Shatila camp for Palestinian refuges is located south of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, and is administratively affiliated to Baabda District in the Mount Lebanon Governorate.
The camp was first settled in 1948 at an initiative of the ICRC, with the aim of accommodating Palestinian refugees who were displaced from their homes after the Nakba of 1948, by accommodating them in tents that, over the years, turned into concrete and tin houses.
UNRWA assumed relief supervision in the same year, i.e. in 1949. The area of the camp is one square kilometer, 50% of which is leased by UNRWA and the other 50% is owned by the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
In September 1982, the camp was the scene of one of the most infamous and brutal massacres in modern history, the “Sabra and Shatila massacre” committed by isolationist militias (particularly the Phalanges) with the support of the Israeli invasion forces against defenseless civilians from the camp’s population (some estimates indicates between 3500-5000 civilians) after the withdrawal of the PLO forces with USA and international guarantees to protect Palestinian refugees remained.
The camp also witnessed a long history of violent battles, especially during the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1992, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and the war of camps 1985-1987. As a result of all these bloody events, most of the original residents of the camp emigrated and did not return to it again.
Before the outbreak of the war in Syria in 2011, the camp’s population was 22,000 refugees, and with the influx of thousands of Syrian and Palestinian-Syrian refugees, the number has now reached nearly 40,000.
Shatila camp is one of the most miserable camps ever, with severe overcrowding on a limited area, deterioration of buildings, the spread of electricity wires, the aggravation of the water, electricity, fuel, waste and sewage crisis, the low level of basic services such as health and education, the deterioration of infrastructure, in addition to the spread of unemployment due to the Lebanese laws that prevent the work of Palestinian refugees in about 70 professions, as well as the deteriorating security conditions and the spread of drugs make misery and suffering a permanent address for this marginalized and forgotten population center.
The suffering of the population increases in the winter season in particular, when heavy rains flood the streets and lead to a sewage overflow due to the lack of a rainwater drainage system. Deaths by electric shock are frequent due to the spread of electric cables such as spider webs, extending from one building to another throughout the streets. The camp and its narrow alleys, loosely tightened with improvised tapes.
Environmental health conditions in Shatila is described by UNRWA as «extremely bad», including damp and overcrowded shelters with open drains.