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Mon Apr 20, 2020, 09:16 AM

How Bogota is combatting child begging

Many fleeing political and economic instability in Venezuela arrive with few resources. An estimated 60% lack a regular migration status, leaving them without access to the labor market and health care system, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. As a result, many get by working in the informal market, selling food and goods on street corners or in busy plazas and living on what they earn day-to-day.

Some 14% of Venezuelans arriving in Colombia rely entirely on begging to sustain themselves, according to UNHCR. Some bring their children with them as a means of generating greater empathy and therefore, more funds.

Taking in the gravity of the situation, last summer the city of Bogotá began a campaign to alert citizens to the growing problem of child begging and the services available to children and their parents who either beg or work on the informal market to make a living.

The city designated teams to locate children begging on the streets and direct their families to information about city resources available to them. Many have been referred to the social services center, El Centro Abrazar, which functions as a daycare center specifically for Venezuelan migrant children who do not otherwise have a safe place to stay while their parents work. It opened last August in a former kindergarten building with ample space for the 120 children who range in age from babies to pre-teens.

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