Deir el-Balah camp is the smallest camp in the Gaza Strip. It covers an area of 160,000 sq. meters beside the sea in the middle of the Gaza Strip and west of Deir el-Balah (Monastery of Dates) town. The area is well-known for its abundant date palm groves. Tents were provided as temporary shelter for the original 9,000 refugees and these were later replaced by mud brick shelters and, in the early 1960s, by the current cement block structures. Most of the original refugees are from villages in the central and southern parts of pre-1948 Palestine. Prior to the closure of the Gaza Strip in September 2000 most of the refugees worked as labourers in Israel or locally in agriculture. Some refugees run their own shops and workshops. There is a public market every Tuesday in the camp. There was no sewerage system in the camp before 1998 when UNRWA completed the construction of a sewage pumping station and the first and second phases of a sewerage and drainage project with contributions from the Government of Japan. All shelters are supplied with water from Mekorot, the Israeli water company. In late 1997, the Palestinian Authority extended the main coastal road south between the camp and the sea. Several shelters were demolished to make way for the new road and families were given small plots of land and some money as compensation to build new shelters outside the camp. FACTS AND FIGURES The registered refugee population is 19,534 persons. UNRWA runs 8 schools (6 elementary and 2 preparatory) with 8,785 pupils enrolled in 2004/2005. Only 1 of the schools is run in a single shift. The Agency's health centre was reconstructed in June 1993. It is staffed by 39 health care workers assigned to a morning shift. On average, 9,500 consultations are held there each month. UNRWA supports the camp's women's programme centre and a youth activities centre. A new community rehabilitation society was opened in late 1997 in an annex of the WPC to provide services for around 86 children with disabilities and many integrated educational services to about 750 children. 995 families (4,147 refugees) are eligible for relief assistance under the Agency's special hardship programme.
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