Sights and smells evoke memories of the past. This is very much the case when you enter Mahmoud Hamoudeh’s shop in Nahr el-Bared camp in Lebanon, where the smell of freshly fried falafel welcomes you. In his newly reconstructed shop, the smell that used to waft through his neighbourhood – before the destruction of Nahr el-Bared in 2007 – is back.
Mahmoud is 45 years old and married with six children. "Before the Nahr el-Bared crisis, I had a shop where I sold falafel and minced chickpeas and beans,” he says, while making falafel balls and dropping them into the boiling oil. “It was fully equipped, and it was my only livelihood income. It was destroyed, along with the entire camp.”
On 16 March 2017, Mahmoud and his family recently returned to their home and shop after it was reconstructed by UNRWA with the support of the international community. “Although the house and shop are not the same size that we had previously, it represents our socioeconomic security and all that we own in this world,” he remarks. “As I said, it's my only livelihood income, and the situation will gradually improve.”
He pauses while he stirs the boiling falafel before continuing: "We received the house and shop on 16 February, and it was not possible to have the exact same business as before. I talked about it with my wife, and we decided to restart with what we can afford, so we could meet our living needs. So for now, we will make falafel, and we will improve our business thereafter."
Mahmoud appeals to the international community to support other Palestine refugee families who were affected by the destruction of the camp a decade ago. “I ask the donor countries to support the traders who have lost their shops and businesses in the crisis and to help commerce return to the camp. I also ask donors to help the families who are still living in rented houses as they await the reconstruction of their houses,” he says. “Ten years after the crisis, we hope that the economic activity will be restored and the camp can return to life.”