Move over Artful Dodger, here comes Jordan's version of the Dickensian light-fingered ruffian for the 21st century.
A network of fleet-footed children, orchestrated by cell phone, begs for money before the beggars flee on a telephoned alert of police drawing near, Jordanian Minister for Social Development Tamam Al-Ghoul was quoted as saying in the Jordanian press Monday, April 23.
"For sometime, child beggars have been directed by cell phone," Ghoul said. The ringleaders "warn the child beggars by cell phone when police are about to arrive," Ghoul said, although he did not give a figure for the number of child beggars in Jordan.
However, she described the problem as serious, adding that children under 15 account for 60 percent of Jordan's population of five million.
She added that her ministry was working to get child beggars enrolled in school and was intervening with their parents to stop them from hitting the street.
According to independent estimates, around a quarter of the Jordanian population lives in poverty. — (AFP, Amman)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)