Meru Deputy Governor Titus Ntuchiu has raised concern over the emergence of a gang that is smuggling disabled people from outside the country and forcing them to beg in various parts of the county.
Mr Ntuchiu complained that foreign beggars have flooded streets of Nkubu, Meru, Maua and other towns.
The gang reportedly gives the disabled people targets to meet and orders them to be aggressive while soliciting for money.
“I am told that it is a business by some people because the money they are begging, is not theirs,” he told a meeting with officials of organisations working with people with disabilities in the country.
Mr Ntuchiu said the trend could overwhelm the devolved unit if unchecked due to competition for resources.
According to the 2019 census, Meru County has the highest number of PLWDs, with a population of 49,815, out of which 19,281 have mobility handicaps and 19,508 are visually impaired.
“We are seeing people living with disabilities being imported into our county, from outside Kenya. When they come, they give us a bigger burden. What do we do now? Please find out who these people are, if it is Tanzania where they are coming from, that country should have programmes to assist people with disabilities. They should not transfer that burden to other countries,” he said.
Mr James Ndwiga, an official with the national council for persons with disabilities said the problem was countrywide and they had asked the government to deal with it.
Empower disabled persons
Mr Ntuchiu however emphasized that the county did not discriminate against people with disabilities and had already formed a PLWDs board and a sacco with Sh10 Million seed capital to help boost their businesses.
The deputy governor who is also the Finance Executive said the county was ready to ring-fence select tenders to be awarded to PLWDs in a bid to uplift their welfare.
The county is also working with Light for the World, an organization that empowers disabled persons to better engage in business.
Group country director Stephen Njenga said they had trained people living with disabilities on entrepreneurship, in a bid to enable them seize business opportunities advanced by the government and other financiers.
Mr Njenga said they had been supporting economic empowerment of people with disabilities by giving them the opportunity to generate an income and build their families.
The organisation is also working on providing private-sector linkages by helping eradicate attitudinal barriers to boost inclusivity.
“We want to ensure people with disabilities are bankable and are not seen as a risk by lenders or people providing procurement. We have been emphasizing on inclusive procurement by making sure that the government and private sector are aware of how to engage PLWDs doing business,” he said.