TheE35 road, at the height of Romerillos (Mejía), looks clear, only cars are observed. This scene was different until at least two Decembers ago, when the children asked the drivers to “give them Christmas”.
Begging is a social problem linked to extreme poverty or indigence and informal work.9% of the Ecuadorian population was in a situation of indigence until June2018. Then of the 17.1 million inhabitants: 1.5 million lived in this condition, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC). This percentage has remained in recent years. However, in the month of December, for the Christmas season and New Year, you can see more people asking for help on the roads of Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca.
Marquito is a boy, 11 years old, who lives in Romerillos. He and his brothers used to be located on the sides of the E35 (six lanes), to get a gift or candy. When a vehicle stopped, he, his brothers and other children expected them to give them candy, balls or carts, remember. Despite the excitement he felt about having anew toy, he did not like to leave. “I was very afraid.”
These paintings can be seen not only in the peripheries of cities but also in main streets and avenues. In commercial sectors of the capital, it is common to see parents with children in their arms, approaching cars, in search of money or sweets. For example, in avenues United Nations and La Y, in the north. They are also seen around parks, plazas, terminals and markets.
Astrategy to eradicate begging is the approach and also the follow-up to the families that are located in the streets with children. And also visits to rural villages in conditions of poverty, to stop migration.
This is part of Misión Navidad, which replaces the Da Dignidad campaign, which the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES) implemented in 2012. The goal is for children and adolescents from poor families to leave to ask for charity.Says Marcia Toca, Social Services analyst, in the Rumiñahui District. Another entity in charge of preventing children from being used by their parents or other adults, to ask for charity, is the National Directorate of Specialized Police for Children and Adolescents (Dinapen).
Marcelo Parra, the owner, says that children who beg in the streets and avenues are exposed to risks: run over, exploitation, abuse and may even be victims of human trafficking. Agents of the Dinapen approach families who ask for charity and tell them about the dangers. “Some people prefer to keep begging instead of looking for another option.”
Marco and his friends from Romerillos no longer go out to ask for charity at Christmas. These days they will be part of a Christmas program prepared by MIES delegates. The dance will be the central activity on the morning and afternoon of Monday, December 24. And from the 22 there will be productive fairs and sports championships. These types of activities, in which food is shared, are MIES strategies, so that families with fewer resources desist from begging.
Otheractions are related to adding them to the social registry, for the delivery of economic subsidies. Another objective of Mission Christmas is for citizens to become aware of the true meaning of solidarity. That is why it was decided to refresh Da Dignidad, in which inconveniences such as donations in poor condition were detected. 70% of what they left was rejected, according to Silvana Haro, coordinator of zone 9 of the MIES (Quito).
The Ministry will no longer receive donations. There will be mobile information centers in 10 areas of Quito. They will be activated on 23, 24 and 25. At these points, contacts will be shared with foundations that receive aid. If donations arrive, they will be directed to the organizations that work with the MIES.
Another concern is that some of the children who work are also often forced to beg.Silvana Haro points. There are 4 million children and adolescents in the country, between 0 and 18 years old. 8.3% of them are in conditions of child labor in 2018. In 2017, in the capital it was detected that some 5,000 people engaged in begging. But in December, every year, there is an increase in citizens asking for charity, the figures go up by 10%, that is, 500 more people.
In December 2016, Dinapen agents approached 477 children and adolescents. In 2017the figure grew by 24%, that is to say, they reached 591. This year a higher figure is expected, due to internal migration and also to foreigners. Two months ago, the Venezuelan Kevin arrived with his three children, from 5 to 15years old, to Ecuador.
He has not been able to get a job, so he decided to earn some coins in a corner of the south of the capital. When the traffic light changes to red, the man with gray hair, moves between the cars and shows a sign, through which he asks for money.
Thus,the family of Maracaibo obtains an income. He also receives help from an international foundation. In a report of the Social Observatory of Ecuador, of the 11th of this month, it is indicated that begging is one of the worst forms of child labor.
Therefore,it must be controlled by the Ministry of Labor, among other entities. In addition, the risks of labor exploitation, servitude and slavery to infants and adolescents are discussed. To prevent families from being educated, Parra andToca agree. In Romerillos, María Avendaño, mother of nine children, remembers that they went out to ask for charity in the streets, mostly at Christmas. They stopped doing it because one of their children was run over. Now she prefers to join the Christmas activities of the MIES. (I)