Lebanon News

Palestinian children lack education, nutrition

For the first time since the program began, the MICS survey included questions on the life satisfaction of women respondents. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: A survey on the living standards of women and children in Palestinian camps across Lebanon showed that despite some improvement, 13 percent of youths have stunted growth and half of all secondary school age kids are not receiving education.

The survey conducted by U.N. children agency UNICEF and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics is the fourth such study, the last having been conducted in 2006.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Ola Awad, president of the PCBS, said the results of the survey – which was conducted at 5,190 households throughout the country – were important in helping advance the situation of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon.

She added that the results would help in following up on the Millennium Development Goals.

Some of the key findings of the 2011 Multiple Indicators Clusters survey relate to child health and development, where socio-economic background can be seen as a significant factor.

In the wealthiest 40 percent of households, 62 percent of children attend preschool, but the figure drops to 54 percent in the remaining 60 percent of families.

At primary school level only 4 percent of children go without education. At secondary school age, however, this figure jumps to 53 percent. This is a difference of 10 percent compared with 2006, when 63 percent of children were attending high school.

Annamaria Laurini, UNICEF’s Lebanese representative, also spoke at the launch, which was attended by the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabbour.

“Only half of the children of secondary school age are attending secondary school,” Laurini said. “Where is the other half? What more should be done to reach them?”

She added that UNICEF is “committed to addressing inequalities among all children as a matter of priority,” and said the findings of the report will be critical to the organization’s future work in Lebanon.

According to Marwan Khawaja, a social statistics expert from the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, the child mortality rates revealed by the survey were surprisingly low, with the under-5 mortality rate standing at 17 deaths per 1,000 live births, a fall from 26 in the 2006 survey.

In terms of nutrition, particularly the results that show 13 percent of all children are severely or moderately stunted, Khawaja said this was “very high” when compared to other countries in the region, but that it too had fallen from 20 percent in 2006.

He also labeled the rate of 7 percent of children aged 5-14 involved in child labor as very high and stressed that these children are also not engaged in domestic work.

The survey found geographical location and how much education mothers received to be the particularly significant variants when it came to child labor levels. Only 5 percent of Palestinians in Tripoli and 4 percent in Sidon engaged in child labor, compared with 11 percent in Beirut and 13 percent in Tyre.

Child labor is more prevalent among children born to uneducated mothers – 17 percent – decreasing to 8 percent of children born to mothers with preparatory education and 6 percent whose mothers have secondary or higher education.

For the first time, the MICS survey, a program which began in 1995 and has been conducted in 100 countries around the world, included questions on the life satisfaction of the women respondents.

The survey found that young women are the least satisfied with where they live – only 58 percent in Beirut, increasing to 84 percent in the Bekaa Valley, with an average level of 73 percent.

Only 54 percent of Palestinian women aged 15-24 replied that they were satisfied with life in general, but levels increased in tandem with levels of education and wealth.

Of women with only primary education, 44 percent were satisfied with life, but for those with secondary or higher education this increased to 56 percent.

Laurini said that the report’s examples “tell us again that every effort, every possible means and resource of imagination and reflection should be brought to alleviate some of the real burdens facing Palestinian children in Lebanon so they can aspire to the future with determination and optimism.

“Let us commit to ensuring that these disparities are addressed and that no Palestinian child is left behind because of where she or he happens to live or because of the situation of her or his family,” she added.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 06, 2012, on page 4.

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