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Reference : V-P-LB-E-00995
Date : 21/02/2008
Country/Region : LEBANON
Caption : Tripoli, Nahr el Bared Palestinian camp. Steel worker at work.
Photographer : RAICH, Jordi
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : ICRC Worldwide/Lebanon/11-03-2008 Feature
Lebanon: ICRC helps restore water, work and hope at Nahr el-Bared.

Life is slowly returning to the once-thriving camp of Nahr el-Bared, in northern Lebanon, which was devastated by three months of fighting in 2007. The ICRC is helping in the rebirth of the camp by restoring the water supply. Samar el Kadi reports from Tripoli.

In spirit, it's business as usual
The new camp is slowly coming to life. The first batch of returnees had to live in dire conditions, in buildings without doors or windows. Many sought shelter in deserted shops and stores that were still standing. They brought mattresses, blankets and whatever household items they had been given by relief organizations during their displacement in nearby Beddawi camp.

"At the beginning we slept on the floor, using bed sheets and anything we could get to seal holes in the walls and the shattered windows," says Jamal, 50, whose house was burned, along with all its contents. "We had little choice but to settle in what is left of our house," he adds.

A number of shops and small businesses have re-opened, selling meat, fruit and vegetables, clothes, furniture – and that most necessary luxury, sweets and other local delicacies. Builder's supplies, such as paint, electrical appliances and other household items have also become available.

In his modest shop on the camp's main road, Nasser Fargawi sells electrical goods, including cables, light bulbs, switches and chandeliers. After losing his two shops in the old camp, Fargawi is re-starting his once-booming business from scratch.

"I had to sell my wife's gold jewellery to get the capital to be able to resume work," he says. Fargawi remembers the good old days when the camp was a commercial hub for northern Lebanon. "We relied basically on the outside market, with customers coming from as far away as Akkar and Zghorta," he remembers. "I had eight employees at the time, but now it is a one-man show… I am trying to make something out of nothing," he adds.

Umm Hussam Wehbeh displays an array of items in her small, pockmarked shop, ranging from chocolates, chewing gum and biscuits to clothes, perfume and shoes.

"We have restarted from zero, but with God's help we will rise from under the rubble," says the determined 60-year-old woman whose husband owned three clothing shops in the old camp.

Nevertheless, all the traders complain about the lack of business. "There is lots of demand for the goods, but no one has any money and I can no longer give credit like before," explains Fargawi.

Umm Hussam Wehbeh is confident, all the same: "Slowly we will be able to stand on our feet again and re-establish our life," she insists.

In Lebanon, despite all the odds, optimism never seems far away.
Original material : digital
Resolution : 4368x2912
Orientation : landscape
Colour/B&W : colour