Days of Palestine, Gaza Strip -Hundreds of Gaza kids have joined workforce to help families after their fathers were killed or became unemployed due to Israeli offensives or siege.
Around half of the 2m inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, which has been under strict Israeli siege for ten years, live under poverty line, with 80 per cent surviving on humanitarian aid, according to the latest official statistics.
Unemployment has risen dramatically to 45 per cent, one of the highest rates in the world, forcing many children to become family bread-winners.
Four major Israeli offensives on the Gaza Strip during the last ten years harvested the souls of hundreds of fathers, resulting in thousands new orphans – or minor bread-winners.
Both of the 9-year-old Khamis Wahdan and 13-year-old Omar Walid were once good students, but they were obliged to leave their school after their fathers lost their jobs.
Palestinian statistics show an increase in child labour over the past five years, with an estimated 9,700 children aged between 10 and 17 now working across the coastal enclave.
“My father is unemployed,” said Wahdan said. “He used to work in house building. I was obliged to go to streets to collect scrap and sell it in order to afford little money to get food for me and the other family members.”
Wahdan works around 12 hours a day, wandering the streets, for at most 20 shekels ($5) in order to help his family.
Mahmoud Rabee, 13, whose father and two of his family members were killed during one of the Israeli military offensives on the Gaza Strip, said that he earns 15 shekels, less than $3, by selling hairdressing accessories.
“I buy the accessories from the wholesalers, put them on my small cart and go to the parks and the beach to sell them,” he explained. “Sometimes, people do not buy things, but give me something to help because they know that I am an orphan.”
Although Palestinian law bans children under 15 from working, it is rarely applied due to the very difficult economic and social situation in the disaster-stricken Strip.
After the Israeli offensive on Gaza in 2014, the UN estimated that all of Gaza’s 900,000 children had been traumatised by the violence and are in need of psycho-social support. However, they almost received none of such support.