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Generation of children 'at stake' in Lebanon crisis: UN
Lebanon Representative Yukie Mokuo attends a news conference in Beirut. - Reuters
Lebanon Representative Yukie Mokuo attends a news conference in Beirut. - Reuters

BEIRUT: The UN children's agency Tuesday called on Lebanon to take urgent action to protect children after it documented a spike in child labour rates and food insecurity since April. "Urgent action is needed to ensure no child goes hungry, becomes sick, or has to work rather than receive an education," said Yukie Mokuo, Unicef representative in Lebanon.

"The staggering magnitude of the crisis must be a wake-up call," she said, quoted in a statement. Lebanon is grappling with its worst-ever financial crisis, with nearly 80 per cent of the population estimated to be living below the poverty line.

Unicef in October followed up with the more than 800 families it had surveyed in April and found that since then living conditions had deteriorated dramatically. "The future of an entire generation of children is at stake," it said in its latest report titled "Surviving without the basics".

The survey found 53 per cent of families had at least one child who skipped a meal in October 2021, compared with 37 per cent in April.

"The proportion of families... who sent children to work rose to 12 per cent, from nine per cent," Unicef added.

It said almost 34 percent of children who required primary health care in October did not receive it, up from 28 per cent in April.

"Life is very hard; it is becoming harder every day," Hanan, a 29-year-old mother, was quoted as saying by Unicef.

"Today I sent my four children to school without food. "I have suicidal thoughts and the only thing stopping me from doing this is my children. I feel so bad for them."

Amal, a 15-year-old who works as a fruit-picker in southern Lebanon, said she had to take up the job to support her family. "Our parents need the money we earn. What would they do if we stopped working now?" Unicef quoted her as saying. "When I look to the future, I see life getting harder."

The report noted that less than three in 10 families had received social assistance, leading them to take "desperate measures".

The proportion of Lebanese families sending children to work increased sevenfold to seven per cent between April and October, the report said.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government has been slow to implement social safety programmes including a $246 million World bank-funded one adopted by parliament in March and a $556 million ration card scheme backed by the legislature in June. "Urgent action is needed to ensure no child goes hungry, becomes sick or has to work instead of receiving an education," Mokuo said. - AFP/Reuters

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