Street families in Nairobi have called on the government to take their plight seriously following the death of three of them last week due to what they says is hunger and lack of proper healthcare.
At the same time, they have accused the Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund of failure to protect their interests even as they live in deplorable conditions in the city streets.
Nairobi Street Families Consortium chairperson Peter Ndiboe said they should be considered for the universal healthcare being rolled out by the government as all lives matter and none should be lost because of discrimination.
He pointed out that the government policy on universal healthcare should not be discriminative but should apply to all citizens and that the government, through the Ministry of Health, should see to it that they are also catered for.
"Street families are also human beings. They need access to better healthcare just like any other Kenyan. They are prone to various illnesses owing to their lifestyle. We also need food, especially at this time of Covid-19 when getting food in the street is next to impossible," said Mr Ndiboe, who has since reformed from street life.
A 2018 survey by the State Department for Social Protection put the number of street families in Nairobi at slightly over 10,000, but the consortium estimates that there are approximately 60,000 street families in the capital city.
The street families also want the government to issue them with identification documents, saying they are also eligible citizens of Kenya and access to ID cards, birth certificates and Huduma Namba cards should not be seen as sympathy to them.
"They should not see themselves as aliens or people living in their own country illegally. This will enable them to seek employment anywhere in the country, participate or exercise their democratic rights of electing competent leaders," Mr Ndiboe said.
The consortium's Secretary-General Fatuma Shahenza urged the government to provide the street families with free education as well as empower them by imparting in them skills that will help them contribute to the development of the country.
She explained that the street families have different talents which can be nurtured and once empowered with skills, most of them can fend for themselves as well as create opportunities for others, reducing the baggage of unemployment in the country in the process.
"We have brains in the streets that if well nurtured can be of great help towards building one nation where plenty could be found within our borders. These young people need to be informed and imparted with skills to cope with challenges in life by engaging themselves in various projects," said Ms Shahenza, also a reformed street member of the families, having lived in the streets for 13 years.
She also pointed out that the national government needs to put more resources into rehabilitation centres to make them welcoming for rescued street families, with accountability demanded for the funds allocated for them.
"With proper security and human personnel in the homes, these young people will enjoy their stay in the centres. They also need a roof over their heads just like any other person," she said.
"We are a great nation that should not abandon these loving young men and women to wallow in abject poverty in the streets engaging in unlawful activities while resources are plenty," added Ms Shahenza.