LONDON, June 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Syrian
refugee children in Lebanon are doing back-breaking labour in
potato fields and working with pesticides in baking hot
greenhouses, a U.N. agency said on Monday as it called for
greater efforts to prevent child labour during crises.
Conflicts and disasters can push children into work that is
unsuitable for their age, harms their physical and mental
development and deprives them of schooling, the Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on World Day Against Child
About 100 million children and young people are affected by
disasters every year and 230 million live in areas affected by
conflict, the agency said as it launched a guide to help aid
agencies and policy makers prevent child labour during crises.
"We are trying to help aid agencies working on food security
and nutrition to be more child labour sensitive and to have the
risks at least on their radar," FAO child labour expert Ariane
Genthon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Rome.
There are an estimated 168 million child labourers
worldwide, 98 million of whom work in agriculture.
Evidence shows children and adolescents working in
agriculture suffer higher rates of injury and death than adults,
the FAO said. They may be exposed to pesticides or work with
dangerous machinery and heavy loads.
During crises families find it harder to provide food,
education and protection for their children, increasing the
risks of child labour, including debt bondage.
Genthon said conflicts in the Middle East had led to an
increase in child labour.
Syrian children as young as nine or 10 are labouring in
potato fields in Lebanon lifting loads dangerous for their small
frames, she added.
Children also work in greenhouses spraying pesticides, or as
garlic peelers - a task which causes painful damage to their
The FAO guidance also includes advice on ensuring that aid
programmes do not inadvertently exacerbate child labour.
For example, it said a cash-for-work initiative which
generates high demand for adult labour could leave children
shouldering more farmwork.
But Genthon said not all child participation in agriculture
constituted child labour. In many communities, children look
after animals and pick fruit and vegetables.
Light, safe agricultural work over short periods can provide
children with valuable skills for their futures, she said.
(Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters
Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers
humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and
climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)