civil war.
Portuguese member of the European Parliament Marisa Matias, who visited the camp recently as part of an EP delegation, acknowledged that help offered by the UN and EU was “not enough” and “poverty and unemployment are very high.”
Speaking to EFE in an exclusive telephone interview, she said that EU money had also been invested in refurbishing a much-needed health center.
“The UNRWA must take on a growing demand for services at the camp that over the years has become an urban neighborhood,” she told EFE.
Despite its difficulties, Matias said the camp was a successful example of how the UNRWA could support Palestinian refugees with the help of EU money.