Volunteers roll up their sleeves to rescue peers from alcoholism

Christopher Kinyua during a workshop to rehabilitate alcohol addicts in Witeithie estate Juja, Kiambu county on Thursday. [Gitau Wanyoike, Standard]

Christopher Kinyua, a university graduate, regrets that his academic certificates are gathering dust at home as he suffers, drowning in alcoholism.

Mr Kinyua acquired a diploma in laboratory technology, a higher diploma in medical biotechnology and later graduated with a degree in Medical Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Jomo Kenyatta University and Technology (JKUAT).

Unfortunately, he is among well-educated villagers in Witeithie, Juja, on Thika Road in Kiambu County wasting away due to alcoholism.

Earnings from small jobs have been giving them little money to afford cheap liquor.

“I’m jobless and mostly I hustle to survive. Sometimes I am employed as a barber within the estate. If you came to me and you are sick, I will prescribe medicines to you and through God’s grace you will be healed,” says Kinyua.

Lamenting that most of his campus peers have also been grappling with unemployment, Kinyua says most of them end up getting depressed, while others overdose on substances.

“Two weeks ago we buried a colleague who had graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Mathematics from Kenyatta University; he died after committing suicide by taking an overdose of drugs due to depression,” he says.

As Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua met leaders from central Kenya in Nyeri on Friday to discuss illicit brew, drugs and substance abuse, Judy Karimi, a clinical officer was mulling over her own ways of ending the drinking menace.

Urgent intervention

Karimi says her peers are wasting away, and blames the situation on the availability of cheap alcohol.

“I was a victim when I was living in my rural area, but when I came here and saw how young people are being wasted away, I decided to change,” she says.

Samuel Njoroge, a resident of Witeithie village warns that the danger is so rampant in most informal settlements and urgent interventions are required to avert deaths.

“Although I have tried to fight this menace, the biggest threat is the availability of very cheap alcohol sold by wines and spirits dealers here. The common one is called ‘three zero’ - coded words derived from its price of Sh30,” he says.

“An addict will do some menial work, get paid and the next move he is drunk. On a bad day they will contribute Sh15 each to buy one, and the cycle continues every day,” he adds.

Njoroge says the uptake of illicit brews is so high that in some areas, men are stealing home appliances which they take to bars in exchange for cheap alcohol.

In what has brought to the fore the crisis that could see the vote-rich region drink itself into oblivion, both men and women are all affected by the intoxication catastrophe.

To address the crisis, a group of volunteers are now lobbying against the menace through door-to-door outreaches with the motive of rescuing the few who can be liberated.

Under the umbrella of Mwanaume ni Dhamana Initiative, James Mutonga Kariuki and Reverend Jane Gichuki have been helping to unshackle the addicts from slavery that they now describe as an epidemic.

Wipe out a generation

Mutonga and Gichuki say their push was informed by the possibility of alcoholism wiping out a generation from the expansive region, most of whom have lost hope in life.

The two decried the high number of bars in the region and the increasing uptake of other outlawed substances such as heroin, bhang’ and tobacco that continue to turn most productive young people zombies.

“We call upon the government both at the national and regional level to help in eradicating the vice that is just about to wipe out the society,” says Mutonga.

Although there have been efforts to reduce the number of bars, the problem has been compounded by complacency among some administrators and law enforcers.

“Unemployment, depression, bitterness about life, failed ambitions, family feuds among other challenges are responsible for a disaster that continues to deepen by the day,” said Rev Gichuki.

The meeting by Gachagua on Friday was not the first of its kind. In July 2015 at State House in Nairobi, then President Uhuru Kenyatta met leaders from central Kenya.

During the meeting, Uhuru announced a war against illicit brews in which nobody would be spared.

“Any officer who does not cooperate must be dismissed on the spot. We cannot just continue talking,” he said.