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Coins and bowls fill city streets as beggars overrun Nairobi

Kimathi Mutegi @kimathimutegi

They are everywhere. Footbridges, corridors, sidewalks, bus stops …nothing seems immune from the desolation cut by humans whose hope of a meal or house is entirely on those overflowing with the milk of human kindness.

Beggars on the streets of Nairobi is nothing new. For eons, they have been at best an irritant and a constant reminder of a failing family, society. But how their number has exploded? In addition to the familiar hazards of a boda boda driving against traffic, or a matatu shoving pedestrians off pavements that Nairobians have to deal with, a careless walk in town will leave you stumbling over an outstretched limb, or kicking a milk tooth out of a juvenile beggar.

Either city residents are growing wealthier and more generous to sustain this population on the streets or the country is doing quite badly to force this large number into the streets with begging bowls.

Unfortunately, while some of the beggars may have a genuine case of ‘inability to fend for themselves’, there are those who have decided to exploit the goodwill of masses to rake in tax-free money. Some unscrupulous ‘entrepreneurs’ are said to import, mostly children living with disabilities, from Tanzania, DRC and even Malawi to extort the masses.

Perhaps, American singer Robert Kelly had Nairobi in mind when he sang about happiness and sorrow living side by side in his famous ‘Gotham City’ song. But then he proclaimed a city of justice, love, peace, for everyone, and lost us.

Heads together

Kenya cannot afford to house these beggars and homeless like Finland did. Heck, the country has not even housed the philanthropic population.

But both the County and National governments need to put their heads together and develop a home-grown solution to the problem. Many of these beggars have talent that if identified and enhanced can earn them a decent living —and Rotich some tidy some in additional tax.

Can we, for instance, identify genuine cases and start an ‘Adopt a needy person’ programme, to prey on the same goodwill of Kenyans?

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