Beggars get innovative

Sultan Al-Tamimi; 5/1/10

A new form of begging is being observed on Jeddah’s streets: Elderly women standing near traffic lights and on sidewalks with the children selling food baskets for up to SR300, claiming the money would be used to repair their homes damaged in November’s flash flooding in Jeddah. “Begging on the street is considered an illegal activity in Saudi Arabia and to see some individuals trying to exploit what happened to Jeddah’s neighborhoods for profit is unfortunate,” Ali Al-Hanaki, director general of social affairs in Makkah province, said on Saturday. The official said there are only a few cases of this new begging practice, which seem to be most prevalent on Tahlia Street. Al-Hanaki asked residents not to sympathize with beggars and asked those who would like to donate their money to do it through the proper channels, such as registered charity offices. A study conducted by Muhammad Al-Aji and published in Arab News found out that about 100,000 child beggars roam Saudi streets, with the majority of them coming from Yemen. Others belonged to 17 Asian and African countries.