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UN Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA):
Gaza Strip Refugee Camp Profiles

(Updated January 2013)


UNRWA: Table of Contents | Gaza Refugee Stats | What is UNRWA?


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Beach -- Bureij -- Deir el-Balah -- Jabalia -- Khan Younis -- Maghazi -- Nuseirat -- Rafah

Beach

The third largest of the Gaza Strip’s eight refugee camps – and one of the most crowded – Beach camp is known locally as "Shati". The camp is on the Mediterranean coast in the Gaza City area.

Beach camp initially accommodated 23,000 refugees who fled from Lydd, Jaffa, Be’er Sheva and other areas of Palestine. The camp is now home to more than 87,000 refugees, who all reside in an area of only 0.52 square kilometres.

Streets and alleys in the camp are often very narrow and the area is considered among the most densely populated in the world.

Blockade

Unemployment has risen considerably since the blockade was imposed on Gaza, making life more difficult for most refugees in Beach camp. Far fewer families can provide for themselves and a huge proportion of the population is dependent on UNRWA’s food and cash assistance.

At the same time, the ban on entry of cement and gravel has made it impossible for refugees to build or repair shelters. Basic hygiene is also of great concern, as 90 per cent of the water is unfit for human consumption.

Fishing limit

The Israel Defense Forces’ imposition of a three-mile fishing limit has particularly affected Beach camp. The diminished fishing catch has led to lost livelihoods and increased poverty.

How we help

UNRWA implemented a job creation programme project at the Gaza port which provided hundreds of fisherman with short-term job opportunities: fixing nets, cleaning the area and compiling fishing statistics. Unfortunately, due to funding shortfalls in the Emergency Appeal for 2011, UNRWA was forced to cut support to the fishermen, along with support to other sectors including farmers.

Support the fishermen via the job creation programme.

The Agency has also improved lives through its microfinance programme. Saleh Farahat started a sugarcane and natural fruit juice shop in Beach camp in 2005 with a loan of US$ 600 from UNRWA. He now has US$ 7,000 in capital and says: “I am now able to provide much better living conditions for my family. By getting several loans from UNRWA, I was able to expand my shop by purchasing new equipment and appliances and I even plant and harvest my own sugarcane.”

Statistics

  • Move than 87,000 registered refugees
  • 16 school buildings running on double shifts to accommodate 32 schools. UNRWA also uses a Palestinian Authority school building for one school in the afternoon.
  • One food distribution centre
  • One health center

Bureij

Bureij camp is a comparatively small refugee camp located in the middle of the Gaza Strip. The camp is near Maghazi and Nuseirat refugee camps.

Bureij camp was built in the 1950s to house approximately 13,000 refugees who until then had lived in British army barracks and tents. The refugees who settled in Bureij had mostly come from towns east of Gaza, such as Falouja. Today, the refugee population of Bureij is more than 34,000.

Blockade

The blockade on Gaza has made life more difficult for most camp residents. Unemployment levels have risen dramatically and fewer families can provide for themselves, leaving a staggering proportion of the population dependent on UNRWA’s food and cash aid.

Water and sanitation

Bureij camp is located close to Wadi Gaza, an open sewage pond from which raw sewage flows directly into the sea. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, up to 80,000 cubic metres of raw or partially treated sewage are pumped out to the ocean in Gaza each day, resulting in serious environmental health risks, including watery and bloody diarrhoea among refugee children.

In the camp, 90 per cent of the water is unfit for human consumption.

Statistics

  • Over 34,000 registered refugees
  • Seven school buildings, four of which run on a double-shift basis, accommodating 11 schools, four running on double shifts
  • One food distribution centre
  • One health centr

Deir El-Balah

Deir El-Balah camp is the smallest refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. It is located on the Mediterranean coast, west of a town of the same name, in central Gaza. Deir al-Balah means "Monastery of the Dates", a reference to the abundant date palm groves in the area.

Deir El-Balah camp initially provided shelter for around 9,000 refugees, who had fled from villages in central and southern Palestine as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

The refugees originally lived in tents, which were replaced by mud-brick shelters and, later, by cement block structures. There are now more than 21,000 refugees living in the camp.

Blockade

Life under the blockade is increasingly difficult for camp residents, as unemployment has risen enormously. Fewer and fewer families can provide for themselves and most of the population is now dependent on UNRWA’s food and cash assistance. Basic hygiene is also of great concern in the camp, where 90 per cent of the water is unfit for human consumption.

Fishing limit

Like Beach camp, Deir El-Balah camp has been particularly affected by the Israel Defense Forces’ imposition of a three-mile fishing limit. A diminished fishing catch has caused refugees to lose their livelihoods and poverty to increase.

UNRWA’s job creation programme worked to alleviate this, providing fishermen with short-term job opportunities, which benefit the entire community. Unfortunately, UNRWA had to cut this support because of lack of funding for the 2011 Emergency Appeal.

Statistics

  • More than 21,000 registered refugees
  • Five school buildings, all of which operate on a double-shift basis, accommodating 10 schools
  • One food distribution centre, shared with Maghazi camp
  • One health centre

Jabalia

Jabalia is the largest of the Gaza Strip's eight refugee camps. It is located north of Gaza City, close to a village of the same name.

After the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, 35,000 refugees settled in the camp, most having fled from villages in southern Palestine.

Today, nearly 110,000 registered refugees live in the camp, which covers an area of only 1.4 square kilometres.

Blockade

The blockade on Gaza has made life more difficult for nearly all refugees in the camp. Unemployment levels have risen dramatically, and fewer families can provide for themselves. A staggering proportion of the population is dependent on UNRWA’s food and cash assistance, which gives these previously self-sufficient families the basic dignity of food on the table.

