Child Protection

UNICEF’s Child Protection programme aims to ensure that all children and women at risk or survivors of violence, exploitation and abuse can thrive among protective institutions, services, and communities.

Children laughing.
UNICEF Lebanon 2013/Jari Kivelä

All children have the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse. Yet millions of children worldwide from all socio-economic backgrounds, across all ages, religions, and cultures suffer from this every day. UNICEF’s Child Protection programme aims to ensure that all children and women at risk or survivors of violence, exploitation and abuse can thrive among protective institutions, services, and communities.

Operating to address child protection issues within what has become the world’s largest refugee crisis, UNICEF Lebanon has succeeded in establishing a close relationship with the Government of Lebanon and many key national partners to provide critical protection to those children most at risk of violence and abuse. UNICEF Lebanon has become a trusted partner of the government; a partnership that is today fostering collaborations across sectors as a strong foundation for long-term protection. 

 

Challenge

The Syrian Crisis, now in its ninth year, continues to drive the largest refugee emergency in the world. Although the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has plateaued, the country continues to host the highest number of refugees per capita globally. With more than one million Syrian refugees registered in 2018 and an estimated further 500,000 unregistered, Lebanon is home to around 630,000 refugee children aged between 3 and 18 years of age. Additionally, the nation hosts over 200,000 Palestinian refugees, including approximately 31,000 displaced from Syria.

The situation of girls and boys in Lebanon is critical; especially for the most disadvantaged. Around 3.3 million people in Lebanon - more than half the country’s total population (including Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinians and others) - are categorized as being vulnerable, with an estimated 2.7 million categorized 'poor'.  

Such circumstances deliver numerous short and long-term effects on the well-being of children. In the short term, children in Lebanon are exposed to child labor, child marriage, and other forms of violence. Unfortunately, these trends are on the increase as the Syrian Crisis continues, and as Lebanon’s economic outlook continues to weaken.

In the long term, these conditions affect child development, including brain and cognitive development. For the children, abuse and neglect - including not attending school, being forced to work or child marriage, in addition to being exposed to persistent conflict - can have enduring physical, intellectual, psychological and economic repercussions that they will take with them into adolescence and adulthood.

Furthermore, gender inequalities and discrimination leave Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian girls and women at heightened risk. They are disproportionately vulnerable to physical and sexual violence, and exploitation in both the public and private sphere.

Solution

For the prevention of - and in response to - child protection violations and gender-based violence, UNICEF Lebanon continues to work closely with key Lebanese ministries, especially the Ministry of Social Affairs (MoSA), Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE), Ministry of Primary Health, Ministry of Interior and Municipalities and the Ministry of Defense.

In a logic of equity for all girls and boys in Lebanon, regardless of nationality, UNICEF’s work is organised around three critical sources of protection for children by seeking:

Girl by the window.

A strengthened political commitment, accountability and national capacity of social, justice, education and health sectors in Lebanon to legislate, plan, and budget to prevent and respond at scale to violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect.

Children sitting on a rock.

Increased access to an integrated package of quality services in most disadvantaged localities, for boys, girls and women.

Boy smiling behind his tent.

Increased capacity of children, families and communities in the most disadvantaged localities to promote practices that protect them.

How are we achieving our goals?

UNICEF Lebanon continues to play an essential role in influencing policy-making towards a stronger child protection system in Lebanon by strengthening the access, outreach and referral to quality education, learning, child protection and youth services for all disadvantaged children and their families -Lebanese or refugee.

Additionally, UNICEF is working towards supporting a stronger link and partnership with and between main ministries (including Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Public Health). UNICEF is also engaged in capacity-building of ministry staff by creating an enabling and integrated child protection system - one that supports the strengthening of both government and partners in the implementation and monitoring of inclusive policies and plans. Its success will engender the participation and empowerment of Lebanese and non-Lebanese children in society, and also enhance efforts in preventing and responding to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect of boys, girls and women.

Around 1,000,000 boys and girls and more than 600,000 caregivers received psychosocial support and sensitization on child protection and gender-based violence services, since 2014, including on issues of child labour, child marriage and where to find services.

Our Key Achievements

In 2019 UNICEF Lebanon supported:

  • Government of Lebanon in the creation of the Ministry of Social Affairs 7-year Strategic Plan on Child Protection and Gender-based Violence, expected to be published in the second half of 2019. The Plan outlines the Ministry’s vision for child protection and the protection from gender-based violence, in connection with the many other ministries, services providers and national and local actors involved. Each one of the planned interventions will be monitored throughout future years as a measure of the gradual implementation of the Plan.
  • Working on laws, policies and action plans is often time consuming, yet it is essential for a Government to address child protection and gender-based violence concerns in a systematic and sustainable way. UNICEF continues to work to strengthen the existing regulatory framework for the protection of children and women in Lebanon, particularly in the following areas:
  • Reform of Law 422 (Protection of Children in Violation of the Law or Exposed to Danger) and other child protection related provisions;
  • Child Protection by the national health system, through a dedicated policy with the Ministry of Public Health;
  • Child protection within and by the education system, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education;
  • Protection of children in conflict with the law as well as child victims or witnesses of violence, through dedicated engagement with the Ministry of Justice and Interior and Municipalities and the relevant actors of the Justice sector;
  • Alternative Care, through a dedicated Roadmap developed with the Ministries of Social Affairs and Justice;
  • Funds for Victim Support under Law 293 (Domestic Violence) – finalisation in 2019;
  • Child Marriage, through a dedicated National Action Plan – finalisation in 2019.
  • The UNICEF Child Protection programme continues to work with sixteen national and international NGO partners to increase the scale of existing services, reaching several thousands of vulnerable children, women, and families.

In 2018, in collaboration with these partners, UNICEF Lebanon provided:

  • Case management for over 3,000 children survivors of various forms of family or community violence (violent discipline, gender-based violence) and exploitation under the worst forms of child labour (children working in the streets, in agriculture, exploited by non-state armed actors);
  • Focused psychosocial support for over 6,000 children;
  • Safe spaces for almost 22,000 girls and women.

Additionally, UNICEF supported MoSA in providing critical services through staff and volunteers working in twenty Social Development Centres (SDCs) across Lebanon.

  • Psychosocial support delivered directly by SDC staff and volunteers to over 8,000 children;
  • Parenting support delivered through SDC staff and volunteers to over 3,500 caregivers.
  • Further, UNICEF continues to work with a range of partners in supporting social and behavioural change through positive practices and behaviours that protect children and women from violence, abuse and exploitation.

Through community-based dialogues on child protection, the programmes delivered:

  • Community-based psychosocial support to over 28,000 children;
  • Support to about 14,000 caregivers;

Explosive Ordnance risk education to over 14,600 children among children and adult community members across Lebanon.