Beggary takes a new organizational turnBeggary on the rise [Archives:2005/847/Reportage]

June 2 2005

By Nazeeh Abdullah
Yemen Times Staff
Aden Bureau

Begging, as a phenomenon, has become a perilous social problem the Arab communities, including Yemenis, are nowadays suffering from. This problem is mainly growing due to increase of unemployment and instable economic situation. Those factors have led to spread of beggars in the streets practicing various methods to get money to meet their living needs.

In Aden, the phenomenon of beggary has become an annoying sight for visitors. Beggars of different ages; old people and young children, are seen clearly spreading on sidewalks, public places and markets asking for money or any kind of help in a manner provocative of visitors and tourists feelings.

Yemen Times have monitored this tragic phenomenon and resolved to discuss it with the authorities and social and psychological specialists. In the governorate of Aden to give their opinions on that social problem.

Beggary profitable

On the sidewalk of a street and amidst noises of cars, we noticed women, children, girls and elderly people moving from car to car in quest of gaining money. We stopped a girl beggar of ten years of age and asked her about the period since she has been practicing begging. She responded by saying that she had come to Aden from Tihama area, Hudeida governorate before three years and she was practicing begging, along with her father and sisters, just to gain their living and that the whole family does not meet until bedtime. While we were talking to that young girl, we were surprised by a group of people interfering to prevent us from interviewing the girl and threatened to beat us if we insisted on talking to her. As we were leaving the girl the sight of a middle-aged woman, carrying her infant on her bosom caught my eyes. She was there amidst the scorching hot temperature degree of the sun usually known in the city of Aden at this time of the year. We asked her about the reason why she was exposing her child to such harm, to which she replied that she was doing so to attract passers-by attention and to get quick profit by begging, which according to the woman, has become better than any other job. She mentioned that she gains more than five thousand riyals in a day; a sum of money helps her to cope with wants of her nine children and their bedridden husband who receives six thousand riyals as a pension salary. The husband's salary is too little to meet needs of the family, to pay for electricity and water bills and other requirements of living. She is an inhabitant of the city of Aden and the reason why she resorted to begging was that she had tried hard to get a job at any government or private sector establishment but had failed, as is the case with large numbers of university graduates who are unemployed.

A job, not phenomenon

These are some of the cases of beggary that we have tried to gather and to portray the people's sufferings. We carried our information to some specialists in sociology and psychology to sound out their opinions about the phenomenon of beggary. Professor Abdulrahman Abdulwahab, teacher of psychology at the college of arts, Aden University answered our question on the means of putting an end to the phenomenon of begging in Aden. He said in order to curb beggary and mitigate its degree; we have to discuss it with concerned sides in the government, the private sector and companies in a bid to find work opportunities to those beggars and to rehabilitate them to be skilled labour. Managing to do that we would benefit from them in the productive activity. We have to provide them with health insurance so that they would feel secure and safe in a society seeking economic and social stability.

We asked him about their role in solving that problem which has vastly spread and having various aspects. He supported our remark and added it had taken a new turning point through the organisation of some individuals forming organized groups for gaining rapid benefit through begging. Other groups have become very dangerous. Those are employed by fancied social organisations claiming to be charitable undertaking the help of the needy and the poor, but in reality, they practice economic and moral extortion in the name of the poor. Mr Abdulwahab expounded that there are many sociological studies confirming that the phenomenon of beggary is a form of poverty and could develop into a phenomenon of violence and crime of different types threatening security of the society. The beggary, as a phenomenon, is especially dangerous particularly when it leads to pupils' truancy at the basic stage of education searching for work. This act is sometimes under the knowledge of the family and sometimes it is without their awareness. Those truants could join the multitude of the illiterate who are steadily increasing. Thus, the state has to act for fighting beggary as it is deemed a bad social aspect there is great necessity to join forces in the bid of mitigating it.

Beggary has become an activity worrying the society and may result in the dissemination of crime and threaten security in the governorate. In this regard, those in charge of police stations indicate that beggary has become a profession exploited by some beggars for violation of security and deform the image of the city. It is especially so because of the migration of many Somalis into Yemen. Large number of them has been detained and sent to infirmaries or juveniles care houses. But many of them are released by prosecution. They confirm that many beggars were seized red-handedly practicing indecent acts and theft and many of them were sent to court.

Society-destructing phenomenon

At the office of social welfare whose tasks are embodied by fighting poverty in the society we asked the director general of social care fund Nasser Ellaiwa why they do not give priority to paying attention to the segment of beggars who are in great need for the office of social welfare. He said the law of social welfare had defined different segments of the society, among them the orphans, the deserted and divorced women and widows and stipulated granting them a financial assistance between 1000 to 2000 riyals, equaling the cost of one food meal. As for beggars, he says, they are not responsible, claiming they have their own fund from which they get assistance and adding that the phenomenon is a destructive one in the society. Nevertheless, he says the fund offers care to beggars who are disabled and could not work. In case the office discovers any person getting assistance from the fund to be practicing beggary, the fund stops giving him assistance. We said statistics indicated that there was an increase in cases of poverty in Yemen and that may cause an increase in the number of beggars and he remarked that the fund for social welfare was an independent establishment an the number of poverty cases registered with them were 21820 of poor families and a 90 million riyal was allotted for offering care to them. We detect poor families according to developed system. Employees conduct field observation and investigation in every area in the governorate of Aden to gather correct information and it is then sent to Sana'a to provide us with amounts of money. He affirmed his office had referred 200 cases and they will get assistance according to the rules. As for the increase of poverty cases he said the state should work out a strategy for fighting it and that they are on an executive party.

A problem with no solution

We went to the office of the social affairs in Aden that is responsible for tackling the phenomenon of begging. We asked the director of the office Ayoub Abubakr why his office did not work for finding a final solution to the phenomenon of beggars while that is part of their responsibility. He responded that the problem of begging is a big one and that no final solution has been found, adding that they have put a special priority in cooperation with the UNICEF for building a center concerned with offering care to street children to alleviate the phenomenon of begging, as it is followed in the capital Sana'a nowadays. Mr Abubakr told us they had no specific statistic about the number of beggars in the governorate of Aden because they are increasing day by day and some of them come to the governorate from other areas, a matter that makes it more difficult to count their number. Responding to our remark about the existence of certain sides or companies encourage beggars and use them, he said he was not able to ascertain that but noted that the beggars have become organized in their work and places where they gather and leave, promising they would detect those sides that employ beggars and exploit children for that purpose. He agreed that the problem has no solution but added that it could be solved through encouragement of investment, develop the economic situation to the better and put an end to unemployment.

On our part, we think that the phenomenon of beggary would continue its exceptional growth under the nose of all. It is noted that beggars have reached the government utilities that have done nothing t curb it. Here we may ask for how long would be hear and read resounding statements by officials on curing all social phenomena, negatively affecting the society without having any tangible solution?