What you need to know:
- The street family menace is not peculiar to Nairobi; it’s also in Mombasa and other big towns, including Kisumu, Eldoret and Nakuru.
- Several past efforts to solve the problem started with a lot of enthusiasm and quickly stalled.
Making a mockery of the ongoing efforts to spruce up Nairobi’s central business district is the proliferation of street families. The streets look decent, with the widening and paving that has created pedestrian-friendly spaces even in the back alleys. But the street family menace is not peculiar to Nairobi; it’s also in Mombasa and other big towns, including Kisumu, Eldoret and Nakuru.
Several past efforts to solve the problem started with a lot of enthusiasm and quickly stalled. Some years ago, street families were rounded up and taken to some temporary centres in the Eastlands. But they would soon be back in the streets, and it became clear that no proper plans had been made.
Resentment against street families is because many young people engage in crime, preying on pedestrians and traders. The problem has returned to haunt Nairobi with reports that three people died of hunger and lack of healthcare last week.
The street families are calling on the government to address their plight. The Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund has not done much to alleviate the problems affecting these people, who live in deplorable conditions. Their spokespeople are now demanding that they also be considered for the universal health coverage being rolled out by the government.
The street dwellers deserve access to healthcare just like any other Kenyan. It is not by choice that they live in the streets; they are forced by socioeconomic challenges, and which the authorities need to tackle.
The street familes are prone to illnesses owing to their lifestyle and their situation has been aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is estimated that there are about 60,000 such families in Nairobi. Before a more comprehensive solution to the problem is found, there is a need to identify and issue them with identification documents. The perennial street families menace must be dealt with decisively.