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Social ills like alcoholism, prostitution and drug abuse are a consequence of an ailing economy

LETTERS
By Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda | July 14th 2021

The other day, a photo going around on social showed women in Nyandarua County digging a grave because, as they claimed, men in the county are alcoholics. As a social scientist and researcher, I have done a lot of stuff with the youth and adults in various settings in Kenya.

I have visited notorious alcohol joints and met people imbibing the hard stuff without a care. I often ask them why they take substances that keep them in a state of stupor and the answer is always that they have nothing to do. Many say that it is a way of keeping their minds ‘cool’, having lost hope in life. It is a way of coping. Is this a problem caused by an exponential growth in the population?

Kenya has problems with surplus labour against the market needs that demand we urgently fix the economy. I must state that even though controlling population growth is a key plank in some of the more popular development models, we still have large populations per square kilometres, which is not a bad thing.

One can still argue that the large population per square kilometre in the USA is part of making it a powerful country economically, militarily and diplomatically. Germany and UK offer some insights that a relatively high population density per square kilometre is not a problem if the country is well managed. If you look at countries like Singapore, the huge density has not deterred its march to prosperity. At any rate, if we managed our economies well in Africa, the huge population would be a key attraction for investors. Our problems are poverty, bad politics, corruption, divisiveness along ethnic lines and a mismanaged economy. 

Sex workers in Nairobi. [Courtesy]

If you look at social ills like prostitution, the growth in numbers, just by mere observation, is phenomenal. The reality is that prostitution is part of a response to earn living by all means for a large segment of society. Economic conditions push part of the society into such dangerous trades. Part of them obviously could be individuals who have been lured into it by other factors that include family breakdowns and bad habits.

If you look at the level of alcoholic drinks, especially of low quality and even the takers of drugs and others substances, it shows some desperate groups of people. Even with massive crackdowns on youth, including so many idle adults, nothing much will be gained. We have witnessed that when the government cracks down on the established beer market, the underworld production and market grow phenomenally. It is easier to condemn the guys involved or caught up in the vice, but wielding the big stick is not the solution. Start by fixing the economy. Punishing without finding a solution is futile. 

Letter to the Editor, from Harrison Mwirigi Ikunda, Nairobi. 

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