Population Size: 21,000
Established date: 1948
Deir El-Balah camp is the smallest refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. It is located on the Mediterranean coast, west of a town of the same name, in central Gaza. Deir al-Balah means "Monastery of the Dates", a reference to the abundant date palm groves in the area.
Deir El-Balah camp initially provided shelter for around 9,000 refugees, who had fled from villages in central and southern Palestine as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
The refugees originally lived in tents, which were replaced by mud-brick shelters and, later, by cement block structures. There are now more than 21,000 refugees living in the camp.
Life under the blockade is increasingly difficult for camp residents, as unemployment has risen enormously. Fewer and fewer families can provide for themselves and most of the population is now dependent on UNRWA’s food and cash assistance. Basic hygiene is also of great concern in the camp, where 90 per cent of the water is unfit for human consumption.
Like Beach camp, Deir El-Balah camp has been particularly affected by the Israel Defense Forces’ imposition of a three-mile fishing limit. A diminished fishing catch has caused refugees to lose their livelihoods and poverty to increase.
UNRWA’s job creation programme worked to alleviate this, providing fishermen with short-term job opportunities, which benefit the entire community. Unfortunately, UNRWA had to cut this support because of lack of funding for the 2011 Emergency Appeal.
- More than 21,000 registered refugees
- Five school buildings, all of which operate on a double-shift basis, accommodating 10 schools
- One food distribution centre, shared with Maghazi camp
- One health centre
- Electricity cuts
- High unemployment
- Three-mile fishing limit
- High population density
- Contaminated water supply
- Lack of availability of construction materials