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Balata Refugee Camp is located near Nablus, in the Northern part of the West Bank. The camp is 2.5 kilometers square. This camp was established in 1950, and is populated by refugees from 65 towns and villages from the Yaffa area, including the cities of Al Led and Al Ramleh. In addition, the camp houses Bedouin tribes from the areas of Al Hashasheen, Swalmeh, Ka'abneh and Jammaseen.

Balata camp was created on a piece of land totaling 252 dunams (1 acre = 4 dunams).  It is inhabited by 3,753 families, with a total population of more than 20,000 persons. In Arabic, the word Balata means Rock. It is sometimes referred to as Yaffa camp, because many of its inhabitants came from the villages surrounding Yaffa (now a suburb of Tel Aviv).

Although Balata may simply look like an extension of the city of Nablus, the conditions within Balata are quite different from those outside of the camp. One of the primary differences is that as the population grows, there is no room for demographic expansion. This leads to severe overcrowding, a problem from which all Palestinian refugee camps suffer. In its early years, Balata was an enormous tent city, but as years passed, and the refugee problem remained unresolved, permanent structures began taking root. Permanent cement structures now stand where tents once stood.

Although there are some paved roads and permanent structures within Balata, the camp still faces many problems. Health care, education, and many other public and human services are dangerously lacking. Schools suffer from overcrowding and medical facilities lack the basic necessities to treat patients. Since the outbreak of the current Palestinian uprising, the level of unemployment, which was already high, has rocketed even higher: the poverty level stands at its worst rate yet.

The first West Bank group to defend refugee rights - the Refugee Committee to Defend Refugee Rights - was established in Balata in early 1994. This committee is very active and has three members on the Palestinian Legislative Council. The camp was very active in the first Intifadah (1987-1993). Many refugees were killed and injured, and numerous shelters were demolished by the Israeli army.

Statitics:
•  Registered Refugee Population: 21,903
•  Special hardship cases: 699 families.
•  Number of damaged shelters that have been affected due to the IDF incursions in the West Bank since the beginning of the Intifada till March 2004: 81 in which 74 shelters were assisted.
•  Number of families receiving emergency food rations: 2906
•  Number of pupils: Male: 1982, female: 2000
•  Addition 15 classrooms were added to the girls’ school.
•  Upgrading the carpentry unit in the camp.
•  762 refugees benefited from the emergency employment.

The camp is the largest in the West Bank by population. It has three schools run by the United Nation's agency "UNRWA" and has an insufficient number of overworked local community centers, such as the Balata Youth Centre, the Women's Centre, the Local Committee for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, the Popular Service Committee, the Committee for the Defense of Refugee Rights and the Yaffa Cultural Centre.

Balata link: http://www.un.org/unrwa/refugees/westbank/balata.html

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