Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Rise in Number of Beggars in Sanaa, Houthi-run Areas

Rise in Number of Beggars in Sanaa, Houthi-run Areas

Saturday, 15 February, 2020 - 12:00
Children in Yemen. AFP file photo
Sanaa - Asharq Al-Awsat

It is impossible not to see the increasing number of beggars as one strolls along the streets of Sanaa.

Thousands of them are spread across most of the city’s neighborhoods, and their number is constantly increasing. They roam the streets, intersections and markets, lying on sidewalks and facing mosques, stores and homes in the hope of getting some money or something to eat.

Residents and activists say that the recent surge in the number of panhandlers in Sanaa and other regions controlled by the Houthi militias is unprecedented and put it down to the steep deterioration of citizens' living conditions after the coup.

Officials working in social affairs speak of the spread of several other problems like human trafficking, family separation, school drop-outs and abuse of women and children as well as other phenomena that threaten the Yemeni social fabric.

They also clarified that they had proposed measures to reduce the number of panhandlers, but militia leaders refused to implement them or even to consider them because they are only concerned with their ability to exploit Yemenis’ ever growing suffering for internal and external propaganda.

Hunger has also become widespread in areas falling under the militia control for the past five years in the least, and poverty continues to become more and more common.

According to a World Bank report, more than 21 million people out of 26 million Yemenis, 80 percent of the population, live below the poverty line of the troubled country because of the war that the Houthis launched against the county's legitimate government. While the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in a recent tweet, said that “approximately 24 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance."

A local study published in 2013 before the coup included 8 Yemeni provinces put the total number of panhandlers in Sanaa at 30,000 children, while a study issued by a Yemeni research center in 2017 put the number of beggars in Yemen at 1.5 million.

This phenomenon is most prevalent in major Yemeni cities especially in the capital, Sanaa, which is controlled by the Houthis. Population experts estimate that the number of panhandlers in Sanaa exceeds 200,000 as of last May. They also point out that these estimates represent a 10 fold increase to most recent study issued by academics at the University of Sanaa before the coup in September 2014, which put the number at about 30,000 children and girls under the age of 18.

The experts believe that the surge in the number of beggars in Yemen may herald a major disaster that adds to the fears of the outbreak of a collective famine in Yemen. They consider panhandling one of the most prominent social problems that have been growing sharply since the militias' coup against the legitimate authorities.

Editor Picks