Syria's refugee children forced into work by poverty and family breakdown

Published November 29th, 2013 - 11:32 GMT
A displaced Syrian child walks through a camp with a jug of water in a makeshift camp for Syrian refugees only miles from the border with Syria in the Bekaa Valley on November 12, 2013 in Majdal Anjar, Lebanon. [Spencer Platt/ Getty Images]
A displaced Syrian child walks through a camp with a jug of water in a makeshift camp for Syrian refugees only miles from the border with Syria in the Bekaa Valley on November 12, 2013 in Majdal Anjar, Lebanon. [Spencer Platt/ Getty Images]

Hundreds of thousands of Syrian children are growing up in fractured families because of the ongoing civil war, with many being forced into child labor, according to a report released Friday by the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR.

More than 70,000 Syrian families, who sought refuge in Jordan and Lebanon, live without fathers and over 3,700 refugee children are either unaccompanied by or separated from both parents.

“By the end of September 2013, UNHCR had registered 2,440 unaccompanied or separated children in Lebanon and 1,320 in Jordan, more than 3,700 in total,” the report said.

Researchers also found that many Syrian children are taking the role of breadwinner for their families.

Children as young as seven years old are working for long hours for little payment in Jordan and Lebanon. The working conditions are said to be dangerous and exploitative, the report explained.

Most of the 680 small shops at Jordan’s Za'atri refugee camp employ children, the agency said.

The report, titled the Future of Syria: Refugee Children in Crisis, is considered the UNHCR‘s first in-depth survey of Syrian refugee children since the conflict began in March 2011. It involved four months of research focused on Syrians displaced in Jordan and Lebanon. Many refugees, however, are in also in Iraq and Turkey.

Abdullah, a 13-year-old Syrian boy, said in the report that he wakes up early every day to buy bread from other refugees living in the camp to support his family. He later sells the bread to a Jordanian man, who uses the bread to feed his animals.

“If people didn't work, how would they survive?” Abdullah said in a video released by UNHCR. “I feel like a man because I am working. I put food on the table for my family.”


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