In the camp of Ain al-Hilweh in southern Lebanon, history manifests itself with the same force that conceals signs of healthy and modern life. The profound deterioration in the camp's conditions and situations might, perhaps, be the reason to keep history present, reminding everyone that this patch of land is merely a passage to the homeland for its inhabitants, not a permanent residence. Despite the heavy fog shrouding the future, betting on it remains challenging.

In the streets of Ain al-Hilweh - the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon in terms of both area and population - one can clearly perceive the extent of the problems faced by the inhabitants of Palestinian camps in Lebanon. Poverty, unemployment, deteriorating health, social, educational, and living conditions, along with restricted means of life, are common denominators in the lives of those residing in these camps.

The main streets of Ain al-Hilweh are extremely limited, barely accommodating vehicle passage. Narrow alleys, in contrast, are responsible for connecting different parts of the camp. Walking through these alleys isn't easy for the unaccustomed; it sometimes demands a high skill level, navigating carefully on tiptoes and swiftly maneuvering between alley edges, especially during winter when sewage waters flood throughout the camp.

The adjacent camp houses have developed a unique architectural identity; some consist of intertwined or sometimes overlapping rooms. Kitchens might exist at the beginning and end of these rooms, with their spaces often less than a square meter. Many camp inhabitants still have roofs made of zinc sheets.

The camp's roads have not been paved since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. During winter, the sewage channels fail to manage the rainfall, flooding houses and destroying the furniture, intensifying the suffering of the residents who struggle to fend off the bitter cold. The situation doesn't fare any better concerning the sewage, water, and electricity networks. The water network is old and dilapidated, posing a public safety hazard. Water is often pumped directly from wells to houses without passing through tanks or undergoing treatment, jeopardizing the health of the camp's inhabitants.

Moreover, the water network runs alongside the deteriorating sewage network. In recent years, many camp residents suffered from poisoning due to the leakage of sewage water into drinking water. Hundreds of camp residents paid a hefty price, contracting kidney diseases that require frequent dialysis, a financial burden they cannot bear due to their dire circumstances.

In terms of healthcare, there is no hospital in the camp, despite its population exceeding 50,000. However, there are clinics affiliated with Palestinian national and Islamic factions. UNRWA has established two medical clinics, but they lack many medical services. Additionally, the number of doctors working there is very limited compared to the significantly increasing camp population.

Work and Education:

In Ain al-Hilweh, there are ten UNRWA schools, with only one being a high school. The overcrowding and limited classrooms due to the number of students have affected the educational process in the camp. UNRWA stopped providing stationery to students, which doesn't align with the increasing poverty among the families of these students.

The phenomenon of dropping out of schools is a major issue faced by the camp's educational system. Many students prefer leaving school and joining the workforce early in hopes of assisting their families in securing their basic needs.

Unemployment among the camp's residents exceeds 70%. Their job opportunities, according to Lebanese laws, are limited. Men are mostly relegated to construction sites, while women are often left with embroidery workshops or cleaning jobs.

Ain al-Hilweh camp, like all Palestinian refugee camps, was established following the 1948 Nakba. However, it wasn't spared from the violence that Lebanon witnessed during the 1975-1990 Civil War or the Israeli invasions in 1982. The camp paid a heavy price, with thousands of its residents losing their lives, becoming displaced, and suffering extensive damage and destruction to its infrastructure.

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