By: Olfat Mahmoud

Director, Women’s Humanitarian Organisation (WHO)

You may be aware that many Palestinians live in Haret Hreik, informally known as the ‘southern suburbs of Beirut’ and the most devastated area from the recent Israeli war against Lebanon. So, many families who were living there have been forced back into Bourj camp and have joined their extended families.

The atmosphere in the camp currently is extremely tensed – people are worried and do not trust the ceasefire. Will there be war again? When? How will it be this time? Will we be able to survive?

In addition to this tirelessly gnawing worry, there is the post-war economic situation that is very dire. Everything is now more expensive. And it is doubly difficult because it is right now the month of Ramadan, the beginning of the scholastic year, the time of the feast, as well as the winter season. To prepare for all these events usually costs a great deal of money. And people are worried about how they will manage and meet all of these important needs.

So, there is more frustration, more depression, more violence among the community. What worries us most is education: will the children have enough motivation to go back to school? I don’t believe they will! From our observations, we have noticed that children are not really interested in going back to school.

The area surrounding Bourj camp is frightening! The buildings of Haret Hreik are destroyed and ever since the ceasefire trucks have been working day and night to remove the rubble, but until now, they still haven’t finished. The smell is awful and there is dust everywhere. The minute you enter the southern suburbs of Beirut, you can feel that the whole atmosphere changes for the worse. And as winter approaches, people quietly wonder how they will be able to replace everything they lost: blankets, winter clothing, carpets, etc. for entire families.

However, I must say that we should persevere in our attempt to help people and support them as they try to cope with this new situation. Because Palestinians mainly stayed in Bourj camp during the war, they were placed under a great deal of stress and were exposed to bombing and death continuously. WHO’s work with children in the post-war period has shown us that there is great need for psychological support programs for children and their families, and we are committed to continuing our psycho-social work with children and women.

I ask people who believe in human rights and humanity to help children to enjoy their childhood and experience peace in spite of all the difficulties they are subjected to.

Imagine how you feel when you draw a smile on a child’s face.

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