It is exactly two years after a huge explosion destroyed large parts of the city of Beirut. Now, two years after the disaster, the situation in Lebanon is still alarming. Poverty and food scarcity are increasing, which has major consequences for the children in the country.
With money raised through Giro555, several aid organizations, including Plan International, have provided food and hygiene kits, emergency education and psychosocial assistance to victims of the Beirut explosion over the past two years. Aid workers faced lockdowns and rising costs from a severe economic crisis, but managed to reach the worst-hit people.
Crisis upon crisis
Although some of the houses have been restored, entrepreneurs have received training and children can go back to school, inflation, poverty and unemployment in Lebanon are only increasing. Due to a crippling economic crisis, hyperinflation, COVID-19 and the explosion in Beirut, the number of families living in poverty is growing.
Skyrocketing food prices and increasing food scarcity make everyday life increasingly difficult for many Lebanese. In March last year, 22 percent of the country’s households faced food insecurity, and 80 percent of the population lived in poverty. The shortage of fuel, food, medicine and even drinking water is increasing day by day. Hygiene products such as sanitary napkins have become unaffordable for many Lebanese.
Future girls at risk
For children, especially girls, this accumulation of crises poses a huge risk. Poverty and unemployment further jeopardize their protection and future, especially in the hardest hit areas.
“If we don’t act, we will see an increase in child marriage, child labor and child sexual exploitation,” said Mira Mkanna, child protection program manager at Plan International. The risk of this is particularly high for girls. Marriage, for example, means that the family has one less mouth to feed, and in these kinds of emergencies, girls are at greater risk of being forced into sex in exchange for money or food. “For many families, this is the last resort to keep their families alive.”
Program manager for child protection at Plan International in Lebanon
If we do not act, we will see an increase in child marriage, child labor and child sexual exploitation. For many families, this is the last resort to keep their families alive.
School dropout and child marriage
The growing problems mean that children, especially from poor families, no longer go to school. This is currently the case for three out of ten young people in Lebanon. “Not only the price of education, but also the costs of transport to and from school and the costs of basic needs have increased. Children therefore drop out of school to earn money for their families, and this has major consequences,” says Mkanna.
When children do not go to school for a long time, they not only run into learning problems, but the risk of arranged marriage and exploitation also increases. Rarely do girls return to school after a long period without education.
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To counter this, the collaborating aid organizations behind Giro555 continue their regular work for the people of Lebanon. Plan International focuses on child protection, psychosocial assistance, employment and training programs.
Mkanna: “One of our projects is in Bab al-Tabbaneh in Tripoli, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Lebanon. Here, children beg on the street for money or food or dig through garbage in search of things to sell. Plan International identifies children at risk of violence, abuse or exploitation and refers them to specialized care. Of cash transfer we provide the most vulnerable families with their basic necessities. In addition, we make children aware of their right to education and protection and their sexual health and reproductive rights through creative teaching methods, role-playing and music.”
To tackle child labor at its core, Plan International works to reduce risk factors. For example, parents and young people from the age of 15 receive vocational training in order to create their own income. In local communities, Plan International raises awareness of the risks of child labour, especially for girls, and on a national level the organization works for better protection of children in risky situations.
The aid organizations behind the Giro555 action ‘Together in action for Beirut’ are: CARE Netherlands, Cordaid, Kerk in Actie, Dutch Red Cross, Oxfam Novib, Plan International, Red Barnet, Refugee Foundation, Terre des Hommes, UNICEF Netherlands and World vision.