School going children match along Kakamega streets on their way to Lurambi to create awareness on environmental and drug abuse on October 28, 2022. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Western Kenya has overtaken the Coast region in drug abuse according to a new survey by National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada).

The survey was conducted between September 1 and December 1, 2022 and residents blame the rise in drug abuse in the region on porous border points of Busia and Bungoma counties.

Nacada says that 23.8 per cent of the population in Western is hooked on drugs and illicit brews such as chang’aa.

At the Coast, the figure stands at 13.9 per cent of the population while Central Kenya is third with 11.4 per cent of its population abusing drugs and alcohol.

The detailed report shows Western is leading in the consumption of drugs, alcohol, illicit brew and traditional liquor in Kenya.

In 2017, drug and alcohol abuse in the Western region stood at 13.4 per cent but the figures have been surging. This year alone, 11.4 per cent of the population was found to be consumers of chang’aa up from 6 per cent.

Western is followed by Nyanza where 6.3 per cent of the population was found to be consumers of chang'aa.

The report indicates that general consumption and abuse of traditional brews in Western stands at 12.9 per cent, Coast recorded 7.4 per cent and Nyanza is at 2.2 per cent. 

Nacada says some of the drugs and counterfeit alcoholic drinks are sneaked into the country through border points in Busia and Malaba towns and Lwakhakha.

Victor Okioma, the Nacada chief executive termed the trend alarming, and said that a lot has to be done to deal with the situation.

“We will soon embark on a thorough crackdown on the illicit brews and drugs in this region and we ask leaders from Western to help us in creating awareness and sensitising the people about the dangers of using drugs and consuming illicit brews,” Okioma said, adding that a few people who sell alcoholic drinks in the region had complied with the laws that regulate the sale of alcohol. 

Nacada inspected 126,111 premises in Vihiga which sell alcohol and cigarettes but identified 15 that were operating outside the stipulated laws.

Okioma said Nacada impounded at least 80,173 litres of chang’aa, 3,100 litres of kangara and 900 litres of busaa. 

In Bungoma, 122 premises were inspected out of which 80 were compliant while 30 were operating illegally.

At least 335 people were arrested in Bungoma by Nacada officers who also impounded 2,130 litres of chang’aa, 233,438 litres of kangara, and 14,541 litres of busaa as part of the measures geared towards addressing drug and alcohol abuse.

In Kakamega, 132 were inspected but 101 were not compliant. Officers arrested 629 people and shut down 59 premises in a crackdown on non-compliant entities. They recovered 3,998 litres of chang’aa, 17,391 litres of kangara and 29,579 litres of busaa.

Nacada said Bungoma County was leading in the sale and consumption of illicit brews with 400,159 litres, followed by Kakamega with 207,209 litres, Busia with 87,000 and Vihiga with 12,000 litres. 

The authority also confiscated 32 packets of counterfeit cigarettes in Vihiga, 24 brands of assorted wines, 411 boxes of different spirits, 10 different illicit drinks and gambling machines. 

Ten types of counterfeit beer from Uganda were impounded in Bungoma while 584 kilogrammes of bhang and contraband sugar were recovered in Kakamega.

In total, 10,400 kilogrammes of bhang were recovered in the region with Busia leading with 800 kologrammes.

On tobacco abuse, Central region was leading at 11.9 per cent followed by Coast at 10.8 per cent, Eastern at 10.7 per cent, and Western at 8.0 per cent. 

Eastern region leads in miraa abuse followed by Nairobi and Western in that order. Nairobi county leads in abuse of bhang, followed by Nyanza and Western.

"We have seen this region becoming a transit point for drugs and counterfeit products and some of the substances come into the country from Busia because it is cheap," said Okioma. 

He urged county governments to use money collected from licensing and control of alcoholic products to create awareness and build rehabilitation centres for the affected people. 

“The weak link has been the county governments because drug control and licensing is a devolved function and revenue generated needs to go into supporting affected people through prevention measures like building of rehabilitation centres, but very few counties are doing it," Okioma said, adding that Nacada has partnered with at least 10 counties and set up rehabilitation centres.

He urged counties licensing traditional brews to ensure Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) approves such arrangements after ascertaining the standards and safety of the products.