Children hit ever-harder by Lebanon’s unrelenting crises

13 December 2023
A young infant
UNICEF/2023/Lebanon/Fouad Choufany

BEIRUT, 13 December 2023 – The impact of Lebanon’s unrelenting, overlapping crises continues to worsen, increasingly robbing children of their education and forcing many into child labour, as parents struggle with ever-diminishing resources

With data collected in November 2023, UNICEF analysis reveals further deterioration in almost every aspect of children’s lives, as the four-year-long crisis shows no sign of abating. The emotional burden is particularly heavy in conflict-affected southern Lebanon and among Palestinian children.

“This terrible crisis is eroding the childhood of hundreds of thousands of children, through multiple crises not of their making,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon. “Its severity is crushing children’s dreams, and taking away their learning, their happiness and their future.”

More than a quarter of households (26 per cent) said they had school-aged children not attending school, up from 18 per cent in April 2023, when a similar assessment was conducted. Making matters worse, several dozen schools in southern Lebanon have been closed since October 2023, due to an intensification of hostilities, affecting more than 6,000 students.

Skyrocketing prices and widespread poverty are continuing to force families to resort to desperate measures just to afford one meal per day and basic shelter. The survey also shows that:

  • The number of families sending children out to work to supplement household income, rose to a shocking 16 per cent, from 11 per cent in April.
  • More than 8 in 10 households (84 per cent) had to borrow money or buy on credit to purchase essential grocery items, a 16 percentage point increase over six months.
  • More than 8 in 10 (81 per cent) reduced spending on health treatment, up from 75 per cent.

The deprivations and uncertainty are taking a heavy toll on children’s mental health, with almost 4 in 10 households (38 per cent) saying their children are anxious, and 24 per cent saying they are depressed on a daily basis. The numbers are significantly higher:

  • In the South Governorate,  where 46 per cent of households say their children are anxious and 29 per cent are depressed, and in Nabatieh, where the figures are 46 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.
  • Among Palestinian households, where the figures stand at 47 per cent of children reporting anxiety, while 30 per cent say they are depressed. Palestinian children are affected by the cumulative emotional impacts of poor living conditions, factional clashes, uncertainty about the future and the shocking images from the war in Gaza – where many of their loved ones have been injured or killed.

UNICEF is urging the Government to show a clear commitment to children's rights and take strong action to support, protect, and ensure essential services for all children in Lebanon. Neglecting children today will inevitably manifest in a weakened and struggling Lebanon tomorrow.

“The daily suffering of children must stop,” said Beigbeder. “We must redouble our efforts to make sure every child in Lebanon is in school and learning, is protected from physical and mental harm and has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to society.”

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Notes for editors:

UNICEF CFRAs are carried out twice a year in Lebanon. The latest was conducted by telephone in November 2023 among some 2153 households (1228 Lebanese; 534 Syrian refugees; 391 Palestinian refugees)

UNICEF has expanded its programme to respond to the compounding crises, including: 

  1. Supported more than 1,070 public schools, facilitating the enrolment of over 400,000 children. This assistance involved disbursing funds for teacher salaries, directly supporting school funds, and contributing to parent council funds to cover operational costs.
  2. In the education sector, UNICEF implemented the Summer Catch-up program in 587 public schools, benefiting over 156,000 children.
  3. Enrolled 450 children with disabilities in public education and therapy services to enhance their overall well-being.
  4. Provided cash assistance for education to over 190,000 children (both Lebanese and Syrian refugees) in public schools throughout the year, including children with disabilities.
  5. Completed the rehabilitation of 26 public schools and solarized 26 other schools in order to reduce operational costs and ensure a continuous supply of clean energy.
  6. Facilitated improved access to vaccination services, reaching over 600,000 children with routine essential vaccines across the country.
  7. Solarized 172 primary healthcare centers to reduce costs and ensure uninterrupted essential health services.
  8. Procured and installed more than 1,000 solar fridges in public health facilities to safely store vaccines.
  9. Delivered Nutrition and Early Childhood Development services, care practices, and supplies to over 270,000 children and their caregivers.
  10. Supported the Ministry of Public Health in initiating the Lebanon Integrated Micronutrient and Anthropometry (LIMA) survey.
  11. Collaborated with the Ministry of Social Affairs, the ILO, the EU, and civil society groups to launch Lebanon's first-ever National Disability Allowance.
  12. Assisted water establishments across Lebanon with over 706 repairs and maintenance, supplying more than 300 tons of chlorine for water treatment to ensure clean drinking water supply across Lebanon.
  13. Mobilized over 500,000 people through Qudwa (role model) initiatives, fostering positive behaviours and sustainable social change for children.
  14. Reached more than 30,000 individuals, including girls, boys, women, and men, with psychosocial support services.
  15. Trained over 700 child justice-related professionals on child rights in justice proceedings.
  16. Enhanced the employability of 60,000 young people, empowering them to actively participate in their communities.
  17. Contributed to solarization, ICT, WASH, and internet connectivity assessments in 158 TVET public schools and 35 TVET private schools, benefiting over 100,000 young people.
  18. Launched the "Nahnoo Volunteers" platform, engaging over 27,640 individuals and generating close to 11,000 hours of volunteerism, life skills, and youth engagement.
  19. Partnered with the Ministry of Information and local media to safeguard children and adolescents from media risks and advocate for their rights

In southern Lebanon, UNICEF's support extends to:

  1. Pre-positioning emergency healthcare supplies and contributing to the equipment of Primary Health Centres.
  2. Ensuring the availability of fuel for uninterrupted water supply in the event of power outages.
  3. Conducting emergency repairs on a damaged water station, restoring access to water for over 6,000 people.
  4. Distributing essential school supplies, digital learning tools, and offering psychological support to children who have been displaced or whose schools have been closed.
  5. Facilitating teachers' training initiatives and providing incentives to educators.
  6. Offering nutrition counselling for caregivers of children under the age of 5 in shelters and host communities.
  7. Establishing safe spaces within shelters.
  8. Producing and distributing 1,692 winter kits to date for the displaced population. Additionally, creating youth groups in shelters to empower displaced youth, providing them with a voice and purpose during the crisis.

Media contacts

Christophe Boulierac
UNICEF Geneva
Tel: +41 79 963 92 44
Blanche Baz
UNICEF Lebanon

Additional resources

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