October 12, 2021
By Kweku Nelson
Laughter filled the Conference Room at the Ministry of Finance on Thursday 7 October 2021, when Ministry of Social Welfare made a presentation of its 2022 budget expenditure for the fiscal year 2022.
Representative from Ministry of Finance, non-state actors, districts Budget Oversight Committee, Media and Civil Society Organization all laughed at the Ministry of Social Welfare’s revelation that one among its key target for 2022 is to eradicate street begging from Freetown and major regional towns.
Francis Kabia, Director at the Ministry of Social Welfare confirmed that, street begging is a menace which needs to be addressed.
He stated that since the establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disability in 2012, the Ministry have not made conscious efforts to address the issue of street begging, but it has now developed comprehensive strategic plans that would either end street begging or minimise its alarming rate.
He stated that the Ministry’s strategic plan to eradicate street begging was developed from the findings of a pilot survey which the Ministry conducted in Freetown and major regional towns of the Country.
He said figures from the pilot survey showed that over 4,000 street beggars are in Freetown.
Kabia stressed that the Ministry was taking a bold step to eradicate street begging because it wanted to improve Sierra Leone’s Human Right ranking, improve the living condition of vulnerable groups, and create equal access to available opportunities.
He said the ministry also planned to provide alternative livelihood support through capacity building and skills training programs in order to change the country’s trajectory at international stage.
According to him, if the ministry is provided with the required budget of Le 54Billion, street begging would be addressed.
He revealed that the Ministry have already identified skills training centre that are operated and owned by persons with disability into which street beggars would be enrolled for skills development and training.
Mariatu Bangura, Professional Head of Ministry of social welfare, explained that funds from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have already been set aside for the commencement of the said programme which will target beggars in Freetown especially physically challenged and visually impaired.
“It is an eyesore to see the physically challenged beg in the street, some of these street beggars have potential and if trained they will be able to take care of themselves. So, the skills development program will include but not limited to carpentry, tailoring, and blacksmithing,” she said.
She further stated that a monitor mechanism will be put in place to ensure that once beggars are removed from the street, they won’t return.