The Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Program addresses the deteriorating living conditions of Palestine refugees in camps. Of the 4.7 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA, roughly one-third (1.3 million) live in 58 recognized refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Over the years, the camps have transformed from temporary ‘tent-cities’ into hyper-congested masses of multi-storey buildings characterized by concentrations of poverty and extreme overcrowding. The camps are considered to be among the densest urban environments in the world.

Refugee communities are involved in the planning and design process to ensure that new facilities meet their needs. While UNRWA does not administer the camps, it does have a clear interest in improving the conditions of Palestine refugees living in them.

A new program was launched in 2006 that focused on a improving the camps’ physical and social environment through a participatory, community-driven planning approach, rather than relief.

By Sandi Hilal

Biographical note

Sandi Hilal is an architect based in Bethlehem. She is a consultant with the UNRWA on the camp improvement program and visiting professor at Al-Quds/Bard University in Abu Dis-Jerusalem. She is a founding member of DAAR. In 2006, she obtained the title of Research Doctorate in Transborder policies for daily life in the University of Trieste. She is a co-author of different research projects published and exhibited internationally such as “Stateless Nation” with Alessandro Petti and “Border Devices” with multiple publishers.

Her publications include Senza Stato una Nazione, (Marsilio, Venezia 2003); Living Among the Dead (Domus 880, April 2005); Road Map (Equilibri, August 2004), La Stanza dei Sogni (Liguori Editore, 2004), Stateless Nation (Archis, Preview # 4 2003). Her projects have been published in national and international newspapers and magazines: the New York Times, The Guardian, Il Manifesto, Al Ayyam, Al- Quds, Art Forum, and Archis.

Related Links

UNRWA Infrastructure and Camp Improvement 

Reading Materials

The Production of Space, Political Subjectivication and the Folding of Polarity: the case of Deheishe Camp, Palestine [PDF]
by Nasser Abourahme and Sandi Hilal

by Sandi Hilal
from “Architecture is All Over”
ed. Marrikka Trotter and Esther Choi

Camps versus cities in West Bank [ENG]

This study aims at studying the modes of entrepreneurship of the Palestinian camp population in West Bank.  The mode of entrepreneurship…

Commonalities and differences between camp homes [ENG]

Home as a microcosm of camp social structure’ – this phrase points directly to the ambivalences underlying any discussion of refugee camps…

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