A casual conversation and not-so-casual suffering

Fatema Dabdoub | 06-11-2015

Flooding in Al-Baddawi camp

I was sitting in my dorm room lazily and forcibly reviewing my lecture notes when my friend, Nada, passed by. She lives in the same dormitory as I do and she had an exam that day that finished at around 7 p.m. Nada was very frustrated after taking her genetics exam; I'd taken the course before, so I could relate. She poured her heart out, angrily explaining how she had prepared well for the exam but had never expected such tough questions. Pre-medical courses regularly inspire such trauma, as I know from personal experience.

Then, for some reason, our conversation took a different turn—a much more tragic one. You know how sometimes when you're upset, everything that is bad and sad about life starts crossing your mind? That's exactly what happened to Nada. She's from Al-Badawi camp in Tripoli (in the north of Lebanon). It’s one of Lebanon’s 12 refugee camps, and is home to nearly 17,000 Palestinians. A severe storm had hit Lebanon the previous weekend and the camp was badly affected. Many of the ground-floor apartments flooded with rainwater and due to the lack of adequate drainage and sewage systems, waste backed up into the streets. (UNRWA is the UN agency responsible most functions in the refugee camps, but has been cutting back significantly due to a shortage of funds. As for the Lebanese government, it still tries to isolate Palestinians and treats them as “visitors,” refusing to provide many basic services.)

Rivers of water rushed into ground-floor apartments. Nada's neighbor suffered a leg injury, and the furniture of other residents was swept outside due to the force of the water—which reached the height of a meter (yard)! In one house, a wall had fallen, causing water to flood in. Businesses were affected as well, with equipment soaked and damaged. Nada's mother thanked her Lord the electricity was off as usual that night, or else many people would probably have been electrocuted due to the many exposed cables. As the proverb goes, "Every cloud has a silver lining."

After Nada told me all this, the first thing I said was, "Why didn't I hear of this earlier?" I live in Saida in the south and I was visiting my family that weekend when the storm hit. I was staggered by the fact that we had heard nothing about what had happened in Al-Badawi. Nada responded sorrowfully, "because there's no media coverage of our camp."

Nada and I then realized how trivial and minor our "problems" are as students, compared to the devastating conditions our people live in. As Palestinian students, we carry a huge responsibility to use our education to make the situation better. May God make us strong and able to do that, and may He ease the suffering of our people!

Posted on November 6, 2015


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