THE WORLDPOST
04/23/2014 11:59 am ET Updated Apr 23, 2014

What Syrian Child Refugees 'Working The Streets' In Lebanon Really Means

Khaled, an 11-year-old Syrian boy living in Beirut, often works until 4 am begging partygoers for money. He's one of countless refugee children in the Lebanese capital whose parents rely on them to work. If Khaled doesn't bring in money, his family will not eat.

More than one million Syrians, nearly half of which are believed to be children, have fled to neighboring Lebanon since the start of the conflict more than three years ago. Lebanon's population has since swelled and with a lack of government infrastructure and dwindling resources, even the youngest refugees are forced to contribute in order for their families to survive.

Journalist Ruth Sherlock profiled Khaled in a recent article for The Telegraph on the dire living conditions of many child refugees in Lebanon. Sherlock explained to HuffPost Live's Ahmed Shihab-Eldin that even though families are doing their best to make money, some of them simply can't make ends meet. Coupled with expensive rents and high-unemployment rates, every bit of income makes a difference.

"It was completely heartbreaking following [Khaled]. He’d be going through these groups of people who were drinking, there’s live music, and he’s asking for a tenth of the price of a beer so he can feed his family," Sherlock said.

"This is no place for a child," Sherlock continued. "Kids should not be on the street, but if they don’t make the $13 a day, or whatever their target is, then their family won’t eat and that is currently the reality here."

According to UNICEF, 1 in 10 Syrian child refugees across the region is now forced to work. Sherlock explained that there is neither a real established system to deal with these children nor refugee camps in Lebanon to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons.

While there is a non-profit organization helping to rehabilitate working children, Home of Hope, Sherlock noted that it is extremely underfunded and therefore cannot reach all those in need. "It is not just that these children are staying out late begging for money, but also that their safety is seriously jeopardized," she said.

"I don’t think I can stress how serious it is. It is absolutely diabolical," Sherlock said. "The head of [Home] of Hope... says that about two-thirds of the children who come to him have been sexually harassed. That’s people putting date rapes in a drink, that’s people taking them to their house and these kids being raped. There’s just no protection system here so these kids are very very exposed."

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