Dozens of Palestinian children across the Gaza Strip have been obliged to leave school in order to go to work and help their family finances because their fathers have been killed during Israeli offensives or are unemployed as a result of the Israeli-led siege. A report by AFP refers to 11 year-old Walid Maaruf and 12 year-old Ibrahim Ghaben. Both were once good students but left school after their fathers lost their jobs.
Around half of Gaza's 1.9 million inhabitants live beneath the poverty line, with 80 per cent surviving on humanitarian aid, according to the latest statistics quoted by AFP. Unemployment has risen dramatically to 45 per cent – one of the highest rates in the world – forcing many children to become family bread-winners.
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 Ibrahim Ghaben. "He used to gather stones and scrap metal… but now I work." Ibrahim works for between six to 12 hours a day for 20 shekels ($5) in order to help the nine members of his family.
Mahmoud Rabee is 13; his father and two of his family members were killed during one of Israel's military offensives on the Gaza Strip. He told AFP that he earns 15 shekels, less than $3, by selling hairdressing accessories. "I buy the goods 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, according to Iyad Abu-Hujayr of the Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution, "It is rarely applied."
Thousands of children in Gaza have been orphaned by the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip over the years. After the Israeli offensive 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.