Sonko launches operation to remove street families in Nairobi

A street family along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi on August 31, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG
A street family along Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi on August 31, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko has launched an operation to flush out street children from the central business district.

The governor said the operation was in line with his campaign pledge to ensure the children are taken out of the streets to orphanages and rehabilitation centres.

“As a county government we promised to remove all street families from our streets, we have started an operation in line with my campaign manifesto that promised rehabilitation of street families in order to secure their future,” said Sonko after launching the operation on Tuesday night that was led by the county's Environment Rapid Response Team.

Sonko said the rescued children will receive treatment for addiction at county rehabilitation centres and get life skills including enrolling them back in school.

Continuous initiative

The governor said the initiative to rehabilitate street children will be continuous under his administration.

Many street children are drug addicts who sniff glue, smoke bhang (marijuana) and inject other hard drugs.

“The rescued street children will receive treatment of their drug addiction in the rehabilitation centers and we will also train the older ones on life skills and enroll the young ones back to school,” he said.

Nairobi is one of the towns in the country with the highest number of street families running into thousands.

Their presence on the streets has been blamed for the increase in petty crime and muggingsin the city, besides being a nuisance for their begging habits.

The City Hall boss said the county will install additional CCTV cameras and increase street lighting to aid in the fight against an upsurge in crime in the city.

This is not the first time an attempt has been made to get the families off the streets of the capital city.

The Narc government in 2003, as part of promises it made to the people of Kenya before the 2002 General Elections, introduced a street children rehabilitation programme led by the National Youth Service to guide and provide the street children with skills to make them self-reliant.

Rehabilitation centres

It embarked on a programme to remove the youth from the streets and opened many rehabilitation centres, including the Bahati Reception Centre, Pumwani Reception Centre, Kibera’s Joseph Kangethe Reception Centre and the National Youth Service, all in Nairobi.

The rehabilitation centres were to reform and make the street youth fit in the society, provide guidance and counselling, train them in semi-skilled trades, provide food, clothing and shelter among others.

But even with all the efforts, nothing major came out of the programme.

The former Nairobi County leadership under Governor Dr Evans Kidero, in collaboration with the national government and the County Inspectorate, failed to rid the city of street families.

Last April, the county government netted about 130 street children after conducting daily crackdowns.

The children were taken to Joseph Kang'ethe Rehabilitation Centre but have since found their way back to the streets.