Syrian conflict forces children to provide for families: Unicef

Geneva, (IANS) In four years of the civil war in Syria, many children have become the backbone of many families who fled the conflict and are living as refugees in neighbouring countries, the Unicef said on Thursday.

Syrian children have become the main providers for families, Unicef said, adding that the armed conflict was pushing more and more children into labour exploitation.

According to a survey of refugee families in Jordan, more than three-quarters of the children contribute to the family income, Efe news agency reported.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, children as young as six try to contribute money.

What started out as pro-democracy demonstrations has degenerated into one of the worst armed conflicts since World War II, pushing 68 percent of the population into extreme poverty.

More than 220,000 people have died in the fighting.

Before the crisis broke out, Syria was a middle-income country; most people had a decent life, virtually all children were in school and the literacy level was 90 percent.

According to Unicef, some Syrian children are employed in hazardous conditions and fulfill tasks that seriously affect their health and well-being, either because of long hours, or working in physically or psychologically perilous environments.

The most vulnerable among children labourers are those involved in military activities, sexual exploitation and illicit activities, including trafficking and begging.

Four-and-a-half years of conflict have plunged Syria into poverty, with more than four million displaced people who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.

Unicef stressed that the only way to remedy the damage is by offering a path for families to earn their livelihood, giving education to children and combatting the worst forms of child labour.

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