Alcohol harm is rampant in my part of the world and often it is even cruel.

The BBC has realised this fact, too, and ran a story entitled

Kenyan ‘killer brew’ addicts losing both alcohol and private parts

The context for BBC’s attention is that Kenyan authorities have started to crack down on illicitly brewed alcohol in reaction to growing death toll and rampant alcohol related harm.

Illegal alcohol known as ‘killer brew’ is devastating communities in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa. Homemade alcohol, is popular among poorer Kenyans in central parts of the country. Almost every country in Sub-Saharan Africa has its own traditional version illicitly produced alcohol.

And the impact of alcohol-related harm is devastating and poses a tremendous obstacle to development.

  1. Alcohol is the fifth largest health risk factor globally and risk factor number one for ill-health and premature death in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. Focus groups in rural Rwanda rank alcohol as number one risk factor for domestic violence.
  3. In the Republic of South Africa the estimates made of the combined tangible and intangible costs of alcohol harm to the economy reached nearly 300 billion rand or 10 to 12% of the 2009 GDP.
  4. 65% of women experiencing intimate partner violence in Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa reported that the perpetrator had used alcohol.

When speaking about the burden of alcohol on my continent, I always emphasise – especially when stories like the one in the BBC break – the fact that intermediate levels of consumption are found in the WHO African Region (AFR), while the majority of the adult population in Africa lives free from alcohol. More than 70% of Sub-Saharan African are not using alcohol in any given year.

It means that all those who are using alcohol, are consuming it at alarming rates. Addiction is having a devastating impact on children and families, many communities and societies overall.

Some wives have been driven to desperate measures, reminding me of the uprising of women in mid-19th century United States – to tackle alcohol harm. Let’s see whether a real movement will emerge and hopefully the measures employed become more refined.

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