Dahie, Lebanon. January 15th, 2019. Portrait of Ezzo, a 6 years old Syrian refugee from Aleppo at the streets of Dahieh in Lebanon. Based on UNICEF’s 2016 Baseline Survey, it is estimated that child labour currently a ects some 100,000 children in Lebanon. The number of Lebanese children involved in child labour has tripled between 2009 and 2016. Boys are more likely to be engaged in child labour than girls across all population groups.
Dahie, Lebanon. January 15th, 2019. Ezzo, a 6 years old Syrian refugee from Aleppo is seen at the streets of Dahieh in Lebanon. In Lebanon, Syrian refugee children occupy more streets and farms than school benches. Child labour is reported as one of the main barriers to accessing education.
Dahie, Lebanon. January 15th, 2019. Gathering of child labors after activities ending outside the Fun Bus. The number of children engaged in child labor in Lebanon has increased signifi¬cantly since the start of the Syrian crisis, as the impact of the war on the Lebanese economy has resulted in worsened economic and social hardship for families.
Dahie, Lebanon. January 15th, 2019. A volunteer teaches inside the Fun Bus. As part of its fight against child labor, and with generous support from European Union in Lebanon, UNHCR and partner Makhzoumi Foundation offer psychosocial support, basic literacy and numeracy as well as reading and recreational activities to street and working children in Beirut through the Fun Bus.
Dahie, Lebanon. January 15th, 2019. A Syrian kid plays inside the Fun Bus. Education and child labour are closely inter-linked. Education allows children to realize their right to education and their right to a safe protective environment, and the lack of it puts them at risk. Education also provides an alternative for children who are at risk of child labour. Children who are not able to access education (for example, because of distance) are more likely to work; they are thus left with incomplete education and with little prospects for decent jobs, leading to a poverty cycle that is perpetuated for the children involved, their families and communities.
Dahie, Lebanon. January 15th, 2019. Aleb, a Syrian refugee from Aleppo, studies and learns inside the Fun Bus. He has been in Lebanon for the last 2 years. The number of children engaged in child labour in Lebanon has increased signfi¬cantly since the start of the Syrian crisis, as the impact of the war on the Lebanese economy has resulted in worsened economic and social hardship for families.
Dahie, Lebanon. January 15th, 2019. A young Syrian refugee plays after attending a session inside the Fun Bus. . The project reaches out to these children, who are unable to come to existing community learning centres or safe spaces and involves them in interactive, participatory and educational activities
Beirut, Lebanon. May 5th, 2019. Young Syrian refugees attend lessons inside Ouzai Center run by Borderless in Beirut. Lebanese children and Syrian refugee children in precarious conditions are offered a respite from street work with the Ouzai Center in Beirut.
Beirut, Lebanon. May 5th, 2019. FAHED, 11, Syrian Refugee, Aleppo attends lesson inside Ouzai Center. He wants to become a Kung Fu trainer. He worked in a vegetable store from 7 am to 6pm for 3 dollars a day. His employer used to abuse him. “ I don’t want to go back to work. Even if my dad forced me , I won’t return. Ill go hide somewhere, ill hide inside the house so that my dad doesn’t send me to work.”
Beirut, Lebanon. May 5th, 2019. Halima Diab, 13, Syrian Refugee from Aleppo plays during the break at the playground of Ouzai Center in Beirut. He has been in Lebanon for the last 3 years. When he was 8 years old, his father was killed in an airstrike. “ I learnt many things I did not know. I like coming here every day.”
Beirut, Lebanon. May 5th, 2019. Portrait of Garam, 4 years old, Syrian Refugee from Aleppo, outside Ouzai Centre
Forced to flee their country, Syrian refugees in Lebanon are doing their best to survive against all odds. In normal situations, the father is the income provider, however in some cases, he may be unable to work due to injury, trauma, illness or the lack of job opportunities in the case of Syrian refugees now living in Lebanon.
Unfortunately, children are having to pay the heavy price, as parents are forced to have their children work on the streets, selling items such as toilet papers, chewing gum, in order to bring in income to the household.
Lebanon’s ‘Fun Bus’ offers kids a respite from street work
On a recent afternoon in a drab neighborhood in the west of Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, a brightly colored bus pulls up to the side of a street. A group of children selling chewing gum and tissues to drivers at a busy intersection quickly pack away their wares and gather at the roadside, eagerly waiting to hop on board. “They call to us here, they tell us to come and play,” says Abed, a 12-year-old refugee from Syria. “We love coming here.” For a few hours, Abed and his friends get the chance to be normal children again, playing and learning away from the dangers of the streets. The ‘Fun Bus’ initiative is jointly funded by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the European Union, and implemented by the Makhzoumi Foundation, a Lebanese NGO.
It provides support and recreation to street children in Lebanon, thereby reducing the amount of time they spend working outside. “We roam around Beirut, in all of its neighborhoods. We do psycho-social support activities, basic literacy and numeracy classes, and handcrafts,” explains Nadine Moussa from the Makhzoumi Foundation. “I don’t like being on the street.” The project, launched in 2018, has already reached hundreds of children working in Beirut, most of whom are from among the nearly 950,000 registered Syrian refugees currently living in the country. The youngsters are forced to work to help support their impoverished families, depriving them of the chance of a normal childhood and an education.
In a small classroom overlooking the Mediterranean sea, Syrian refugees are learning mathematics on portable computers. Just a few months ago, many of them were trying to make a living on the streets of Beirut, but now have a safe space where they can learn and be children again.
More than 150 refugees attend the center in the Ouzai neighborhood of the Lebanese capital, run by the NGO Borderless. Nestled in an underprivileged neighborhood of the city’s suburbs, the center was founded by two women, Lina Attar Ajami and Randa Ajami.
“We have the same family name but she’s Lebanese and I am a Syrian from Damascus,” explained Lina. “I came to Beirut in 2012 and saw all the efforts she was making with the kids, so I couldn’t but decide to join efforts with her.”
Unable to ignore the widespread problem of child labor among Syrian refugees in Beirut, the two women came together with one goal: to get as many children off the streets and into education as possible.
“We found that a lot of kids were not getting access to formal education and public schools,” explained Randa. More than half of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon do not currently attend formal schooling.
Places are often limited in the schools’ afternoon shifts dedicated to Syrian students, many children have missed years of education and struggle to catch up, and families are often forced to send their kids out to work to provide a vital source of earnings.
This photo essay has been produced for @UNHCR