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Teen’s death opens lid of life in streets of fighting hunger, Covid and abuse



A fresh mound of barren earth is all there is to show that he ever existed. There was no cross or tombstone. Even the prayers-for-hire clerics who hover around the Lang’ata Cemetery stayed away.

That is how they buried him. An unidentified young man in a cheap casket hurried lowered into a shallow grave by glue-sniffing youth and shabbily dressed peers.

Before his unceremonious exit, Kamkono, as the teenage street boy was known, had spent a considerable time in the streets of Nairobi battling Covid-19, hunger, municipal askaris, and older boys who preyed on him.

His colleagues claimed he died of hunger.

On Friday, his colleagues held a demonstration to protest a life cut short too soon, in the most unlikely venue, City Mortuary, the only place where Kamkono ultimately had a roof over his head.

According to Médecins Sans Frontières, Kamkono died on July 14 at the MSF clinic in Mathare while undergoing treatment.

A medical report indicated that when he was admitted “resuscitation started immediately where medics administered chest compression”. “No cardiac activity, no pulse, pupils dilated. Patient confirmed dead at 1.20 hours.”

Street families under the name Zero Street Child Foundation mourned the boy without a name and cried out to the Government to give them basic needs, including shelter, food, medication and education.

Speaking outside the mortuary before picking Kamkono’s body for burial at Lang’ata, they accused the Government of abandoning them.

“As street families, we have been deserted. This boy died of hunger not anything. As a parent, I am in pain to see and hear this. The government told us no one will die of hunger and that they will help us get shelter, but they have not done so,” said Fatuma Shahenza, who read the statement on their behalf.

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Shahenza said she has been supporting the group with food and clothing, among other needs.

“We ask for security because they are also Kenyans. We ask for their shelter as per their constitutional right because most of them sleep outside. I suggest to the government that if they want to remove them from the streets, they can create for them a centre where a factory, for instance, can be established so that they can offer labour,” she added.

The street families are among the vulnerable population that have been hit hard by Covid-19 pandemic since last year.

According to Shahenza, if the street family’s problem is dealt with, theft and muggings in the city will end.

She faulted the Government for “mistreating the street families by asking them for birth certificates to get identification cards.”

Challenges of ID

“You ask these children for birth certificates to get IDs. Is there anyone who even knows their parents? Some of these children were born in the slums and abandoned, and some of their parents died,” she said.

The foundation’s officials demanded education for the street families, saying while the government offers free primary education, the street families lack access.

“We have the brains in the streets, which if nurtured properly can be of great help towards building one nation where plenty could be found within our borders,” said foundation chairman Peter Ndiboe.

“All of us are Kenyans and we did not chose to be on street. It’s our right to be looked after and be heard. We don’t want to come for another funeral of one of us. We have the Street Families Rehabilitation Fund but we don’t even know what is their role,” said Mr Ndiboe.

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Nairobi has the highest number of street people at 6,743. Of these, 679 are women, according to the 2019 census.

In December last year, the government through the Street Families Rehabilitation Trust Fund chairperson Lina Jebii Kilimo said it intends to “establish a national policy aimed at providing a systematic and sustainable framework for rehabilitation of the street families in Kenya.”

The Trust Fund falls under the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection. The sole purpose of the policy was to provide guidelines to guide and coordinate the rescue, re-integration and re-socialisation of street families.

Ms Kilimo said the policy was informed by the last census that indicated there were about 46,639 street families countrywide.

We were not able to establish the progress of the policy launch.

In April, the Nairobi County Government announced it had set aside Sh40 million for the rehabilitation and re-integration of street and other vulnerable children in Nairobi.

Nairobi County Education CEC Janet Ouko, was quoted explaining that the exercise was to be carried out in phases starting in July with the first phase expected to cost Sh5 million to be used on rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration.

Efforts to reach Ms Ouko for a comment were unsuccessful as her phone went unanswered.


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