UNICEF: A quarter of Syrian refugee families in Lebanon forced to send children to work [among whom many Palestinians]

Jamie Prentis

The National  /  June 20, 2023

Desperate situation in Lebanon pushes families to take drastic measures.

About 28 per cent of Syrian refugee families in Lebanon have resorted to sending their children to work to cope with their living situation – a 7 per cent increase over last year.

The data is from a new report by UNICEF, who spoke to Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian households in Lebanon. It also found that 86 per cent said they do not have enough money to buy basic essentials, up from 76 per cent last year.

In three out of 10 Syrian families, at least one of their children does not attend school. Transport costs, the price of educational materials, or because the school would not allow them to attend, were the most commonly cited reasons.

About 15 per cent of families have stopped their children’s education, an increase from 10 per cent a year ago, while 52 per cent cut spending on education, compared with 38 per cent a year ago.

Overall, more than one in 10 families surveyed have had to send children to work. There are about 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

“The compounding crises facing the children of Lebanon are creating an unbearable situation – breaking their spirit, damaging their mental health and threatening to wipe out their hope for a better future,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon.

The report highlights the measures desperate families have had to take to cope in Lebanon, a country grappling with one of the worse economic downturns in modern history. Much of the population has been pushed into poverty, purchasing power has plummeted – and for Syrian refugees, the Lebanese government has sharply increased its rhetoric against their presence.

UNICEF’s survey also underlined the effect the situation is having on the health of households. About three quarters have slashed spending on health treatment, up from 60 per cent last year.

“Despite these desperate coping measures, many families cannot afford the quantity and variety of food they require, and additionally cannot afford the expenses involved in getting health treatment,” UNICEF said.

“Significantly, the crisis is also driving up period poverty, with just over half of respondents saying women and girls in the household do not have enough female hygiene items, such as sanitary pads, and almost all of them are saying they are now too expensive.”

The effect on children’s mental health was also highlighted, with nearly seven in 10 caregivers reporting that their children seemed anxious, nervous or worried.

“Increasing investment in essential services for children – critically education, health and social protection will help mitigate the impact of the crisis, ensure the well-being and survival of future generations and contribute to economic recovery,” Mr Beigbeder said.

Jamie Prentis – journalist, London