Child Labour should never be justified

The multiple crises that have plagued Lebanon for the past years have had a direct effect on children. Many were forced to drop out of school to support their families. The story of Abdul Karim is a story of hope in the midst of darkness

UNICEF Lebanon
Abdul Karim, 11-years-old, at Terre des Hommes Italy in Barja
16 March 2022

“I am feeling happy about my ability to go back to school.”

With these words and a beautiful smile, Abdul Karim greeted us when we met in Barja, at UNICEF partner Terre Des Hommes Italy.

This is the story of an 11-year-old Syrian refugee, who was pushed to work in order to support his family financially. Abdul Karim collected garbage and searched for any reusable or recyclable items and materials for re-sale. He also worked in a bag factory in the suburbs of Barja. “I used to make around 100,000 Lebanese Lira per week, sometimes per month, and I would give the money to my parents to get food and other necessities.”

Abdul Karim in class studying with the help of his teacher


Abdul Karim was forced to take on adult responsibility at such a young age and financially support his family during the current economic crisis in Lebanon. His father also believed that starting work at a young age would sharpen his skills and personality.

“My father would get furious whenever I requested to go back to school,” says Abdel Karim.


Today we see happiness on Abdul Karim's face. “I cried from joy the moment I got back to school,” he says.  

Abdul Karim’s mother is his greatest supporter and takes the credit for putting an end to his sadness. She sought support from Terre Des Hommes Italy, which subsequently worked closely with the father and engaged him in caregivers’ sessions to convince him of the value of education and to enroll his son back in school.  

Abdul Karim with his mother

Child labour places serious risks on the wellbeing of children and is detrimental to their health and development. In many situations, children might be involved in dangerous activities that more than often negatively impact their physical, mental, social and educational development. “I didn’t like working at all. I used to cry. Once, I fell on my head while I was pulling out an iron stick, and ended up with two stiches,” says Abdul Karim.

“I am so happy that you helped me get back to school”

Children like Abdul Karim need inclusive support not only targeting the child but also their family and wider community. UNICEF Lebanon, through its partners, is reaching communities with social behavioral change sessions such as theatre and ad-hoc conversations which raise awareness of the risks of child labour and stress the importance of education. It was these sessions that paved the way for Abdul Karim’s return to school. “I am so happy that you helped me get back to school, I cannot thank you enough,” he says. 

Abdul Karim in class reading from his book

Children driven to labour can suffer from physical and pyshocological harm as well as long term missed opportunities. And in nearly every case, it cuts children off from schooling and health care, restricting their fundamental rights and threatening their futures.

Through the financial support of the European Union, UNICEF works to prevent and respond to child labour through case management and social protection services. The programme also offers bridging classes for children who missed education to support their return to school.

Today, Abdul Karim is back in school, happy to be with his friends and dreaming of a bright future. “When I grow up, I want to be a cardiologist. I want to help the poor get the medicines they cannot afford. I want to make them happy,” he says.

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This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union.

Its contents are the sole responsibility of UNICEF and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.