Zann Huizhen Huang Describes Daily Hardship in Shatila Camp, Lebanon

SHATILA REFUGEE CAMP, LEBANON - “Life here was already hard enough before so many Syrian refugees came,” laments Zeinab, a seamstress in Shatila Camp who had been a friend of mine since the summer of 2012.


A divorcee of a drug addict, she brought up 7 children single-handedly. Up to 2012, there were about 12,000 inhabitants in Shatila, with Palestinians making up the majority. But over the last 2 years, the crisis of the Arab Spring crisis has caused the camp’s population to swell to about 20,000, as recorded in the summer of 2014. Living conditions are worsening and resources are terribly strained. With so many more people, more rubbish is being generated, the camp is more crowded and noisier, and power cuts are more frequent than before.


The new wave of refugees has driven the wages down. “My sons and many other men in Shatila cannot find work,” Zeinab adds. “There is no future for us Palestinians here in Lebanon,” she says puffing her cigarette.


The hope of returning to Palestine looks bleak as well. Apart from sitting outside her small apartment on the ground floor, waiting for customers to come, Zeinab’s day revolves around chatting with her neighbors and smoking.

To supplement her meager income, she sells tidbits and accessories from her home. Her little moments of joy come from her close relationships with her children and grandchildren. “When you do not have much in life, family is the most important gift from Allah,” she declares.  And her eyes brighten up a little.

Zann Huizhen Huang, 2014 Emergency Fund grantee

Simone Salvo