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Methodology and Setting

This is a multi-centre study, with five field sites in the Middle East. Each site used a similar methodology adapted to the special skills and knowledge of its team. The research was conducted in two phases: a community level Participatory Research Approach (PRA); and a household sub-sample of 20 households in each site from which case material has been drawn.



In Phase one, participatory tools drew the entire community into the research and basic socio-demographic data was collected in an open, participatory manner that established trust and confidence. Community social mapping, matrix and ranking to establish community ideas of well-being, mental and physical health, wealth and cohesion along with other techniques such as community and village time lines were also employed. One team decided to incorporate the participatory psychological approach developed by MacMullin and Odeh during this preliminary phase of research.

In phase two, a sample of 100 households (20 from each field site) with children from age 8 to 18 was drawn. The samples were stratified by socio-economic status, direct experience of forced migration and by age spread of household members.

The specific research tools for gathering data during this phase included:

  • collection of narratives and life histories with a focus on critical incidents from children and adults of different generations within the same households

  • semi-structured interviews with key informants

  • natural group interviews with men, women and children in homes and schools

  • d. participant observation.



This section describes the settings of each team and the methods they used. Although a general methodology and research design had been negotiated at a regional meeting in Cyprus in July 1999, each local team developed their specific variation on this.


In 1949 there were 110,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon ( Palestinian Liberation Organisation, 2000). In 2000, 370,000 refugees were registered with UNRWA and it is estimated that that there are a further 10,000 who are unregistered. 53% live in camps and about 20% live in 'unofficial' camps. Lebanon denies Palestinian refugees their civil rights.

They need work permits for employment and these are issued when there are no Lebanese able to take on the work. Unemployment is high at 40%. Health & educational services are in decline, especially those provided by UNRWA, and NGOs have budget limitations.


The study team worked in three areas Borj El-Barajneh camp (Beirut), Borj El-Shemali camp (Tyre, south-Lebanon) and with displaced families in the 4 buildings of an ex-hospital in Sabra, (near Shatila camp, Beirut). A survey was conducted in the camps to gather socio-economic indicators of the population. Group interviews were carried out with youth, and 20 household in-depth interviews

Lebanon Study Team Research Assistants
Su'ad Hammad, Sana Hussein, Fayza Khalaf, Samia Jammal, Mahmoud Juma'a, Hiba Izahmad, and Mohammad Hamza


The number of Palestinian refugees in Syria is estimated to be more than 400,000 by the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees (GAPAR), the Syrian government administrative department that deals with them. This includes the 370,304 registered refugees of 1948 and their descendants of whom UNRWA has records, as well as those who came from Lebanon and Gaza during the last two decades. They make up less than 2.6% of the Syrian population. 45% of them are less than 19 years old and the average family size is 6 members. There are 10 camps in Syria near Damascus and Homs (see Map 2) and three additional sites. The largest camp is Yarmouk camp with 90,000 inhabitants. Many of the Palestinians are socio-economically disadvantaged - 26% of families live below the poverty line, 22% on the poverty line and UNRWA had 24,000 hardship cases registered in 1999 ( UNRWA 1999). They do not have Syrian nationality.


A multi-method approach was taken by the team. The first step was a PRA exercise in Yarmouk camp, and some focus group interviews with UNRWA school teachers and youth leaders. A sample of 20 households was selected from three different socio-economic groups (rich, average, poor) and although the majority of households were Muslim, a few were Christian. Each household created social maps of their environment. A time line of the main events in Palestinian history since 1948 was used as an aid when interviewing although many interviewees created their own time line based on their own experiences. A family tree was created by the household during the interviews. Each household was interviewed several times in order to hear the voices of all three generations. Generally the three generations were all present during the interviews which were written up in brief notes during the interview and expanded through recall a few hours after the interview.

Syria Study Team Research Assistants
Maria Salem, Fuad Suradi, Mai Barkawi, and Manar Rabbai



Jordan has the largest number of refugees in the diaspora with 1.6 million refugees registered with UNRWA. These registered refugees constitute 32% of the total population ( UNRWA 1999). Jordan is the only Arab country which has provided citizenship rights to most refugees. There have been repeated armed conflicts (1948, 1967, 1990-1991) resulting in waves of Palestinian forced migration into Jordan and internal armed conflicts (1968, 1970-71).


The approach was multi-disciplinary and participatory. Two camps were chosen: Hitteen refugee camp is heterogeneous in terms of village of origin, trajectories of displacement and legal status and Hayy al-Mahasreh urban area which is homogeneous by village of origin, trajectories of displacement and legal status. A child-focused psychological intervention was carried out in a school setting. 20 households were interviewed with the focus on collecting life histories narratives of forced migration. There were both group and individual interviews. Participant observation was carried out in neighborhoods in the camps and focus groups were conducted with youth.

Jordan Study Team Research Assistants
Suzan Al Salhi, Yousef Sa'adeh, Hassan Mohammad, Jihad Ghosheh, Bassima Abu Al Auf, and Suzan Barakat


The Gaza Strip is 50 kilometres long, 5 -12 kilometres wide and, in total, comprises 362 square kilometres. There are 4 towns, 8 refugee camps, fourteen villages and in total a population of more than 1 million there. The population is predominantly young; 47% are under 15 years of age and 5.2% are 60 years and over. In 1998, there were 798,444 registered refugees of whom 54.8% were living in camps ( Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 1999). UNRWA provides education, health and relief services to refugees living in and outside camps. The Palestinian Authority provides services to residents (non-refugees).


The study took place in 3 camps and one area outside the camps (El Bureij, Khan Younis, Beach camps and El-Zaytoon and Sheikh Radwan area). Three generational households were selected with grandfathers who were at least 11 years old in 1948 and grandchildren who were between 8-18 years of age. Grandparents were interviewed with parents and sometimes grandchildren were present. Women and girls were interviewed separately. The team consisted of a male and female social worker and a female nurse.

Gaza Study Team Research Assistants
Eitdal El Khateib, Salah Hamdan, Jehad Okasha and Samah El Sabhah

West Bank

Palestinian refugees constitute 37% of the population of the West Bank. In 1997, 542,642 refugees were living in the West Bank of whom 26% were living in the nineteen camps and 74% were living outside the camps ( PCBS census 1997, UNRWA 1997). Nearly half the population (45%) is under 15 years of age - 17.5% are between 0-4 years of age and 27.5% are between 5-14 years of age. The fieldwork was carried out in the Hebron area.


A PRA exercise was conducted in Al-Fawwar camp. In addition a workshop was held with employees of NGOs and governmental organisations working with youth to review current provision and challenges. The team conducted 15 semi-structured interviews in two camps Al-Fawwar and Al-Aroub in the Hebron area of the West Bank. The households were all three generational households who came from different villages of origin and were located in different neighbourhoods within these camps. The households were visited 2-3 times and each generation was interviewed separately. The youth and adolescents were interviewed when possible outside the home in a community centre. This was in order to elicit their voices without the influence of elders or the presence of male relatives. Each interview took about 2 hours on average. The interviews were written up in Arabic and then translated into English.

West Bank Study Team Research Assistants
Maesa Irfaeya and Hisham Sharabati
Last updated Sep 25, 2011