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Middle East
Gaza's child labour on the rise
Seven per cent of children under 18 are now working in the Palestinian territories.
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2007 21:08 GMT
Children sell tea on the streets
 in the Palestinian territories

It is only a few days since the talk was of the prospects for peace and renewed hope for the future of Palestinians.
 
But for a generation of Palestinian children, things may only be getting worse.
 
In the streets of Gaza, isolated by the Palestinian government and much of the world, growing numbers of children are being sent out to work.
With 70 per cent of people in Gaza living below the poverty line, children are being forced to take on the role of provider for their struggling families.
 
Statistics show that seven per cent of children in Palestine, where 52 per cent of the population are under the age of 18, are now working.

Child mechanic

Mohammad Nemir is a 10-year-old boy who works for a mechanic.

In video

Gaza's lost childhoods 

 

He left school two years ago and his labours in the workshop have not only changed his dreams but his features too.

Despite his age, Mohammad finds himself the sole provider for a family of nine.

Pincers and screwdrivers have replaced his books and toys, so he can earn about $50 a month.

As for the natural right of a child to play with other children, Mohammad can no longer enjoy that right because of his exhausting work.

However, he does not seem to begrudge the life.

He said: "I left school to help my father and mother ... there is no one to provide for us at home and I have six siblings ... they chose this job for me ... and I like it."

Mother's plight 

In her search for shekels, Rasha spends her time running between cars and people, begging some, and convincing others to buy something from her.

Rasha wants to 'wear a uniform like other girls'
Rasha is less happy about her situation.

She said: "I sell biscuits or gum or anything else ... that's why we don't go to school ... we don't have anything.

"We want to buy vegetables for the house and medicine for my mother ... my sister has asthma so we have to buy her the breathing enhancer... I would like to go to school ... and wear a uniform like other girls."

Rasha and three of her siblings have been working the streets for four years now.

Her father has abandoned the family and her mother is ill, there is no provider for the family expect for Rasha and her brothers and sisters.

Rasha's mother said: "I wish that my children could go to school... But I can't send them to one ... who's going to provide for us?

"I was forced to send them out on the street so we would have an income... I am ill and divorced ... and I have no family ... I have no one ... only God."

These are children caught up in the hardships of life, stripped of their childhoods and left with responsibilities that drain and exhaust them.

And regardless of all warnings, there are no serious efforts to help these children and prevent the growing phenomenon of child labour in Gaza.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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