A Report on the Psychological Effects of Overcrowding in Refugee Camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip

Prepared for the Expert and Advisory Services Fund - International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

Dr. Randa Farah
April 2000

red-div.jpg (1794 bytes)

Annexes

ANNEX I

REFUGEE VOICES

"To be honest with you, I know so many who can’t wait for their sons to go out to the streets, so they can have some peace at home! Look, Abu Mohammad’s family, they live in three rooms, he has five sons and three daughters, two of his sons are married and they live with him together with their families, some of the other sons moved out and are married. The girls are still at home, can you imagine??"

(local community worker in Kalandia camp, November, 1999)

"You see, I live in this section of the shelter (three rooms, one is empty for the husband and his male friends!) with my five children and she (the other wife) lives with her six children). My son, this one, (around eight years) is out of school, he does not want to study. This girl has problems (disabled and around 12 years old) she cannot go to school anyway. I don’t know they say there are people who give money to rehabilitate her, but no one cares."

(Imm Salim, Kalandia, November, 1999)

"The camp area from the very beginning is narrow. Here the area is approximately 44 dunums on which around 6000 people, which is less than a meter per individual. The sun does not enter many of the houses in the camp, it is like the camp has one roof. We have approximately 5% of the buildings with four levels and about 35% three levels and two levels around 30% and one floor about 20%. We have a shelter here that holds around 80 people!!! Another family are fifteen people living in 3 by 2 meters. So we have a housing problem, how and where are people going to expand?"

(Camp Services Officer, Camp No. 1, November, 1999)

"We were talking about Abu Muhammad, his shelter is made of two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom and he has five sons and three daughters. Girls and boys sleep together and there are many moral problems that result from this overcrowding and sleeping arrangements, (indirectly referring to incest) of course there will be moral problems."

(social worker, Camp no. 1, November, 1999)

"In this large world and space which God created, why are we the only ones who can’t expand our boundaries. We do not want to give up our political rights or right of return, but they can expand the camp boundaries without giving that up! Or why doesn’t the PNA create projects, whereby the land is cheaper, or subsidise housing projects so we can improve our lives a little? It is so overcrowded now, we can’t breathe, this is a priority? And I want to tell you something else, people are tired of smelling dirty waters that flood all the time, why can’t we have a sewerage network like in other camps?"

(Imm Adel, Jalazon camp, November, 1999)

"Our biggest problem which we face as social workers are the regulations set by UNRWA, for example, as soon as a son reaches 18 the family is taken off the Special Hardship Case program. This means that the Agency assumes that the son who turned 18 is capable of immediately finding a job and one that brings in sufficient money to cover the expense of a large family, which is impossible under these conditions. Unemployment is high, jobs are difficult to find and the salary cannot cover the high cost of living."

(social worker, camp No. 1, November, 1999)

"You know, I heard that UNRWA no longer helps the elderly, because their philosophy is now that they do not have long to live and therefore they are not their priority, due to cutbacks...an old lady living not far from me, she died, because the shelter roof fell on her head."

(Imm Yousef, Jabalia, November, 1999)

"Our youth are lost, you know that over 90% of them were imprisoned at some point by the Israelis, do you know the Israelis built a wall around the camp and permit to go in and out was required...this was for several weeks...schools were closed and people could not work. Today, here they are without proper education or jobs?"

(UNRWA employee and a camp resident, Dheisheh, November, 1999)

"They discovered in the walls around my neighbourhood drugs, stuffed inside the holes. During the Intifidah, the drug problem was controlled, but now they are back again, you can see them walking around in the streets totally drugged..they have networks that extend to the old city of Jerusalem."

(a member of the women’s organization, Shu’fat camp, November, 1999)

"Do you see these marks on the walls, they are from the dirty water that entered my house during the winter, it was flooded up to here, we all had to move to the other room and could not use this room until the water was drained. My husband is sick and my children are too young to work, I live in miserable conditions. Only this year UNRWA helped me raise the shelter above the street level."

(Imm Yahya, Jabalia, November, 1999)

"You come from the outside full of theories, see how many children there are in the classroom, they are all poor, experienced the Intifada -- most of them-- and they do not want to learn. If we do not use the sticks, they go wild, the problem is too large to deal with only at the school level."

(An UNRWA school headmaster, West Bank, November, 1999)


ANNEX II

GENERAL APPROACH TO THE FIELD AND RESEARCH TECHNIQUES

The camps that were studied in the West Bank and Gaza: Kalandia, Shu’fat, Jalazon, Camp No.1, Jabalia. However, there were others that were visited to get a general idea of population density.

Interviews generally included the following groups of people:

The interviews conducted included formal and informal discussions, narratives, opinions and I also recorded a few life histories to get a sense how overcrowding and its effects changed over time. The length and the openness of the interview depended on the context and the area discussed. If the subject matter was infrastructure or family size then the discussion was very open and frank. Issues dealing with incest were discussed mainly when the interview was one to one and more open with women than men. Some people were articulate and willing to provide information, others were brief.

About 100 people were interviewed directly. It is important to point out here that this figure includes people I interviewed and spoke with formally or informally, not those who were visited or observed, which is a much higher figure.

The Context: Most of the interviews took place in the context of the camp, mainly in the homes of various families, in schools and in the offices or centers of organizations providing services to refugees.

Some of the interviews took place when most of the family members were gathered, others were with only one member, mainly women, who wanted privacy to discuss things more openly. Others were more formalized, especially with heads of schools, teachers gathered in offices and representatives of organizations providing services. Thus, the subjects interviewed included: Women, Men, Children, Youth, Elderly and the Disabled.


ANNEX III

TOTAL REGISTERED CAMP POPULATION AS OF 30.11.1999 FOR EACH CAMP IN THE WEST BANK AND GAZA

West Bank

Gaza

Camp Name

Population

Camp Name

Population

Aqbat Jaber

4,775

Jabalia

97,895

Ain al-Sultan

2,187

Rimal

73,675

Shu’fat

8,955

Nuseirat

59,121

Am’ari

7,396

Deir el-Balah

18,829

Kalandia

8,189

Maghazi

21,311

Dayr Ammar

2,043

Khan Yunis

57,495

Jalazone

8,372

Rafah

85,988

Fawwar

6,419

Bureij

28,628

Arroub

8,470

Dheisheh

9,812

Ayda

3,895

Beit Jibrin

1,727

Far’a

6,312

Camp no. 1

5,847

Askar

12,712

Balata

19,196

Tulkarm

14,862

Nur Shams

7,577

Jenin

13,361


Return to main report
Top of Page

return

2000 Palestinian Development Research Net (PRRN)
The page was last modified by Marc Lanteigne and Rex Brynen.