My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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BEIRUT, Lebanon, Thursday—We had a delicious Arab dinner at the home of Harold B. Minor, U.S. Minister to Lebanon.

It seemed to be very much like our own cooking except that the lamb had a wonderful kind of rice and almonds as a base. The salad was leaves of lettuce with a chopped-up arrangement, the base of which was wholewheat. The other ingredients I couldn't describe to you but it made a delicious dish. Dessert was also of Arab origin and usually is served when a son has just been born to the household.

I had meant to go home early but got started talking with Dr. Penrose of the American University and two government people. I could hardly believe my watch when I finally did check the time and discovered it was so late.

We were on our way yesterday morning at 8:30 to visit some refugee camps. These camps have been in existence for four years. Conditions vary from one to another; some are much worse than others. Some have certain features that make them better.

For instance, in the first one we visited the woman in charge had been a schoolteacher. She has organized a food service in which the children are carefully served and which gives extra nourishment to those who are underweight.

There is also a big house in the middle of this camp which serves as a school and center. We visited with one pitiful, blind child whose mother works in a nearby hospital. The woman manager told me she feeds the child every day. The tents are old now and the storms of winter have made them less able to withstand the wind and the rain. The rains are heavy in this area, when they fall many of the tents are pitched straight to the ground. And when the rain runs down the hills it runs through the tents in spite of the effort to build dikes. It was stormy yesterday and many tents had blown down. Many of the people had just been washed out—and if one sleeps on the ground all the bedding gets wet. One is cold anyway because there aren't enough bed-clothes and one's misery is beyond endurance when everything begins to float.

There is plenty of tuberculosis in winter and, among the children, there is a high instance of pulmonary illnesses.

We looked into one tent where 14 people were living and where a little child had died three days ago from cold and exposure.

The fires to cook on are just little braziers that people carry from place to place. The rations are scant enough to keep body and soul together perhaps, but every now and then to get a little variety the people exchange their flour for a banana or some oranges and then the ration is not enough to get by on.

Human misery anywhere is heartbreaking, and it is no less heartbreaking when one feels something could and should be done about it. As always happens, the people who suffer are in no way to blame. They seem to be the victims of blind forces.

When one has spent the morning visiting such camps one has seen things that cannot soon be forgotten.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Beirut (Lebanon) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 15, 1952

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.