Page last updated at 05:41 GMT, Friday, 7 November 2008

Afghanistan bans street begging

By Martin Vennard
BBC News

A woman beggar in the Afghan capital, Kabul
Most of the beggars are women and children

The government in Afghanistan has banned begging on the country's streets and called on the authorities to send beggars to care homes and orphanages.

Officials say beggars are vulnerable to crime and exploitation.

Correspondents say Afghans are sceptical about whether the government can really carry out the ban as there are so many beggars and much poverty.

Beggars are a common sight on the streets of the capital, Kabul, and other Afghan towns and cities.

Most of the beggars are women, children, the disabled or elderly and their numbers increase in the winter as food becomes scarcer and employment opportunities dry up.

Child beggars are considered particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation by drug smugglers.

The government says some beggars engage in violent and anti-social behaviour, which disgraces Afghans.

And it says not all those who beg have no other means of survival, while some make a good living from begging.

It has asked the Interior Ministry to arrest beggars and send them to orphanages or care homes run by the Red Crescent Society.

The United Nations says the true number of beggars is not known, but that Afghanistan is ranked as the fifth least developed country in the world.

Aid agencies say almost half the population live on less than the equivalent of $2 a day, while the World Food Programme is trying to feed about eight million Afghans.

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