The governorate of Idleb, northwestern Syria, is witnessing an increase in child labor amid difficult living conditions that all the governorates have been experiencing for years.
The labor varies, but most work is difficult and concentrated in the industrial field like car maintenance, blacksmithing, carpentry, construction work, food stores, and selling materials at stalls.
Violence and worthless wages
The Manager of the Syrian Response Coordinators team, Mohammed Hallaj, said that the “child labor phenomenon was already there before the Syrian crisis, but it has increased since 2011.”
Hallaj attributed this to “the decrease in the level of families’ income, especially the big families, lack of awareness, and poverty.”
The average income of working children does not exceed ten dollars per month. “I do not think that any employer pays more than that,” he added.
Hallaj stated that camps in areas on the borders with neighboring countries come first in the spread of this phenomenon, as there are industrial zones that attract the bulk of children “with low wages that are not commensurate with the child’s physical fatigue.”
Weak awareness campaigns
Awareness and stay-in-school campaigns for children, which organizations working in the region carry out, do not receive people’s attention, according to Hallaj.
He adds that the children are often exposed to violence by their employers. “We see that the child who commits a tiny mistake while working is beaten by the employer.”
Waleed al-Mousa, an internally displaced person (IDP) from Hama countryside living in Atma camps, says he sends his 15-year-old child to work in a motorcycle repair shop due to the “lack of any future for education in the region.”
“The certificates issued by the Syrian Interim Government and Salvation Government in Idleb are not recognized, and the situation in the camps is very bad,” he added.
14-year-old Nassir al-Aswad, an IDP from the northern countryside of Homs living in al-Dana, north of Idleb, is forced to walk to the car repair shop in the industrial zone of al-Dana.
Aswad works daily for five Turkish lira, equivalent to 70 cents in US currency.
For three years, he has been forced, after his father died and his family was displaced, to leave school. “I was successful in study, but the poor financial situation that my family is living in forced me to work.”
He worked in several hard occupations, including in a blacksmith’s workshop in al-Dana for a year, but the employer did not give him his wage which was then 500 Syrian pounds a day, “which forced me to look for another job.”
Long hours of work
After ten years of war, two million Syrians suffer from extreme poverty, while more than 12 million are food insecure, according to statistics recently issued by the World Food Programme.
13-year-old Qayis al-Mulhim, an IDP from Soran city, north Hama, is working every day from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. loading and unloading goods from cars in a food store.
Mulhim works for 20 Turkish lira per week, which he considers “too little” for his hard work.
He left school two years ago and was forced to work in this store due to a lack of job opportunities, according to him.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.