Mahmoud Darwish Sallam
MSF social worker in Shatila

I started working with MSF four months ago as a social worker, networking and interacting with the community in terms of all the services for the patients. I also do field networking with the NGOs, and we deal with Syrian, Palestinian, and even Iraqi refugees – or anyone else for that matter.
I live in Burj el-Barajneh camp, which is like Shatila in terms of the challenges and problems. I am a Palestinian refugee, and there are huge issues with the infrastructure in Burj and Shatila. For example, the electricity isn’t good, the water is salty and not good, the spaces are narrow, and it is getting worse. Before the Syrian crisis and the arrival of more refugees, the camps already had a lot of people.  So this is creating major pressures from the social and economic standpoints. Everything is going backwards even though there are many people who are trying to help. But there is more demand than there is supply.
This affects me personally. You can’t relax. There is no privacy. You walk in the street, it is overcrowded; you’re at home and it feels pressured. Other than that, you are exhausted with all the needs.  There’s a lot of load in terms of the work, and this is not routine or standard work. But I learn so much from the work and it’s a constantly rewarding experience. There are a lot of illnesses and a social depression from the traumas of war to the wide-spread poverty; there are the poor, and then there are the really, really poor living here. We can’t say there is a middle-class.
This is a Palestinian refugee camp and everyone should be aware of that. Anyone who chooses to live here must be aware of the shortcomings, and while there is insecurity here, it is cheaper, and it is much safer than outside. (July 20, 2017)