|Kitui police officers, led by County Commander Cheruto Githinji (right) display some of the 579 bottles of illicit liquor confiscated during a swoop in Kitui town, Saturday. [PHOTO: PAUL MUTUA/STANDARD]|
By JOSEPH MUCHIRI and LYDIA NYAWIRA
Kenya: More people have succumbed to the illicit brew in Central Kenya, making the region the hardest hit in the tragedy that has claimed 94 lives.
Three more people died in Kiambu and Flyover in Nyandarua County after consuming the poisonous drink, raising the number of victims in Central Kenya to 59.
Others had earlier died in Makueni, Machakos, Embu and Murang’a while many more were hospitalised after falling seriously ill.
By yesterday, official figures showed that 37 people lost their lives in Embu, eight perished in Murang’a while in Kiambu, the number stood at 11.
Four were reportedly killed in Flyover area of Nyandarua.
And three people from a village in Githunguri were on Friday evening admitted to the Kiambu Hospital after consuming a brew, which they identified as mizizi.
The trio, who could not even talk, had attended a burial of a friend at Matuguta village and decided to take ‘one for the road’ to relieve their sorrows. They are said to have started complaining of dizziness immediately.
“They said they took mzizi in the morning and later took another brew at a local bar,” David Kiarie, one of the people who took them to the hospital said.
According to a source, the victims who were admitted to the hospital separately, were from different areas in Limuru, Kikuyu and Lari sub-counties.
“The situation is very serious and more people are being affected by the brews. We have received people, one buy one, but in critical condition, 12 of them have died but it seems the police do not want to make the figures public and that’s why I do not want my identity to be revealed because they are the only people who know what they are hiding,” the source said.
Central Kenya police commander Larry Kieng said although there were many people admitted to hospital in Kiambu, medics were still trying to find out the cause of their illness. At the same time, postmortem examination on the 37 bodies of the Shauri Yako slum illicit liquor victims in Embu County has been completed.
But results of exactly what killed the 37 and left 93 others admitted to the Embu Level Five hospital will not be known immediately. Medical Superintendent Dr Gerald Ndiritu said the results will be made public by the Government Chemist.
“We have from this end taken vital samples from bodies of the 37 victims and the same is on its way to the Government Chemist for analysis. The institution will later tell us what actually killed this big number,” Dr Ndiritu said.
At the same time, out of the 93 people admitted after taking the illicit brew, only 20 are still hospitalised. Dr Ndiritu told The Standard on Sunday 73 were discharged yesterday and the remaining number, who are said to be in stable condition, could also go home by tomorrow.
Chief Government Pathologist Dr Johanes Oduor also visited the hospital on Friday. Oduor said only the Government Chemist has the final word on what killed the consumers.
Meanwhile, a requiem mass for the victims is scheduled for tomorrow at the Embu Municipal Stadium. After the ceremony, relatives of the victims will be allowed to take the bodies for burial.
Elsewhere, the clergy in Kiambu County has asked that they be incorporated in the County Liquor licensing boards, which controls manufacturing, distribution and consumption of alcohol in the county.
Under the Kiambu County Clergy Forum, which brings together more than 30 churches, the church leaders said a lot of vice takes place in the boards, allowing unchecked flow of illicit brews which have continued to wreak havoc.
And although local leaders have claimed that Central Kenya has become a “testing and dumping” ground for lethal liquor, the area is among those leading in the manufacture of cheap liquor.
Small factories are littered across the region, with all of them possessing the requisite papers to carry out the businesses.
Previous surveys conducted by The Standard on Sunday, found thatfor one to be allowed to operate a brewery, all you need is a room, some distillery equipment and ingredients and you are good to go.
In one of the premises we visited last year in Kirinyaga County, we were surprised by the casual manner in which the brews are handled and how simple the drinks are dispensed.
During the visit, the owner confidently brandished all the necessary licences from Kenya Bureau Standards (Kebs), Ministry of Health and National Authority for Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NacadaBut it is one of our enquiries that elicited a rather confounding answer from the owner.
When asked how he had arrived at 40 per cent alcoholic content in one of the drinks he responded:
“This is what I see in most whiskeys in the market, I have nothing to verify the alcoholic content. But I don’t think this is an issue since even government officials have never questioned me,” boasted the entrepreneur.
And in March, Nacada said it was carrying out an audit of all brewers. The baffling thing, however, was the request for samples from the brewers of their drinks to the Ministry of Health for audit.
Many wondered why the agency should request samples from manufacturers instead of conducting impromptu and random sampling to nab errant brewers.