Basic hygiene is also of great concern in the camp, where 90 per cent of the water is unfit for human consumption.

Closed crossing

Jabalia is the closest camp to Erez border crossing with Israel. According to OCHA, before the second Intifada, more than 21,000 Palestinians crossed Erez to work in Israel each day. Since 12 June 2007, the crossing has been closed to pedestrian traffic, with very limited exceptions made for medical and business cases.

Statistics

    • Nearly 110,000 registered refugees
    • 20 school buildings, all running on double-shifts accommodating 40 schools.
    • One food distribution centre
    • One health centre

Khan Younis

Khan Younis refugee camp is located about two kilometres from the Mediterranean coast, north of Rafah. It lies west of the town of Khan Younis, a major commercial centre and stop-off point on the ancient trade route to Egypt.

After the 1948 war, 35,000 refugees took shelter in the camp, having fled their homes during the hostilities. Most were from the Be’er Sheva area. Today, Khan Younis camp is home to nearly 72,000 refugees.

Blockade

Life for nearly all refugees in the camp is more difficult because of the blockade of Gaza, with much higher unemployment. Fewer families can provide for themselves, leaving a staggering proportion of the population dependent on UNRWA’s food and cash assistance. Ninety per cent of the camp’s water is unfit for human consumption, so basic hygiene is another big concern.

Reconstruction

Over the years, many of the refugees living in Khan Younis lost their shelters in Israel Defense Forces operations. Prior to the imposition of the blockade, UNRWA had commenced a significant re-housing project to accommodate all those who had lost their shelters. However, the blockade prevented UNRWA from bringing in construction materials to complete the project, leaving thousands of people without permanent shelters.

UNRWA only received permission in 2010 to bring in the materials to complete a number of housing units for refugees whose shelters were demolished years ago. UNRWA estimates that it must construct a minimum of 10,000 shelters to re-house refugees currently living in unacceptable conditions and/or who have lost their homes as a result of the conflict.

Statistics

    • Nearly 72,000 registered refugees
    • 25 school buildings, 22 running double-shifts, accommodating a total of 38 schools
    • One food distribution centre
    • Three health centres

Maghazi

Maghazi camp is located in the centre of the Gaza Strip, south of Bureij camp. It was established in 1949 and is one of the smaller camps in Gaza, both in terms of size and population.

Maghazi is characterised by narrow alleys and high population density, with more than 24,000 refugees housed in an area of no more than 0.6 square kilometres. Most of the refugees who took shelter in Maghazi as they fled the hostilities of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war originated from villages in central and southern Palestine.

No construction or repair work can take place as the blockade prevents Gazans from importing building materials. This has intensified problems housing the expanding population and maintaining the camp’s overstretched infrastructure.

Like other camps in Gaza, Maghazi suffers from high unemployment and poverty.

Statistics

    • Just under 24,000 registered refugees
    • Seven schools, three running on double shifts
    • One food distribution centre
    • One health centre

Nuseirat

A busy and crowded camp, Nuseirat is currently home to more than 66,000 refugees. Set in the middle of the Gaza Strip, Nuseirat is very near Bureij and Maghazi camps.

Nuseirat, which takes its name from a local Bedouin tribe, initially accommodated 16,000 refugees who fled from the southern districts of Palestine after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, including the coast and Be’er Sheva. Before the camp was formed, refugees had to live in a former British military prison in the area.

Blockade

The blockade on Gaza has made life more difficult for nearly all refugees in the camp, which now has extremely high unemployment. Far fewer families can provide for themselves and a staggering proportion of the population dependent on UNRWA’s food and cash assistance.

Ninety per cent of the water is unfit for human consumption, so basic hygiene is another great concern.

Statistics

    • More than 66,000 registered refugees
    • 11 school buildings, of which 9 operate on a double-shift basis, accommodating 20 schools
    • One food distribution centre
    • Two health centre

Rafah

Rafah camp, established in 1949, is located in the south of Gaza, near the Egyptian border. In the year after Rafah camp was created, thousands of refugees moved from the camp to a nearby housing project at Tel El-Sultan, making the camp almost indistinguishable from the adjacent city.

Originally home to 41,000 refugees who had fled from the hostilities of the 1948 war, Rafah is now home to more than 104,000 refugees. High population density is a major problem, with people living in crowded shelters along extremely narrow streets.

Blockade

The blockade on Gaza has made life more difficult for many refugees in the camp. However, since the “adjustment” to the blockade, Gaza witnessed a construction boom due to the illegal materials entering Gaza through the tunnels with Egypt enriching some people in the camp.

However, unemployment levels remain very high, leaving a staggering proportion of the population dependent on UNRWA’s food and cash assistance. Basic hygiene is also of great concern in the camp, where 90 per cent of the water is unfit for human consumption.

Flower economy

Export of carnations was a key element of the Rafah economy before the blockade. However, since the start of the blockade in June 2007, only a small number of truckloads of carnations have been permitted to be exported from Gaza.

School buildings

With a school population that increases by an average of 10,000 children per year and a ban on legal building materials for schools, UNRWA had to find urgent solution to accommodate students. One solution was to have some classes held in the school yard.

In Rafah, a school was built from shipping containers. Each of 15 classrooms is made from two containers welded together, with a door and windows cut out. For the school’s 453 students, the hot months are extremely hot and the rainy months are very cold due to a lack of ventilation and insulation in the steel containers.

Statistics

    • More than 104,000 registered refugees
    • 25 school buildings, 17 operating on double-shifts, to accommodate 42 schools in total
    • One food distribution centre
    • One health centr

Sources: UNRWA

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