According to an investigative report by British Broadcasting Corporation titled “Forced to Beg,” a human trafficking network has been smuggling children with disabilities from Tanzania, forcing them to work as beggars in the streets of Nairobi and other Kenyan towns.
Some of them below 10 years old, the children have been plucked from their families with a promise of a better life, only be sent to the harsh streets to beg. And when they have begged on the streets come rain, scorching sun or cold, the captors have been taking away all the earnings. With profits growing each year, the smugglers have been crossing the border to collect more children.
"We condemn these acts of trafficking in the strongest terms possible. Trafficking persons whether they are disabled or not is a crime,” said Rev. Dr Fidon Mwombeki, the Tanzanian Lutheran pastor who is general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches. "We also wish to remind that these children have a God-given right to care and protection as persons with disabilities.”
Mwombeki urged the two governments to move with speed to ensure the problem is tackled and the criminals are brought to book.
"If called upon, we stand ready to offer pastoral care to these needy children,” he said.
For Kenyans, the investigative report has removed “the veil” concealing the ever-higher number of disabled children beggars on the streets of Nairobi city and other towns.
The children are also victims of mental, sexual and physical abuse if they fail to meet their daily targets; according to reports, a single beggar can make up to Ksh.4000 (about US.34) after begging for a whole day.
Churches in Kenya and Tanzania are seeking to partner with governments to support parents of children with disabilities so that they can educate the children to make them productive members of society. Some churches are urging the government of Tanzania to prioritise the identification and assessment of children with disabilities so that it can grant them education and skills opportunities to enable them get paid work or self-employment for self–sustenance.
Begging promotes sympathy, pity and fear from the non-disabled persons towards persons with disabilities, said Anjeline Okola, a Kenyan Quaker who is the programme coordinator of the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
“Unfortunately this kindness is ending up feeding greed and encouraging deception as some groups take advantage of begging to benefit themselves by use of children,” said Okola.
She said the findings of the report underlined the crucial role of groups such as the WCC Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network, which work and advocate for the improvement of the wellbeing of persons with disabilities through advocating for their inclusion, participation, and active involvement in all spiritual, social, economic, and structural life of the church and society.