Alcoholism in Kenya

Alcoholism, or alcohol dependency, unlike what is commonly thought, is actually a disease characterized by a strong craving to drink alcohol in order to become drunk, leading to a loss of control and physical addiction. Alcohol is commonly abused in Kenyan society, especially by the youth. Kenyan authorities and NGOs have expressed a great deal of concern over the issue, and plans are underway that are focused on reducing the general alcohol consumption in the country. An example of these undertakings is the Mututho Law, which is a bill that came into effect on November 2010 in order to control alcohol consumption.

There are a number of critical causes to this problem, one of them being poverty. Despite recent massive economical changes in Kenya, the country is still among the world’s top 30 poorest countries; despite the large amount of money spent on alcohol, studies show that at times, the consumption per person might exceed the monthly salary the individual earned. Also, the population is exposed to cheap and illicit brews, which in turn causes an increased level of addiction due to the accessibility and the quality of the alcohol taken. It also causes psychological issues; for example, if the sole breadwinner of a household cannot afford the basic necessities, they might resort to directing the available funds to drinking in order to relieve stress.

The media has a big role to play in this situation, with advertisements extremely prevalent in Kenya, sensationalizing the effects. Also, popular Kenyan songs and films being broadcasted have their significance in this phenomena. For example, “Keroro,” a popular song by a local artist, is in praise of alcohol.

The over-consumption of alcohol has made for poor parent-child relationships. It is proven that most families in Kenya do not have good communication concerning these two parties, mainly because the parents, mostly African, still hold onto outdated traditions and beliefs which the youth do not value due to westernization. This leads to the youth having secret lives of partying and excessive drinking. Other causes include the ease of availability of alcohol and peer pressure.

The effects of alcohol abuse are dire and are a major cause of one of Kenya’s serious viral diseases, HIV/AIDS. High crime rates is one rampant effect; this is connected to the increased poverty level experienced. The number of people wasting their resources on alcoholism has increased, thus theft and other related crimes occur in order to satisfy their cravings, and at times this also turns into a habit. Kenyan police forces have even been intertwined in this effect.

Family break-ups are sometimes caused by the over-consumption of alcohol as well. In a typical family setup, the affected individual usually terrorizes the family with the unusual and aggressive behavior normally associated with over-drinking.

Increased health issues are a direct factor involving extreme alcohol consumption, as it is a drug and abusing it comes at a cost – for example, liver cirrhosis. This issue also manifests as reduced economic output because the available working population’s output is affected with a huge number of citizens consuming alcohol, leading to health problems. Other issues include increased road and industrial accidents, insecurity, and corruption.

In my opinion, alcohol abuse can be controlled with the right amount of laws and bills passed by the Kenyan government, a management of advertising by the media and with the appropriate type of public sensitization on the socio-economic effects of alcoholism.

References (2011). Alcoholism in Kenya; Chilling discoveries. (2010). Effects of alcoholism. Kenya Education Guide.
Mathenge Githui, D. (2011). Drinking culture and alcohol management in Kenya: An ethical perspective. European Journal of Business and Management.