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UN Seeks to Protect Children from Work in Lebanon


FILE - A Syrian refugee child works with his father in the south of Sidon, southern Lebanon, April 30, 2014.

With child labor soaring in Lebanon following the outbreak of war in Syria, the United Nations published Wednesday the first guide in Arabic to help farmers and officials seeking to protect them from risks like sexual abuse and injury.

Children as young as 5, largely Syrian refugees and poor Lebanese, are missing out on school and harming their health by working on farms, especially in remote, rural regions like the Beqaa, it said.

"Abuse and exploitation is widespread," Frank Hagemann, the International Labor Organization's deputy director for Arab states told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

More than 9 million, or almost one in 10 children in the Middle East and North Africa, are child laborers, mostly working in agriculture, ILO data show.

"It has been fueled by the refugee influx, by the need of refugee families to earn a livelihood, by their economic misery," Hagemann said.

Lebanon has more than 1 million Syrian refugees, including nearly 500,000 children, after a government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war, and Islamic State militants used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq.

The guide, co-written with the Food and Agriculture Organization, includes information on the risks child laborers face — for example, sexual abuse, contamination from pesticides and missing out on their right to education.

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