Lebanon’s compounding crises are having a “devastating” impact on children and their education, a United Nations agency said Wednesday, warning of additional pressure as the Israel-Hamas war spills over into the country.
UN children’s agency UNICEF said more than a quarter of households surveyed last month reported children not attending school, compared to 18 percent in April.
The number rose to more than half in Syrian refugee households, the report said, adding that “the cost of education materials” was the most commonly cited barrier to attendance, AFP reported.
For four years, Lebanon has been gripped by a crushing economic crisis that has pushed most of the population into poverty.
Some 16 percent of families and a third of Syrian refugees sent school-aged children to work, the report said, while more than 80 percent of households “had to borrow money or buy on credit to purchase essential grocery items”.
Lebanon’s “persistent and compounding crises… are exacting a steadily devastating toll on children nationwide, increasingly stripping them of their education and forcing many into child labour,” the UNICEF report said.
“Desperate parents, grappling with ever-dwindling resources, are forced into a heart-wrenching struggle to keep their families afloat amidst the unrelenting challenges.”
Since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, the frontier between Lebanon and Israel has seen deadly exchanges of fire, mainly between the Israeli army and Hezbollah, raising fears of a broader conflict and sending thousands fleeing border areas.
“Several dozen schools in the southern part of Lebanon have been closed… affecting more than 6,000 students,” the report said, noting that “attendance is minimal at schools that still remain open”.
UNICEF also warned of the emotional impact of the crises, saying “the deprivations and uncertainty are leaving children hungry, anxious or depressed”.
Some 38 percent of households reported their children were anxious, the agency said, with the figure rising to 46 percent in parts of south Lebanon near the cross-border hostilities, and almost half of Palestinian refugee children.
“The survey also shows that 34 percent of children in Lebanon believe their lives will be worse one year from now,” the UNICEF report said.
The agency urged Lebanese authorities “to take strong action to support, protect and ensure essential services for all children”.
The severe crises are “crushing children’s dreams and taking away their learning, their happiness and their future”, said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF representative in Lebanon.