Finding solutions to violence through CBHFA in Palestinian Refugee Camps

Published: 14 April 2014 14:58 CET

By Gurvinder Singh and Raefah Makki 

“No one is born violent, it is not instinctive or in our nature. Violence is under our own control,” says an energetic Diana Fouad Owayed. Diana and her school friend, Khaled Issa abou al Omarein, both aged 18 years, are among the twenty-five volunteers who completed a  three-day training of trainers, in Beirut in March 2014, on the new Community-Based Health and First Aid (CBHFA) Violence Prevention module.

The training which targeted 10 men and 15 women is part of a partnership between the Lebanon based Palestine Red Crescent (PRCS), the IFRC and the Canadian Red Cross to help reduce the risk of interpersonal violence in the Palestinian refugee camps through capacity building of health and disaster first responders.  Two weeks after, the same training was held in Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the central West Bank, with the participation of 30 females and 12 males staff and volunteers from PRCS.

Both Diana and Khaled have been volunteering with the Lebanon based Palestine Red Crescent for the past two years as first aid responders and live in the Ain el Helwe refugee camp. The camp is one of many in Lebanon, where the rates of physical assaults, sexual violence and psychological harm are troubling and are being amplified by stressful and dense environments.

“The Lebanon based Palestine Red Crescent has recognized the negative impacts of violence on their communities, and have chosen to take action”, said Jessica Cadesky, IFRC MENA Gender Advisor.  “The newly launched CBHFA violence prevention module is an innovative approach that relies on trained and dedicated volunteers to generate discussions in their own communities around solutions to interpersonal violence”, added Cadesky.

In their experience, Khaled and Diana believe that people hurting each other through violence, is the “main problem” in their camp. However, each has come to the CBHFA Violence Prevention training in order to learn practical skills and to define ways for the Red Crescent to support their community to find solutions to the problems of violence against children, women and other marginalized groups. Through the training they have been actively engaged in planning prevention strategies with their colleagues who come from across the various refugee camps in Lebanon.  They will now facilitate one day trainings of CBHFA volunteers and support activities with adults and youth in their own camp.

With a shift from his usual bright features, Khaled turns more serious, “As a young man, I see other young men who are immature or not open-minded which can cause violence. As a youth, I can have an influence on other young people.”  He and Diana agree that “if we can reduce the percentage of people who resort to violence, even by a few percentage points, it will be a start that we can build on to make people safer in our community.”