Beggars in the Streets

It doesn’t matter how much you travel, I think it’s always tough to handle beggars in the streets. The article yesterday in the New York Times mentioned that Kabul has a rise in the number of beggars. It is true that Kabul now has its share. At most speed bumps you will find women in burqas with their children. They will also often sit in the middle of traffic, between the cars navigating the already difficult roads.

However, Afghanistan has nowhere near the number of beggars that Dhaka has. Here there are at minimum a dozen beggars with deformities of all kinds at each intersection – deformities your average American does not often see. In addition to those with deformities, there are also many hawking various wares as they can no longer compete for handouts without something to market in return.

While on the surface it might look like Kabul is doing something right by having fewer numbers of beggars, but the reality isn’t so straight forward. The reason that Kabul doesn’t have as many beggars in the streets is because it was Taliban policy to round up street people, those with mental or physical deformities, and dispose of them.

So in the end it is hard to judge the social policies that contribute to the current situations in either country.

Another issue that overlaps a bit is the use of drugs to keep children and babies sedate.

In Bangladesh the women in the street often give their babies drugs to keep them asleep on their shoulders and easier to go through the streets begging.

In Afghanistan women commonly give their babies opium to keep them asleep while they are weaving rugs.

So while one nation drugs their babies to beg in the streets, the other does so to weave rugs. Both are contributing to the economic welfare of their families while at the same time causing long term damage to their babies.

I don’t have any real answers, as both situations are very sad. Education about the affects of giving drugs to children would be one step. Another would be enterprising employment activities for those who are alter abled. In the paper the other day they covered a business that was made in making paper flowers for export with group who had been in the streets.

Difficult situations all around. No easy answers at hand, but it takes first steps to move forward.



  1. HamiHarri on July 9, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Wow – I am seriously uninformed. I thought it was bad seeing 8 year old-ish children trying to sell us marijuana while honeymooning in Jamaica…I wish someone had the answers to these problems…I know I sure don’t.

Leave a Reply Cancel Reply