While walking around in Idlib’s main streets, it is quite likely that you will find a child on the street or perhaps walking next to you asking “Would you give me some, please, please” or to “Would you like to buy this from me.” walking around the streets with a box of cheap biscuits, water bottles or tissue bags that they sell throughout the day to give to their families who are in dire need. Families are forced to push their children to the street to help them afford living costs to have some food on the table and survive the hardship of life. 

A fraction of money helps to put food on our table

This is how Asma, a 13-years old girl has been spending the past two years of her life in Idlib city. “After I was displaced with my family from East-Ghouta in 2018, I have been away from school, and instead of going to school in the morning like how I like to, I go to the street to sell people my goods,”

Narrating her daily routine Amsa displayed that she wakes up every morning at six o’clock to prepare to begin her day selling, walking between the public minibusses passengers, to people walking on the streets what she carries of sweets or water sometimes that her father buys in a cheaper deal to sell back and get more money. 

I walk daily for nearly ten to twelve hours and eat only one wrap that my mom makes me at home to eat during the day until dinner time at home when I come back in the darkness

Asma 13 years old girl

The amount of money Amsa and other children of her age on the street earns can barely amount to three dollars of full day work maximumly. “School became a luxury to me, every day I look to other children going to school, yet my family of five brothers can not afford me going to school and not go to work on the street while they have no food or medicine and milk for my infant baby brothers,” Asma said,

Asma’s brothers, Ahmad also works in another district in the city, and Ammar works in a gasoline street booth, while her father has lost his left leg limb and incapable of working while the mother has to stay to assist the father and the other two infant family members.

Child labor in Syria was a problem prior to 2011, but the conflict has greatly exacerbated the situation. Children are working in more than 75 percent of households with almost half of them being reported as providing a “joint” or “sole” source of income.

Similarly, Jamal, a 14-year-old adolescent from east Aleppo whose hopes of becoming a teacher in the future as he said are pending in limbo. “I tried to go back to school over the past three years when I was in Aleppo with my family where our school was bombed multiple times before all of us later forcibly were displaced in December 2016,” Jamal said, 

Jamal registered a few times in the local schools in his area but had to drop-off because his family’s financial need was drastically increasing.

According to the UNHCR, Some 6.2 million people are internally displaced and more than 2 million boys and girls are out of school in Syria. An estimated 83 percent of Syrians live below the poverty line, and people are increasingly vulnerable due to the loss or lack of sustained livelihoods.

Jamaal tries to sell water bottles, tissues, biscuits on the street to people walking on the street, car drivers endeavoring at the end of the day to help his poorly paid father whose low income of his rather unstable carpenter profession can barely afford with Jamal’s contribution to bringing enough food for the family.

“I had hoped in the past to study and normally live, but I have to go out every morning to work and, I wish not to continue like this forever, I hope to study someday and do not have to beg people to buy from me,” Jamal said

The joint report between Save the Children and UNICEF estimated that around 2.7 million youth in Syria are not in school. Moreover, Human Rights Watch estimated approximately half of the refugee children outside of Syria do not have access to formal education. One in three schools cannot be used because they have been damaged, destroyed or now serve as centers for resettlement or military activity.

Asma, Jamal and hundreds of children have been forced children laborers earning a humble amount of money to help their family in their daily endeavor to survive, while, unwillingly dropping-off their future. This growing phenomenon is parallel with the drastic exodus of forced displacement in northern Syria by which have affected almost half a million Syrian families whose children amount nearly to half of the displaced civilians.

Inception by volunteer tackling child labor

A new initiative in Idlib city has begun, by Damaa women lead association that has, over the past weeks, conducted initial local scanning of street children labor. The study listed in its first scan nearly 320 children in the city of Idlib solely. 

Monthna, Damma’ office manager who runs the civil society organization alongside volunteers the new initiatives. She hopes to introduce their data to the donors about the large-scale problem to act in accordance with the needs sooner.

We are willing to introduce a plan that supports street-children with reintegration programs to education and schooling and more important material assistance, [i.e. financial and clothing support]. The program will aid their families to send their children to resume education 

We aspire to conduct this project by those children who through them we believe and foresee a better future for the families and society as a whole

Monthna – Damaa Organization Manager

The program, which is currently being designed, is working to encompass psychological support for children due to the abuse and trauma they have been exposed to while working on the street. Especially girls who get harassed and abused by people on the street while they try desperately to sell some of their goods and earn a living.

Even if we start small now, it is better than nothing, I believe that we will gradually expand and one day eliminate the widespread children labor phenomena or at least limit its proliferation.”

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