Kigali City and its outskirts are experiencing an increase in number of beggars and street children as tough economic times hit vulnerable households.
Many of the people who have taken to begging, going as far as knocking on peoples' gates asking for food hand or money, are people who were previously engaged in informal businesses, but have since collapsed as the Covid-19 pandemic obliterated many sectors of the economy.
Nyiransengimana Olive used to wake early in the morning and buy fish from depots in the special free economic zone, then sell in Kanombe and Remera.
She used to make a profit, which she used to take care of her three children and pay rent. Ms Nyiransengimana was even planning to expand her business by establishing a stall in the market, but all this came to a halt when coronavirus struck.
“My business didn’t survive the first four months of this year, the cost of living increased sharply and we used the capital to buy food, now we survive on peoples generosity,” she said.
It is now a common sight to find women and children knocking on homes of gated communities around Kanombe, Kicukiro, Remera as well as other neigh bourhoods around Kigali, asking for food.
The number of street children also keeps growing around the city, as children flee their homes, domestic violence, alcoholism of their parents, among other factors, taking to the streets to beg for what to eat or rummage in dustbins for leftover food.
“The number of street children in Kigali and suburbs is growing every day, we have always had street children but what is happening now is unprecedented, poverty levels have shot up due to effects of Covid-19, but there other factors like domestic violence which have also increased,” said Nsabimana Nicoletta, head of Santre Marembo Organisation, which rehabilitates and integrates street children into families.
She said the blunt of the Covid19 pandemic was felt by people with higher vulnerabilities, and that the issues of beggars and street children might even stay with us for a much longer time.
Having identified street children hotspots around the city, where they normally gather, for instance in sites like Gisozi, Kimironko Zindiro, Batsinda and around the special economic zone, her organisation is working on a strategy to take some into a two month rehabilitation retreat then integrate them into families.
“Clamping them in one congested place like some institutions do is not safe in these times of Covid-19, we want to work with RBC so they can be tested for Covid-19 then we rehabilitate them for two months before reintegration”.
Vice Mayor of City of Kigali in charge of Socio-economic Affairs Umutoni Gatsinzi Nadine recently said the city of Kigali has taken up to 744 children off the streets since March.
He said 484 of them were reintegrated with their families while others were taken to rehabilitation centres. According to him, 53 children were from different provinces out of Kigali while 25 of them had no families.
A big segment of the hand-to-mouth households have lost their livelihoods, with many of them barely getting what to feed their families, yet breadwinners lost their incomes.