Economic crisis in Lebanon: Every second child is threatened with violence

Status: December 17, 2021 9:35 p.m.

The economic crisis in Lebanon has serious consequences for children: According to UNICEF, more than a million of them are at risk of psychological, emotional and sexual violence.

According to the United Nations, more than a million children in Lebanon are at risk of violence – abuse and exploitation are increasing dramatically.

The number of such cases, which the UNICEF children’s aid organization and its partner organizations in the country took care of, almost doubled within a year, it said in a statement. While 3913 cases of exploitation and child abuse were reported in October 2020, it was 5621 in October 2021.

Forced marriages and abandoned babies

Every second child in Lebanon is now at “serious risk of physical, emotional and sexual violence as families try to cope with the worsening crisis”. The country is in an unprecedented economic and financial crisis, the inflation and unemployment rate has soared, more than 80 percent of the population has slipped into poverty.

Because of the dire situation, parents felt compelled to send their children to work and to force daughters into forced marriages at a young age, UNICEF said. More and more babies are being abandoned on the streets.

Syrian refugee children particularly affected

According to UNICEF estimates, one in eight families in Lebanon has their children work – sometimes on farms at the age of six. Four percent of Lebanese girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are married in exchange for a dowry, according to figures from the Children’s Fund and national authorities. Domestic violence against women and girls has increased, according to the report.

The situation for children of Syrian refugees is even more dire. The number of those who had to toil despite their tender age doubled to around 28,000 between 2019 and 2021. Most affected are boys who are abused and exploited under harsh working conditions. One in five Syrian girls between the ages of 15 and 19 is said to be forcibly married in Lebanon. The actual numbers are believed to be higher.

UN call for child marriages to be banned

Najat Maala M’jid, the UN special envoy on violence against children, spoke of an unacceptable and avoidable phenomenon. One could not justify such a violation of the law with reference to the political and economic crisis, she told the AP news agency during a visit to Lebanon. She called for a reform of laws to ensure the protection of minors. This should include a ban on child marriages and an extension of social assistance to children.

Various governments in Lebanon have failed to overcome the economic crisis. The national currency lost 90 percent of its value in two years, four out of five Lebanese live below the poverty line of the United Nations.

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