NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 25 - The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse Authority (NACADA) has applauded the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill, 2009 which legalises illicit brews but gives strict regulations under which they should be prepared and distributed.
The Bill which will also tax traditional brews seeks to ensure that the government controls all alcoholic drinks in the Kenyan market as well as monitor its contents.
NACADA Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Kimani on Friday said the law was great for Kenyans as it would help prevent unnecessary loss of lives through the consumption of poisonous alcoholic beverages.
“We shouldn’t burry our heads in the sand. The part legalising chang’aa is just a small constituent of the law. At least chang’aa brewers will not play hide and seek games while brewing their beer under the table but will do it under stringent controls,” she said.
She argued that the Bill would not encourage drug and alcohol abuse saying it was the government’s responsibility to ensure that consumers of alcoholic drinks did not consume toxic substances.
“We cannot pretend that people will stop brewing these beverages which are actually legal in Tanzania and Uganda. There are Kenyans who cannot afford the ‘legal beer’ and opt for the ‘affordable’ one so we need to ensure that Kenyans access alcohol that will not kill them. Besides, the drinks will not just be produced by anyone; one must have a license,” she said.
Ms Kimani who was speaking after the launch of a recent survey on drug and alcohol abuse at the Coast province said that the prevalence rates were increasing even among underage children.
The study conducted by NACADA indicated that 17 percent of children in the region have consumed alcohol and other drugs while 12 percent were currently abusing the drugs.
Ms Kimani added that abuse of hard drugs in the coastal region was also increasing.
“The 12 percent is a very high frequency and bearing in mind that we in the past been talking about alcohol, bhang and tobacco, we note that abuse of drugs like heroin and cocaine has really gone up. An occurrence of almost three percent on cocaine is very serious because it is actually above the world average,” she said.
A representative sample of 4,500 households was used including adults and at most one child (aged between 12 and 17) per home.
Ms Kimani added that there was need for the country to re-think its drug intervention measures to help curb the menace.
“We need to focus on the region and really do what needs to be done. With this kind of data, we should be able to involve the various stakeholders, development partners, those involved in prevention and treatment so that we can assist the population at the coast,” she said.
Further Ms Kimani explained that traditional beer commonly known as ‘Mnazi’ was the most preferred first drug of initiation in the region. More than half of the respondents who had acknowledged consuming alcohol and other drugs said they started with traditional beer.