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Children of Gaza are Forced to Work as Unemployment Rises

Feeling the brunt of the 43 percent unemployment rate in Gaza, kids as young as 10 are becoming breadwinners to support their families.

Child labor has risen sharply in Gaza, where youngsters toiling in garages and on construction sites have become breadwinners for families because of the effects of the Palestinian enclave's 43 percent unemployment rate.

Above:  Sabri Attalah, 17, works at a pottery workshop in Gaza City on March 21, 2016. Attalah, who works along with his family members at their workshop, earns around 25 Shekels ($6.40) per working day. The boy, who quit school, hoped to be a design engineer.

MOHAMMED SALEM / Reuters

In the past five years, the number of working children between the ages of 10 and 17 has doubled to 9,700 in the territory, according to the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics. The bureau said 2,900 of those children are below the legal employment age of 15. Economists in the narrow coastal strip, home to 1.9 million Palestinians, estimate the real number of underage workers could be twice as high.

Above: Mohammad al-Bana, 10, sells mints at a market in Gaza City on March 29. Bana, whose father is unemployed, earns around 10 Shekels ($2.50) per day. The boy starts working after finishing school. He hopes to continue his education and become an engineer in the future.

MOHAMMED SALEM / Reuters

The increase in Gaza goes against trends. The International Labour Organization says the worldwide number of children in labor has fallen by a third since 2000, from 246 million to 168 million, with more than a fifth in sub-Saharan Africa.

Above: Mahand Salama, 13, hires out his toy car for children to enjoy a ride at the beach in Gaza City on March 17. Salama, whose father is unemployed, charges 1 Shekel ($0.25) per ride and earns around 25 Shekels ($6.40) per day. He and his two brothers are the main breadwinners of their family. He still attends school and hopes to become a doctor.

MOHAMMED SALEM / Reuters

Mohammad Dader, 12, who works nine hours a day as an apprentice mechanic, helps his employer at a garage in Gaza City on March 17. Dader, whose father is a milk seller, earns 30 Shekels ($7.70) a week to help his father support their family. The boy, who quit school, hopes to own a garage in the future.

MOHAMMED SALEM / Reuters

Haitham Khzaiq, 16, who quit school six months ago, sells candy apples at Gaza's newly developed seaport, a major picnic venue, on March 17. Khzaiq, whose father is unemployed, works a half-day, seven days a week, earns 20 Shekels ($5) per working day and is the sole breadwinner of his family. He hopes to be an architectural engineer. "We are five brothers and eight sisters. I am the oldest son and I had to work because my father is unemployed," he said. "I don't earn enough but it is better than nothing and it is better than begging people for money."

MOHAMMED SALEM / Reuters

Abed al-Kareem Yassin, 16, works at a house under construction in Gaza City on March 21. Yassin, whose father is unemployed, earns 40 Shekels ($10) per day, and he and his two brothers are the main breadwinners of his family. The boy, who quit school, hopes to be a mechanic.

MOHAMMED SALEM / Reuters

The disparity of incomes in the Palestinian territories is evident on the Gaza beachfront, where child vendors lugging trays of tea, coffee and snacks mingle with other children using expensive cellphones to record their family picnics. Several smart hotels overlook the port and beachfront.

Above: Mahmoud al-Sindawi, 15, sells balloons and soccer balls on the beach in Gaza City on March 17. Sindawi, whose father is unemployed, earns around 25 Shekels ($6.25) per day and he and his brother are the main breadwinners of their family. He still attends school and hopes to be a trader.

MOHAMMED SALEM / Reuters

Mohamoud Yazji, 16, who works as apprentice mechanic, repairs a car at a garage in Gaza City on March 17. Yazji, whose father works as a tailor, earns 50 Shekels ($13) a week to help his father support their family. The boy, who quit school, hopes to own a garage in the future.

MOHAMMED SALEM / Reuters

Mohammad al-Asi, 16, repairs a fishing net in Gaza City on March 29. Asi, who helps his father support their family, earns around 50 Shekels ($13) per week. He quit school two years ago boy hopes to become a fisherman.

MOHAMMED SALEM / Reuters