Government says that begging is down 80%, but it increases during the holiday season; says giving money makes the problem worse
Ecuador’s Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES) said Wednesday that its campaign ‘Give Dignity’ has been reduced street begging in Ecuador by 80% since 2008.
According to Cecilia Tamayo, MIES deputy director, the campaign has focused on child begging, which was made illegal by a 2009 law. Prior to that, Tamayo said that adults would often post their children on sidewalks to ask for money. “In many cases, the parents would sit nearby, doing nothing, as their children begged,” she said. “There were even cases where non-family members would borrow children to beg, and then split the proceeds with the children’s parents.”
In addition to stopping child begging, Tamayo says the government has started a number of assistance programs to stop begging. “There are alternatives to begging, no matter how poor a person is,” she says. “Go to any MEIS office and we tell you about them.”
Officials in Cuenca agree that the amount of begging as decreased but say it increased during the Christmas holidays.
Regional MEIS director Gloria Astudillo says that families send their children to beg in December in Azuay and Cañar Provinces. “When we see it we tell parents that it is illegal but also tell them about other programs that provide family help,” she said.
Astudillo says that begging by the elderly also increases at Christmastime.
Cuenca’s municipal social welfare office also works to reduce begging. Program director Andrés Peñafiel said his office tells street beggers about its programs and “alternative livelihoods.”
Peñafiel urges the public not to give money to beggers. “One of the reason we have the problem is that people continue to pay. If they stop, the beggers will find other assistance,” he says.