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Global Health in the News – A Series (IV) - Sabra and Shatila

The Shatila refugee camp was set up in southern Beirut for Palestinian refugees in 1949. According to the UNRWA[1], it has housed more than 9,500 registered Palestinian refugees. Officially, it is a camp for Palestinians who fled the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967 and humanitarian missions are run by the UNRWA, but since the eruption of the Syrian Civil War, the camp’s population in 2014 was estimated as being between 10,000 and 22,000. The UNRWA has therefore been informally providing aid for Syrians on behalf of the UNHCR.[2]

Despite the growth in the number of inhabitants, the camps are prohibited by the Lebanese authorities from expanding outwards, so houses are growing upwards, with small square rooms piling on top of each other, five or more storeys high.

Today, the Palestinian refugee community has been living in Lebanon for over 60 years. Historically, the Sabra and Shatila camps are known for the infamous massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees by Lebanese militiamen allied with the Israeli Defence Forces during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The aim of the invasion was to clear the Palestinian Liberation Organisation out of the refugee camps, and upon receiving reports of the atrocities, the armies did not take any action to prevent the massacre.[3]

Information taken from BBC article – for full reading, see here:

Keep an eye out for our upcoming event (TBC 10 December) with speaker Dr Swee Ang Chai, an orthopaedic surgeon and co-founder of Medical Aid for Palestinians. In August 1982, she responded to an appeal for medical personnel to treat war casualties in Lebanon and went to work at the Gaza Hospital near the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Beirut. The following month, she became witness to the Sabra-Shatila massacre during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

Written By: Mominah Khan

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(Photo Credit: Julia MacFarlane – BBC article)

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