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Darkness engulfs Kibera at dawn... again

By | July 27th 2010

By Cyrus Ombati and Amos Kareithi

Their bodies lay strewn about, like mongrels exhausted from a night fight. But these were humans whose doggy lives had ended in similar circumstances.

They had died clutching at their bellies, their last efforts at filling them having ended in such ignominy.

For the pursuit of something to eat isn’t about the only thing that concern Kibera’s Laini Saba dwellers; illicit brews are as attractive, particularly because they are found in abundance, and offer the much-needed distraction from the pressure of staying alive.

A medic examines a survivor from Sunday’s killer brew in Kibera. Nine others are still admitted to KNH. [PHOTOS: MOSES OMUSULA/STANDARD]

It had rained the previous night, and the smell of rain still pervaded, although it proved inadequate in covering the smell of death that hung ominously.

Seventeen people had died by the time we went to Press, although the death toll was expected to rise as most of those who took the brew went to sleep in their houses. Some might never wake up.

Those who died in the walkways were at least visible, and so did not prolong the agony of their relatives hoping to find them alive.

Quick Fixes

There were some lucky survivors, though. Steamboy was one of them. He declined to reveal his real names, but his nickname said he lived for quick alcoholic fixes.

"I took two (drinks) and felt dizziness before rushing here (to his house). That is where I usually take my drink," he said where he took the deadly drink.

Steamboy lay in his house complaining of stomach pains. He said he had not taken breakfast, which could have worsened the situation.

Steamboy and others had taken the illicit brews for most of the day, the cheapest of drinks costing Sh10.

"But I felt it was stronger than usual," Steamboy recalled.

Dropping Dead

Some of the revellers decided to go to the hospital was after seeing their mates drop dead.

Joseph Kariuki and James Mwangi were among those that staggered to the Kenyatta National Hospital, and are lucky to be alive.

They are inseparable as they clutch at each other’s hands, watching the water drip nourishing their thick-veined arms.

The two have refused to proceed to the treatment ward for fear that they will perish there like four of their drinking mates who have already succumbed to what medics identify as methanol poisoning.

"Hii kitu sio mchezo. Wakati niliona watu wamelala barabarani wamekufa, niliamua kujileta hapa. Mimi na rafiki yangu hatuachani kabisa (This drink is not a joke. When I saw revellers lying by the roadside dead, I decided to come to hospital).

Kariuki, who insists that he is 18 years, although he looks ten years older, claims he only took one and-a-half glasses and cannot remember where in Kibera he was drinking.

Mwangi, who is the less talkative of the two gave his age as 42 years, and agonised how to contact his wife and two children. They have no idea he has been admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital.

Twenty-eight-year-old Hussein Osman’s battered face is testimony of his hard living surviving on a menu of hard drugs and cheap illicit liquor.

The toothless man, who is also on a drip, smiles weakly as he swears that he will never touch chang’aa again after his supplier and friend, identified only as Karis, succumbed to the drink.

Seeing Nothing

"I saw his body in the morning by the roadside. At first I did not comprehend that he died from the drink but when I learnt three other drinking mates had died, I was so scared that I went to hospital," Osman says.

His neighbour in the observation ward writhes in pain. His red shot eyes are open, although he cannot see anything.

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