It is early morning and eight-year-old Ibrahim Khodar Arja is already hard at work, his face and hands covered with dirt as he repairs a car at the mechanics shop where he works six days a week, 10 hours a day.
Ibrahim should be at primary school but his job leaves him no time for that.
Like thousands of children across Lebanon he has joined a growing force of child laborers whose fate is as much dictated by their family's dire economic situation as by the country's turbulent politics.
Officials estimate that at least 100,000 children -- one in 10 -- up to 18 years of age work in Lebanon, mainly in the agriculture sector or as mechanics as well as in jewelry workshops and sweatshops.
"The 10 to 15 age group is the most affected," Nabil Watfa of the International Labor Organization office in Beirut told AFP. "But children as young as eight have also been noted to work.
"These kids, the majority of them boys, work handling chemicals, in garages, in metal-welding shops, carpentry, marble cutting and in farms where they are exposed to pesticides."
Most of the child laborers hail from the northern regions of Akkar and Tripoli, where many families live below the poverty line.
Others work in the eastern Bekaa Valley and in the south of the country, where poverty is also endemic and the main industry is agriculture, including tobacco plantations.
In Bab al-Tebbene, a rough neighborhood in the northern city of Tripoli, a majority of the mechanics or scrap metal shops that line the streets employ children, including Ibrahim.
The kids can be seen welding, using dangerous machinery, or handling toxic chemicals, all with no protective gear.
More than a dozen children interviewed between the ages of eight and 16 seem resigned to the fact that theirs is a future of hard work rather than play. Their tough gaze betrays a lost childhood.
Mustafa Yassin, 13, entered the work force last year as an apprentice mechanic. He earns 10 dollars a week, working 10 hours a day, six days a week.
"School was not for me and I prefer to learn a trade so that I can help my family and maybe one day open my own garage," he said shyly.
Social workers say many of the children drop out of school and seek work as they come from needy families, often of 10 children or more.
They also point to appalling conditions in state schools where standards are poor and where children are often left to fend for themselves.
"We are placed in these schools which are like prisons and many of the kids are dismissed or drop out because no one looks at them," said Rabih Saifeddin Danash, 25, who began working at age 15 at his father's garage.
Watfa said that although Lebanon in 2001 signed on to the ILO convention on child labor, it has been unable to efficiently implement it for lack of resources.
Nationwide there are a mere 91 inspectors tasked with enforcing labor laws in general, said Naha Shallita, head of the child labor unit at the labor ministry. She added that no money has been allocated in the state budget to specifically combat child labor.
Social workers warn that if the state fails to seriously take on the issue, many children could fall prey to extremist groups known to recruit in poor areas of Lebanon.
They also cautioned that prostitution and drug use was prevalent among working children.
"These kids are being denied their most basic rights," said Fatma Odaymat, of the Rene Moawad Foundation, a non-governmental organization. "We are finding that sexual and physical abuse have become a major issue."
She said although there are success stories and efforts to provide children with vocational training, the country was far off from overcoming the scourge of child labor.
"The success stories are a drop in the bucket," Odaymat said. "When you go down to these communities and see the situation, you realize we have a long way to go.