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Urgent action needed to tackle child labour caused by Syrian Crisis: Save the Children and UNICEF

AMMAN, 2 July 2015 - The conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria are pushing an ever increasing number of children into exploitation in the labour market, and much more needs to be done to reverse the trend, according to a new report released by Save the Children and UNICEF.

The report shows that inside Syria, children are now contributing to the family income in more than three quarters of surveyed households, In Jordan, close to half of all Syrian refugee children are now the joint or sole family breadwinners in surveyed households, while in some parts of Lebanon, children as young as six years old are reportedly working.

The most vulnerable of all working children are those involved in armed conflict, sexual exploitation and illicit activities including organised begging and child trafficking.

“The Syria crisis has dramatically reduced family livelihood opportunities and impoverished millions of households in the region, resulting in child labour reaching critical levels,” says Dr Roger Hearn, Regional Director for Save the Children in the Middle East and Eurasia.

“As families become increasingly desperate, children are working primarily for their survival. Whether in Syria or neighbouring countries, they are becoming main economic players.”

The report finds that a spiralling number of children are employed in harmful working conditions, risking serious damage to their health and wellbeing.

“Child labour hinders children’s growth and development as they toil for long hours with little pay, often in extremely hazardous and unhealthy environments,” says Dr Peter Salama, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Carrying heavy loads, being exposed to pesticides and toxic chemicals, and working long hours – these are just some of the hazards working children face every day around the region.” 

Three out of four working children surveyed in Jordan’s vast Za’atari refugee camp have reported health problems at work, according to the report. A further 22 per cent of children casually employed in the agricultural sector in Mafraq and the Jordan Valley have also been injured while working.

Moreover, children who work are more likely to drop out of school – adding to fears of a “lost generation” of Syrian children.

UNICEF and Save the Children call on partners and champions of the No Lost Generation Initiative, the wider international community, host governments, and civil society to undertake a series of measures to address child labour inside Syria and in countries affected by the humanitarian crisis.

  • Improve access to livelihoods including through making more funding available for income-generating activities.
  • Provide quality and safe education for all children impacted by the crisis.
  • Prioritise ending the worst forms of child labour.
  • Invest in strengthening national and community based child protection systems and services.

“Syria’s children are paying a heavy price for the world’s failure to put an end to the conflict”, the report concludes.


Notes to Editors

  • Through the ‘No Lost Generation’ initiative launched in 2013, UNICEF, Save the Children, and other partners aimed at putting child protection and education initiatives at the centre of the humanitarian response to the Syria crisis with the commitment to reverse the trend of a “lost generation”. Child labour represents one of the key challenges to the achievement of that commitment. 
  • An estimated two million children are now living outside Syria as refugees.
  • Syria was a middle-income country before the war in 2011. The country’s economy was capable of providing a decent living for most of its people; almost all children in Syria went to school, and literacy rates were over 90%.
  • Four and a half years into the conflict, the country is beset with destitution and misery, with four in five people in Syria estimated to be living in poverty and 7.6 million internally displaced.
  • Unemployment rates surged from 14.9 per cent in 2011 to 57.7 per cent.
  • An estimated 64.7% of people in Syria live in extreme poverty, unable to meet basic food and non-food needs. 
  • Neighbouring countries are also suffering the dire consequences of this humanitarian cisis, with the influx of four million refugees.

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit: www.unicef.org.

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For further information, please contact:
Simon Ingram, UNICEF, Tel: +962-79-590-4740, singram@unicef.org
Juliette Touma, UNICEF, Tel: +962-79-867-4628, jtouma@unicef.org
Emma Pomfret, Save the Children, Tel:+44 7554 024539, emma.pomfret@savethechildren.org, or +44 7831 650409, media@savethechildren.org.uk




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