By Liz Busisa
Has anyone ever thought of them? Do they really exist? These are some of the questions that are asked whenever street children are brought up, or not. A good number of people are aware of the existence of street children, especially those of us who live and work in the major cities in Kenya. However, few of us have actually encountered a street child with disability (SCWD); some of us even never. A study done by ChildHope UK reveals that 3.3 million children are living with disabilities in Kenya alone.
Another question that comes to mind is how did street children with disabilities end up in the street? Well, just like most street children, this category of them end up in the streets as a result of rejection or being abandoned by their parents at a very young age. Some as teens as well as even when they were a few months old! Sad, isn’t it? In the Philippines, street children with disabilities are often thrown out by their parents, just like trash and for the same reasons as stated earlier.
SCWDs are often treated like other “normal” street children, regardless of their disabilities. Because they live on the street, they have no one to take care of them: no one to provide them with wheelchairs or crutches or hearing aids or walking sticks. They simply cut their coats according to their sizes, learning to get by with whatever is at their disposal. They learn to depend on each other to survive and to move from one place to the other. The able street children often act as their guide, for the deaf, dumb, blind, and lame.
Recently in Nairobi, the county government arrested up street children within the CBD and took them to a facility, in a bid to rid the city of the growing street families which are a menace for Nairobi residents. My worry sprouts when it comes to access to certain points within this centre or facility for the disabled. How do the lame and the blind get up the stairs if they have no one to help them up and down? How do the deaf get communicated to of there is no one who is acquainted with sign language? Isn’t this a requirement under the Persons with Disability Act? Or are there exceptions to the rule as regards street children? Think about it…
The Persons with Disabilities Act No. 14 of 2003 defines disability as a physical, sensory, mental or other impairment, including any visual, hearing, learning or physical incapability, which impacts adversely on social, economic or environmental participation. The Act also sets out offenses and penalties under Part VIII which accrue as a result of commission or omission under the Act. However, this Act does not explicitly address matters of SCWDs as it addresses matters of discrimination of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in employment, education, health, accessibility and mobility, public buildings. These however are not felt by SCWD because no assistance has been offered to them, especially on accessibility and mobility, an offence under Part VIII of the Act. This should be changed.
The Act establishes the National Council for Persons with Disabilities whose core mandate is to ensure the rights of PWD are protected in conjunction with the Government and its institutions. It is therefore incumbent upon this Council to champion amendments to this Act as concerns street children and ensure that they are treated as equally as all other PWDs are.
My greatest concern though is that this children are being exploited by someone to beg for money in Nairobi streets. If this is not so, how then can one explain the fact this children with disability are not there at night or keep on moving from one location to another depending to where human traffic is. But yet there are several government departments in charge of children. My question therefor goes to the following government agencies
The National Council of Persons with disability, whose mandate is ensure protection of persons with disability, whose responsibility is to protect this vulnerable children on the street.
The street families trust, you have been allocated 400 million in the 2017/2018 budget, yet the number pf street connected children seems to be increasing.
The Child Welfare Society, you have been mandated and have a budget to rescue and rehabilitate vulnerable children, yet we have children as young as 3 months on the street begging, what is your role.
The Nairobi City County, 10% of all of your revenue is supposed to be invested in the welfare of children in your county, yet we have not seen a deliberate effort from the county to protect children in the street.
The National Council for Children Services, You have been mandated to coordinate children services in Kenya, hold government and non-governmental agencies accountable on matters to do with children, Why then do we have street children especially those with disability being ping ponged from one agency to another.
Children welfare and protection cannot wait for bureaucracy, every day this children spend on the street they are losing their childhood. We urge the government both National and County to act with speed to ensure that this children are able to reach their potential.
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