Cheap Tanzanian alcohol driving Kenyans in Namanga to early graves

Prices of alcoholic drinks is more affordable on the Tanzanian side. [Mbugua Kibera, Standard]

The rising alcohol addiction-related deaths among Kenyans at the Namanga border town requires urgent interventions by both Kajiado County and the national government. Besides deaths, alcohol has turned many people into zombies.

Hardly a month passes without reports of a Kenyan dying as a result of chronic addiction to the bottle. There are those lucky enough to have escaped death by a whisker after being treated and counselled in health facilities far from the town. That is usually done through the efforts of the addict's family members.

Easy access and the affordability of a variety of beers and spirits on the Tanzanian side of the is to blame for this pandemic. Alcohol addicts can easily quench their dry throats by merely walking across the no-man’s land into pubs on the other side of the border.

Unlike on the Kenyan side, the prices of alcoholic drinks is more affordable on the Tanzanian side.

On average, beer prices range from as little as Sh20 (Tsh 400) to Sh80 (Tsh 1,500) for a 330ml bottle. A 500ml bottle of beer similar to the brand found in Kenya goes for Sh100 (Sh2000) to Sh150 (Sh3,000). A tot of a popular spirit costs Sh50 (Tsh 1,000). The cost of a bottle depends on its size. This has made many Kenyans drink themselves to the grave.

Besides, some Tanzanian pub owners have spared little effort to make their businesses attractive to Kenyan revellers. From ambience to music and the dishes served in these pubs and the hospitable and respectable waitresses, these businesses are on top of the league.

Indeed, these businesses reaped big time, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown in Kenya. As bar owners in Kenya were forced to close down in order to slow the spread of the virus.

Kenya and Tanzania flags at Namanga border point. [Mbugua Kibera, Standard]

Some revellers drive from Nairobi and surrounding towns for fun-filled weekends in Namanga. Unfortunately, some have lost their lives in road accidents attributable to drink-driving along the Athi River-Namanga road.

However, what is worrisome is the plight of Kenyan residents in the town who have become hooked to the bottle. The silent killer that alcoholism has now become at the border is not a respecter of a person’s profession. Apart from ordinary jobless youths who hang around pubs waiting for someone to buy them drinks, professionals in both private and public sectors have become addicts. 

The list of professionals struggling with alcoholism at the border town includes some public officers such as employees at the One-Stop Border Post, customs and immigration officers, teachers, police officers, medical staff and clearing and forwarding agents. Others are Public Service Vehicle drivers and their truck driver counterparts, among others.

There are compelling reasons for the county government of Kajiado and the national government to act as the problem of alcoholism can only get worse. The authorities must treat the endemic alcoholism in the town with the seriousness it deserves by establishing a centre for the treatment and rehabilitation of patients.

They should also provide professional counsellors to help those in need of their services. This is the only way to deal with alcohol addiction. This measure will stop deaths and offer consolation to many families of the addicts.

Such action by the authorities would act as a handkerchief to wipe out the painful tears of families mourning the untimely deaths of their loved ones. Ignoring the problem means many other families will be plunged into mourning.