Of the 4.7 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA, roughly one-third (1.3 million) live in 58 recognised refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Over the years, the camps have transformed from temporary 'tent-cities’ into hyper-congested masses of multi-storey buildings, characterised by concentrations of poverty and extreme overcrowding. The camps are considered to be among the densest urban environments in the world.
While UNRWA does not administer the camps, it does have a clear interest in improving the conditions of Palestine refugees living in them.
A new programme was launched in 2006 that focused on a improving the camps’ physical and social environment through a participatory, community-driven planning approach, rather than relief.
More about the improvement programme
Community members are actively involved in making decisions about the physical and social environment, so that improvements meet needs and priorities that they themselves define.
Refugees are involved in community groups, in assessing the impact of projects on their lives, and through employment opportunities in the construction industry.
Various pilot projects have been implemented, including:
In Neirab camp in Syria, UNRWA upgraded sub-standard housing following a design worked out by the Agency and the camp residents.
In Fawwar camp in the West Bank, UNRWA upgraded a public square for residents to use as a safe playground and for wedding celebrations, as well as improving the roads leading to the square.
This approach is now also being implemented in Dheisheh camp (West Bank) and Talbiyeh camp (Jordan), and will soon be expanding into Lebanon and Gaza.
Rebuilding Nahr el-Bared camp
Currently, UNRWA’s largest camp development and infrastructure project is the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared camp in Lebanon, which was destroyed in 2007.
An assessment and planning unit for the camp’s reconstruction was established, which successfully guided the camp residents to develop a reconstruction plan.
The department is not funded by UNRWA’s regular budget and is dependent on specific grants from donors to continue its work.
Read about the camp improvement programme
Find out more about where UNRWA works