The Mobile Protection Unit provides psychosocial and medical support for street children in the southern suburbs of Beirut. An outreach mobile team, composed of a social worker, a nurse, a psychologist and a driver/social assistant roam the streets to approach children and youth in “situation of street”* and then identify their social and medical needs. They are then provided along with their families with the needed support being medical or psychosocial and in some cases are referred to Amel’s centers or other competent organizations.
What being a street-based child means
A street-based child is a child who is either living and sleeping on the streets, or who is exposed to the streets through working, begging, or garbage-searching to sell items. Deprived of a decent childhood and basic opportunities, street-based children are amongst the most vulnerable in Lebanon. They are exposed to exploitation, physical and psychological abuse, and sometimes even sexual abuse. Not only do they work in dangerous conditions – lifting heavy objects, or at risk of road and traffic accidents – but their life on the streets has scorching impacts on their physical health and mental well-being. Furthermore, working out on the streets vastly reduces children’s educational and schooling prospects and increases child marriage rates. 27% of Syrian teenagers in Lebanon between the ages of 14 and 19 are married, meaning more than one in every four Syrian girls in the country are in unions that are unlikely to let them go to school, and more likely to force them into early labour.
The scale of the street-children issue
Lebanon hosts close to 500,000 Syrian children, many of whom are street-based. A UNICEF report in 2015 found that there were 1,510 children across 18 districts in Lebanon who were living or working on the streets. 73% of them were Syrian, and two thirds were male. Things have not improved. A report by UN Lebanon in 2016 as part of ‘Lebanon’s Crisis Response Plan 2017-2020’ estimated that male child labour amongst Syrian refugee children had increased from 4% to 7%. Children’s median age for first access to the labour market is 7 and 14, and the average working day is close to 8.5 hours. Outdoor activities like today’s are crucial to give street-based children a chance to enjoy their childhood in a safe environment. For one day they have lived and played like children are supposed to, as they deserve.
The project is being funded by AFD (Agence Française de Développement) and is implemented in partnership with Samusocial International.