A Stark Reminder of our Development Shortcomings
Presented by: Karen Chacar
May 3, 2010
The father is a drug addict and in jail. The pregnant mother is struggling to find work as a house cleaner. The elder brother, 17, dropped out of school to scavenge for scrap metal that he can sell for recycling. One of the sisters (15) has left school to look for jobs as a cleaning woman. The one room they share has no electricity except what the neighbours give, and no water. This is the case of a typical family living in one of the poorest areas in Lebanon, Nabaa.
This study targets the northern belts of Beirut, particularly Bourj Hammoud and Sin Elfil. These 2 areas are characterized by overpopulation and by forming a poverty belt of 4.5 km2. Particularly, the following report focuses on the third cluster which comprises the Nabaa area which is divided between Bourj Hammoud and Sin ElFil. A century ago, the area was known for its fertile cultivated land which attracted inhabitants from different areas to seek work in these agricultural fields and to work in the industries of Beirut. Later, it attracted Armenians who fled Ottoman persecution, and the most significant population increase in this area happened during the 1975 war due to uncontrolled migration, which widened the socio-economic gap among different sectors of the population.
I chose, then, to focus on Nabaa because it is one of the poorest regions in Lebanon characterized by a significantly lower standard of living than many areas around the nation. Caused by a massive population shift to the area in search for jobs with improper urban planning and poor supply of adequate infrastructure and social services, its current socio-economic situation is characterized by: acute health and social problems, poverty, drug addiction, prostitution, unemployment, and misery. Moreover, the community is not at all harmonious because of the political instability in the country and the existence of different political and religious as well as ethnic groups in the area.
It is important to note that this study was conducted with a few limitations such as the community reluctance especially to questions regarding income and the difficulty to find reliable secondary sources.
The Nabaa cluster is a densely populated neighborhood spanning an area of 3 km². According to the Bourj Hammoud Municipality data, the area is densely populated and comprises a population of 15.000 residents living in approximately 3500 households.
Nabaa, which comes from the Arabic word “Nab3” or water spring, historically was known for the abundance of its water and its wide green agricultural lands. Its growth as an urban center dates back to the 1940s-50s when rural Shiite migrants from South Lebanon and Baalbak-Hermel regions settled in the area for its proximity to industrial areas in Beirut. Rural migrants who settled in Nabaa offered their skills and labor in the city and its affluent suburbs making the area a ‘reservoir of labor’.
The assessment team estimated the number of household members as 5 persons based on 42 families interviewed during the process. The AUB study also indicated that most of the households are nuclear families, mostly male-headed (79%), while the rest of the households are female-headed (21%). The demographics of Nabaa have changed dramatically in the early years of the Lebanese war in 1975-77 when violence broke out in the eastern suburbs of Beirut. The Shiite population and other Muslim residents of Nabaa fled the neighborhood and were mostly displaced to West Beirut and its Southern Suburbs. They were replaced by displaced Christian families from the South and the Chouf area in Mount Lebanon, who fled their towns after violence broke out in their areas. Nabaa, since its early expansion as an area with affordable housing, has attracted migrant communities. In fact, 65.1% of Nabaa residents were...