Government Concerned About Drinking in Kenya

Government Concerned About Drinking in Kenya

Almost half of Kenya’s adult population drinks alcohol, and some drink too much, putting their children at risk. Voice of America’s Cathy Majtenyi describes a “family entertainment” spot in Nairobi where children play and parents drink nearby. Scenarios like these are disturbingly common in Kenya, says Jennifer Kimani, CEO of the government’s National Campaign Against Drug Abuse.

"The culture of parents going to entertainment joints or hotels, and they sit in one corner and they take their beer or alcohol until they get very drunk. At the same time the children are playing just next to where they are and the children are running back, sometimes sipping daddy’s drink, mummy’s drink, and then they go back and continue," Kimani said.

A recent national survey found that 40 percent of Kenyans between the ages of 15 and 65 consume alcohol. Children exposed to alcohol can face enormous consequences, such as becoming dependent on alcohol themselves.

"About eight percent of children aged between 10 and 14 years have used one type of alcohol or another,” Kimani states, "and we also realized that two percent of them have actually used changaa, and changaa is the most commonly abused illicit brew in Kenya."

Majtenyi tells the story of Ann Mathu, who has struggled with addiction to alcohol for decades. She said it all began when her father gave her alcohol when she was 10 and continued to do so throughout her childhood.

"Having been introduced into alcohol drinking by my father who was my role model, I never saw any problem or any danger in that. I thought it was fun," Mathu says. "I thought it was cool until later on in life when I started losing my job, when I started losing touch with myself, with my children, and even with God."

Mathu says at one point she and her brother even drank jet fuel. "I took two glasses, he took two glasses. By the time I got home, I blacked out for more than 24 hours. The following day when I woke up, I started puking, and the puke was bloodstained. That is when I called a friend in recovery and that is when they took me to Asumbi Treatment Centre in Homa Bay," she recalls.

Even if children do not drink, they are still affected when their parents drink. Money that should be spent on school, food, clothes, and other basic needs can instead be spent at the bar.

Anthony Kang’ethe is coordinator of Asumbi Treatment Centres, a residential program for people addicted to alcohol and drugs. "In the final analysis, you might get even these children are denied their rights, like rights to good education. You get even some of those drop-outs that we have in the villages–they are just as a result of that," he said.

Kang’ethe and others say they are working hard to sensitize the Kenyan public about the dangers of alcohol abuse and are urging parents who drink too much to seek treatment.

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