Balata Refugee Camp
Where is Balata Camp Located?
Balata Refugee Camp is located near Nablus, in the Northern part of the West Bank. The camp is 2.5 kilometers square. This camp was established in 1950, and is populated by refugees from 65 towns and villages from Yaffa area, including the cities of Al Led and Al Ramleh. In addition, the camp houses Bedouine tribes from the areas of Al Hashasheen, Swalmeh, Ka'abneh and Jammaseen.
Balata camp was created on a piece of land totaling 252 dunams (1 acre = 4 dunams) and there are 3,753 families with a total population of more than 20,000 persons. In Arabic, the word Balata means Rock. It is sometimes referred to as Yaffa camp, because many of its inhabitants came from the villages surrounding Yaffa (now a suburb of Tel Aviv).
Although Balata may simply look like an extension of the city of Nablus, the conditions within Balata are quite different from those outside of the camp. One of the primary differences is that as the population grows, there is no room for demographic expansion. This leads to severe overpopulation, a problem from which all Palestinian refugee camps suffer. In its early years, Balata was an enormous tent city. But as years passed, and the refugee problem remained unresolved, permanent structures began taking root. Permanent cement structures now stand where tents once stood.
Although there are some paved roads and permanent structures within Balata, the camp still faces many problems. Health care, education, and many other public and human services are dangerously lacking. Schools suffer overcrowding and medical facilities lack the basic necessities to treat patients. Since the outbreak of the current Palestinian uprising, the level of unemployment, which was already high, has rocketed even higher: the poverty level stands at its worst rate yet.
The first West Bank group to defend refugee rights - the Refugee Committee to Defend Refugee Rights - was established in Balata in early 1994. The camp was very active in the first Intifadah (1987-1993). Many refugees were killed and injured, and numerous shelters were demolished by the Israeli army.
Balata Camp Facts and Figures
- Registered Refugee Population: 20465
- Special hardship cases: 579 (1,794 beneficiaries)
- Shelter Rehabilitation over the past 4 years: 364
- Shelters affected due to shelling: 29
- Number of Families received Emergency Distribution: 3201
- Addition of 5 classroom in the girls school including computer workshop funded by the USAID (2nd appeal).
- Replacement of Balata Health Center, funded by the Saudi Arabia (SFD).
- Project completed on 24 August 2001.
- Number of Students : Male 1912. Female 1896
- Figures as of 30 November 2001: http://www.un.org/unrwa/refugees/westbank/balata.html
The camp is the largest in the West Bank by population. It has three schools run by the United Nation's agency "UNRWA" and has an insufficient number of overworked local community centers, such as the Balata Youth Centre, the Women's Centre, the Local Committee for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, the Popular Service Committee, the Committee for the Defense of Refugee Rights and the Yaffa Cultural Centre.
Balata link: http://www.un.org/unrwa/refugees/westbank/balata.html