The Lebanon conflict can be seen at different levels. A bloody internal conflict between different ethnic and religious groups has led to a protracted civil war. In addition, the population is divided into a pro-American and pro-Syrian camp. Finally, the conflict between neighboring Israel and the Palestinians creates much tension.
Groups and refugees
In Lebanon live 17 different ethnic and religious groups which are strictly separated from each other, including Sunnis, Shi’ites, Christians,
Druze and Palestinians. In fact, each inhabitant of Lebanon, legally or illegally, is attached to a political group. Furthermore, some 450,000 registered Palestinian, 50,000 Iraqi and Sudanese refugees live in Lebanon. All without formal citizenship.
The situation in the refugee camps is miserable. There is almost no work, hardly any medical facilities and schools and high crime. Violence in the camps is regular. Many camps are “free states”, where the Lebanese government has no control and armed groups fight over power.
Children in Lebanon
The war has an enormous impact on the children in Lebanon. Children in the camps live under constant fear of rocket attacks. Because they can not attend school, many children are illiterate. Many young children have to work for long hours in garages or are involved in the perilous garbage collection. Still many children become disabled due to landmines and cluster bombs. They become isolated, are sexually abused and mistreated. Children are surrounded by violence in Lebanon. They have learned to solve their problems by fighting.
Children live in constant fear of another outbreak of violence. The failure to carry out a transitional justice process twenty years after the civil war has contributed to keeping wounds open and to fuelling resentment between communities. There are high levels of distrust and negative opinions about ‘the other’ among youth groups. These sentiments are passed down from generation to generation, creating a vicious cycle of violence and a culture of fear.
War Child supports three partner organizations in Lebanon:
1. Naba’a focuses creative and recreational activities for 1,500 children and their parents in Palestinian refugee camps. In addition, the organization stimulates communication and understanding between children, parents and teachers of various groups. Children are forming youth groups to organize creative activities for other children.
2. Solidarity Association for Social and Cultural Development has set up a safe play area for children where they participate in creative activities and performances of their rights. Many working children are participating in the activities. They build up their confidence, they can express their feelings and show their parents and teachers what their rights are. Through playful literacy and numeracy workshops, chances for working children are heightened to go back to mainstream education.
3. Sustainable Democracy Center focuses on bringing children and youth from differentbackgrounds together to contribute to a peaceful society. Children form “peace clubs” in which they themselves indicate how they can solve their problems. They present their plans to each other and their parents in an annual gathering of all peace clubs. SDC also organizes information meetings at schools and youth centers on, amongst other, violence against children at home and school, teenage marriages the and situation of children in the refugee camps.