CAPTION: A homeless man sleeps as people pass through Nadi’s civic arcade. Photo: SHALENDRA PRASAD.
A collaborative network has been established by Government to relook and scrutinize the issue of street begging in Fiji through the activation of an Inter-Agency Taskforce.
Spearheaded by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation with relevant government and non-government organisations, the taskforce is determined to address the root causes of begging and identify adequate strategies to assist the marginalised groups of people currently engaged in street begging.
The taskforce comprises of Fiji Police Force, Ministry of Local Government, Suva City Council, Fiji National Council for Disabled Persons, Ministry of Health, Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs and NGO’s that have developed a dedicated framework called, “Operations Loloma” to tackle street begging in Fiji.
Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation permanent secretary Dr Josefa Koroivueta today chaired the second meeting for the taskforce at its headquarters.
In his opening address, Dr Koroivueta said there are multiple reasons for begging and it stems from varied social determinants, which needs to be addressed.
He said it is a matter of concern that children and disabled persons are found in street begging.
“There are serious concerns raised about the welfare of these children as they may be exposed to grievous crimes such as child prostitution and trafficking,” Dr Koroivueta said.
“The Taskforce has declared absolute zero tolerance on child begging and appropriate actions will be taken to stop child begging.”
Dr Koroivueta said the taskforce is also adamant on identifying comprehensive strategies to provide sustainable livelihood programs and income generating opportunities for beggers.
As per the profiling exercise the Taskforce confirmed that currently there are 48 beggars in Suva City and of this 25 per cent are on social welfare assistance.
Dr Koroivueta said the next step is to get credible information through the proper assessment of the socio-economic status of the beggars and their families.
“A detailed profiling exercise is being undertaken in five working days for all the beggars in Suva. This includes house visitations and carefully delivered personal interviews,” Dr Koroivueta said.
“Once the taskforce is able to analyze the socio-economic status of beggars, we will map out appropriate measures, where we will explore the potentials on developing a safe home, institutionalizing kinship care and most importantly promoting the able bodied beggars into sustainable livelihood, vocational training and employment opportunities.”
Dr Koroivueta reiterated “this will be challenging, however, the Taskforce is determined that once we have identified the solutions, we can bring the required change, thereby ending the culture of begging in Fiji.”