Finding another way

Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are vulnerable to being exploited and forced to work. However, as Kezia M’Clelland writes, Viva and its local partner are prioritising the need for child protection and supporting them in getting an education.

Refugees comprise a quarter of Lebanon’s population. This brings pressure on resources and opportunities, and Syrian families increasingly struggle to meet their basic needs. With work hard to find 76 per cent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live below the poverty line.*  As a result, child labour is on the rise among refugee families struggling to make ends meet.

In Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley there is a high demand for cheap labour in agricultural work and, amongst our partners working in this area, it is common to hear stories from families who feel they have no option but to send some of their children to work. One father here told me: “They are too tired, they are working too hard. A child doesn’t have the capacity for this, but he has to do it.”

Lack of access to education is a key factor in enabling child labour, and at least 41 per cent of children aged 6-14 in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley are still out of school.* Viva works alongside our local  partner MERATH to support churches in their desire to help children get back into school, and our non-formal education projects now reach 1,500 children with basic education and psychosocial support.

In one centre I was encouraged to hear stories of how two older boys, who had been taken out of school in order to work, were helped by staff at the education centre who convinced their parents of the importance of education. These children are now back in school. Viva supports these centres through child protection training and mentoring, and supporting training for educators.

Providing opportunities for education is not a complete solution. We’re currently also prioritising looking at ways to engage and support parents. Livelihoods projects are being piloted by MERATH to seek to address the economic pressure which contributes to exploitation. Viva will ensure that child protection is integrated into these projects.

Please pray for:

  • Access to education for all Syrian children, and particularly older children and youth who most often lack this opportunity and are vulnerable to exploitation.
  • New initiatives to emerge that will enable Syrian children and young people to fulfil their potential and be free from exploitation and abuse.

Kezia M’Clelland is Viva’s Children in Emergencies Specialist

* Source: The 2017 Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

This article first appeared in Life magazine, issue 10

Photo credit: Helen Manson/Tearfund NZ