Climate change in North Africa threatens agriculture and political stability

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BEIRUT: The Lebanese economic crisis threatens the present and future of millions of children, according to human rights activists and UN officials.

They risk exposure to child labor and premature marriage to help their families make ends meet.

Many people suffering from extreme poverty have resorted to forcing their children to work.

Children can be spotted in grocery stores and in front of roadside express shops delivering orders to passers-by.

Over the past week, there have been constant fatal or dangerous incidents involving children as young as six in Lebanon.

A six-year-old boy was killed in Baalbek on Saturday when a hand grenade exploded while playing with other children, some of whom were seriously injured.

The children found the device while they were playing.

Weapons are easily transported and used in the region, due to the presence of militias.

Areas affected by poverty are exposed to all kinds of dangers and are often the only place where children can play.

On the same day, social media platforms were buzzing with images and news of a Syrian refugee in Lebanon who tortured her two daughters in a housing camp on the outskirts of Muhammarah on the northern border with Lebanon.

The photos showed bruises and traces of torture on the bodies of the young girls, both under two years old.

While the wife denied having mistreated the two children and claimed that she had “fallen on them while sleeping”, a medical examination carried out by a doctor at a nearby health clinic showed that one of the two children suffered from a dislocated shoulder and bruises on the face. , while the other girl had a fractured pelvis.

The girls ‘father turned off his phone, so activists in the area contacted the girls’ grandfather.

One of them was taken to the government hospital in Halba for surgery, but the parents were unable to meet the costs of the procedure.

An NGO contacted UNHCR, which in turn followed up the case with Lebanese security authorities, and the two girls were transferred to a UNHCR protection center.

If domestic violence and life’s hardships weren’t enough, another incident happened over a week ago at a zoo in Lebanon that nearly resulted in the death of a child.

A three-year-old boy was accompanied by his brothers and his grandfather to a zoo in Nahr Al-Kalb, north of Beirut.

They were wandering between animal cages when the child approached a lioness cage, according to the grandfather.

In an instant, the animal hit the boy and started biting his body.

But the grandfather and another person managed to snatch the child from the claws of the lioness.

The child sustained 21 injuries all over his body, including serious gashes.

The child’s father has filed a lawsuit against the zoo owners over an alleged lack of oversight by state agencies.

He said that “the principle of imprisoning animals is rejected, but in the event that this happens, there are conditions that must be applied.

“The least of these conditions is that the captured lions do not starve to the point that if they escape from their cages they will attack people and cause a massacre.”

A report released by UNICEF on December 17 tackled violence against children in Lebanon and warned that “at least 1 million children are exposed to violence as the crisis in Lebanon escalates” .

She estimated that “one in two children in Lebanon is at risk of physical, psychological or sexual violence, at a time when families are struggling to cope with the worsening crisis in the country”.

The report coincided with the visit of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Dr Najla Mualla Majid, to Lebanon.

She said: “More than ever, there is a need to ensure that children are protected from abuse, mistreatment and violence and that their rights are protected. “

Lebanon, which hosts more than a million Syrian refugees, is suffering from an economic crisis described by the World Bank as “one of the worst crises the world has known in modern times”.

Over 80 percent of the population lives in poverty and the local currency has lost 90 percent of its value against the US dollar.

UNICEF has estimated that “around 1.8 million children – over 80% of children in Lebanon – now suffer from multidimensional poverty”.

Its report showed that “the number of child abuse cases and cases handled by UNICEF and its partners increased by almost 50% between October 2020 and October 2021, which means that assaults have increased from 3 913 to 5,621 cases ”.

It has become common to see homeless children roaming the streets of the capital and various regions begging, either pushed by their parents or out of their own hunger and despair.

Many mothers from poor communities who were approached by local TV stations over Christmas revealed that their children slept on certain days without dinner.

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