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UNICEF alarmed at plight of children in conflict-hit southern Lebanon

In World
April 30, 2024

Fighting between the Shiite militia Hezbollah and Israel is plunging tens of thousands of children and young people and their families into misery in southern Lebanon, aid workers say.

Almost daily airstrikes from Israel are destroying the livelihoods of the people, many of whom were already living in precarious conditions, said the UN’s aid organization for children, UNICEF, on Tuesday.

Child labour is on the rise, with some families sending children as young as 4 to work in the fields to earn a living, said Ettie Higgins, deputy head of the UNICEF office in Lebanon.

Doctors have told her about 7-year-olds who seek treatment for back problems because they have to carry heavy rubbish sacks every day. Many children are malnourished and others suffer from anxiety. This has consequences for their entire lives, Higgins said, because children are often unable to make up for early developmental disorders later in their lives.

Higgins said several countries have reduced their humanitarian support for Lebanon. As a result, many UNICEF programmes have been cut at a time when more support is needed than before. Schools and water supplies have been partially destroyed by Israeli airstrikes and health centres have been closed.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia has been firing rockets, artillery and anti-tank shells at Israel from Lebanon since the beginning of the Gaza war more than six months ago.

The militia says it is taking the action out of “solidarity” with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel, in turn, is striking Hezbollah positions with air and artillery attacks. Most of the fighting is concentrated in the border region of Lebanon.

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