BEIRUT, April 6 (Xinhua) -- In the coastal town of El-Mina in Lebanon's northern city Tripoli, hundreds of families live in small tin rooms in a neighborhood called Hay al-Tanak.
Covering an area of less than 500 square meters, Hay al-Tanak is the poorest neighborhood in northern Lebanon according to charitable associations that provide occasional assistance to people in the area.
Poverty and misery appear clearly on faces of residents given the lack of hygiene, potable water supplies, sanitation, and dispensaries in Hay al-Tanak, full of rotten and decayed roofs.
Most of the children living in the neighborhood are illiterate as they started working at an early age to meet the urgent needs of their families.
Samira al-Ahmad, a 65-year-old woman, sitting along with her neighbors, told Xinhua about her daily suffering while living in an unhealthy environment as rainwater enters houses from dirty alleys of the neighborhood.
Summer is even worse as hot weather attracts insects, rats and even snakes, she said.
Al-Ahmad explained that the neighborhood's residents work in collecting and selling scrap mainly or in cafes spread on the nearby sea corniche, but a big number of people have become unemployed in light of the current economic crisis and COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
Khadija Mohammad, a 55-year-old woman, told Xinhua that she wishes to leave the neighborhood but cannot afford it.
"My husband and children sell coffee and cakes on carts at the corniche; we also get some aid from local associations, which helps us survive," Mohammad said while spreading clothes on a rope to dry them after they got wet with rainwater leaking from her room's ceiling.
Hay al-Tanak now includes around 1,000 families. Dozens of them sought refuge in the neighborhood by building temporary shelters after the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s. Others are victims of poverty or displaced families from Syria.
Amer Haddad, member of the engineering department at the municipality of El-Mina, told Xinhua that the land on which the Tanak neighborhood is built had been owned by the state, but in 1992 was sold to private owners in Tripoli.
He explained that the new owners of the land have taken legal action demanding the evacuation of residents, but people stopped bulldozers from entering their neighborhood, prompting judiciary bodies to halt the demolition decision until a settlement is reached between the two sides.
Meanwhile, one owner said that his plot of land is located opposite to the corniche and its value today is estimated at more than 1 million dollars.
The owner, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he offered to pay compensation to residents, and he is waiting for a legal decision to be able to get back his property and invest on it.
The problem of establishing random houses on other people's private properties or on public properties represents a dilemma in more than a region in Lebanon as successive governments have failed to address it.