The City of Kigali has started an initiative aimed at taking children off the streets. The move was informed by the increasing number of street children during Covid-19 lockdown.
The Vice Mayor of City of Kigali in charge of Socio-economic Affairs, Mutoni Gatsinzi Nadine told The New Times in an interview that since the initiative began on March 20, 744 children have been taken off streets.
484 of them were reintegrated with their families while others were taken to rehabilitation centers. 53 children are from different provinces out of Kigali while 25 of them have no families.
During the last 7 days, the City of Kigali in partnership with the police, Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion and National Children commission, has been taking street children to designated places where they are screened for Covid-19 and other health problems before being reintegrated back to their families.
Mutoni said that the increase in street children is hypothetically among the effects of Covid-19 lockdown.
The fact that some families were economically hit by the pandemic, closure of schools and domestic violence that has also taken a toll have contributed to the rise in the number of street children.
The initiative also aims at discouraging the begging culture among street children and beggars in Kigali. The Vice Mayor explained that begging which includes money exchanging hands can transmit Covid-19, if one of the parties is positive.
"Street children and beggars are at risk of catching Covid-19 from the streets. We call upon the public to help us curb the spread of this virus by not giving money to beggars because that might lead to an increase in the spread of Covid-19," she said.
"If people need help or want to help, local leaders will facilitate the process. There are safe channels to help people."
Families to be held responsible
According to the Vice Mayor, one of the main reasons that there has been an increase in children taking to the streets is not poverty but irresponsible parents. When integrating children with their families they sign an agreement that they will protect them from joining the streets again.
"In most cases, irresponsible parents are the main reason for children to go to the streets. When the agreement is breached, there are penalties in place," she explained.
The agreement is signed by parents and grassroots leaders where they pledge to prevent reintegrated children from delinquency again.
The initiative, unlike other previous short-term projects, will take as long as the issue of street children is halted.