Lebanon: Escalating crisis puts children at risk as the majority of families cannot afford to meet the basic needs of their childre

“More and more families are being forced to resort to negative coping measures, including skipping meals, sending their children to work in often hazardous conditions, or marrying off their young daughters” – Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative

01 July 2021
Portrait of Rim Ramadan 8 years old Syrian refugee at her temporary house in an informal settlement camp in Arsal, Lebanon
UNICEF2021/Diego-Ibarra/Lebanon

BEIRUT, 1 July 2021 – Children in Lebanon are bearing the brunt of one of the world’s worst economic collapses in recent times[1], according to a survey released by UNICEF today.

A series of mutually reinforcing crises, including a devastating recession, have left families and children in Lebanon in a dire situation, affecting just about every aspect of their lives, with few resources and virtually no access to social support.

“With no improvement in sight, more children than ever before are going to bed hungry in Lebanon. Children’s health, education and their very futures are affected as prices are skyrocketing and unemployment continues to increase. More and more families are being forced to resort to negative coping measures, including sending their children to work in often dangerous and hazardous conditions, marrying off their young daughters or selling their belongings”, said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon.

According to a recent assessment conducted by UNICEF[2]:

  • Over 30 per cent of children went to bed hungry and skipped meals in the past month.
  • Seventy-seven per cent of households do not have enough food or enough money to buy food. In Syrian refugee households, the figure reaches 99 per cent.
  • Sixty per cent of households have to buy food on credit or borrow money.
  • Thirty per cent of children are not receiving the primary health care they need, while 76 per cent of households said they are affected by the massive increase in medication prices.
  • One in ten children has been sent to work.
  • Forty per cent of children are from families where no one has work and 77 per cent are from families that do not receive any social assistance.
  • Fifteen per cent of families stopped their children’s education.
  • Eighty per cent of caregivers said their children had difficulties concentrating on their studies at home – which might indicate hunger or mental distress.

The protracted economic depression is just one of the compounding crises in Lebanon, which is reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the massive August 2020 Beirut Port explosions, as well as the persistent political instability. While the 1.5 million Syrian refugees are the most hard-hit, the number of Lebanese people in need of support is growing rapidly.

“The World Bank has described what is happening in Lebanon as possibly one of the top three economic collapses seen since the mid 19th Century. What the UNICEF survey shows is that children are bearing the brunt of this escalating catastrophe,” Yukie Mokuo remarked.

UNICEF reinforces its call to the national authorities to implement a major expansion of social protection measures, to ensure access to quality education for every child, and to strengthen both primary healthcare and child protection services.

“Determined, concerted action is critical to mitigate the suffering, particularly among the most vulnerable, who are trapped in a spiral of poverty”, said Yukie Mokuo. UNICEF is expanding its programme and, with the support of the donor community, the agency will be ready to help more children and families. “Children’s well-being and safeguard must be a top priority to ensure their rights are met under any circumstance. Lebanon cannot afford children to be nutritionally deprived, out of school, in poor health and at risk of abuse, violence and exploitation. Children are an investment, the ultimate investment, in a nation’s future.”

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Notes to editors:

UNICEF Child-Focused Rapid Assessment was conducted by telephone among 1,244 households in April 2021.

Despite major challenges, UNICEF is mobilized to respond to the economic crisis, the impact of COVID-19 and the aftermath of the Beirut explosions. While working on expanding its  programme, UNICEF:

  • Has launched an integrated child grant to support up to 70,000 children.
  • Is working with the ILO and national authorities on a national social grants programme.
  • Scaled up efforts to address malnutrition and provide mental health support to vulnerable children, particularly children engaged in child labour and other negative coping mechanisms.
  • Spent $6.9 million in the first quarter of 2021 to secure water services for up to 4 million people.
  • Is supporting the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Has supported isolation centres, provided personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection prevention and control (IPC) kits since April 2020.
  • Is supporting the rehabilitation of a hospital’s children and maternity wards and schools damaged by the Beirut port explosions.
  • Provided psychosocial first aid to children and caretakers affected by the explosions, distributed critical humanitarian supplies, saved vaccines from the damaged central warehouse, and engaged youth in a community-based response that involved cash-for-work.

[1] World Bank, Lebanon Economic Monitor, Spring 2021: Lebanon Sinking (to the Top 3)

[2] UNICEF report, Lebanon: Children’s futures on the line

Media contacts

Juliette Touma
Regional Chief of Communications
UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office
Tel: 00962798674628
Raquel Fernandez
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Lebanon
Tel: 009611607519

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