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Anti-drinking campaign lowers alcohol consumption rate in central Kenya

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Central Kenya now has one of the lowest rates of alcohol consumption according to a recent survey, highlighting the success of ongoing anti-drinking campaigns.

Data by the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) show the region has a prevalence rate of 10. 6 per cent, compared to Nairobi which was leading with 17.5 per cent, Eastern 14.3 per cent, Western 13.4 per cent and Rift Valley 13.2 per cent respectively.

North Eastern and Nyanza have the lowest rate of consumption of 2.0 and 10.2 per cent respectively.

The report which is released every five years, targets Kenyans between 15-65 years across the eight regions (former provinces in the old constitution), shows that Central is below the national average which stands at 12.2 per cent.

The reduction in Central follows an intensified fight, two years after President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered elected leaders and county commissioners from the Mt Kenya region to crack down on the drinking menace.

“There has been an aggressive campaign against alcohol abuse in the last decade compared to other regions. Since the focus has only been in Central, there is a shift to other regions,” Morris Kamenderi, principal research officer at NACADA told Business Daily.

The shift is further highlighted by an increase in licensed bars led by Eastern and Nairobi.

According to the report, 70 per cent of respondents in Eastern expressed concern in the rise of licensed bars in their region, followed by Nairobi and Coast at 57. 3 and 52.5 per cent respectively.

In Central, about 46.5 per cent of respondents expressed concern on the increasing number of licensed bars, below the national rate of 48 per cent.

Earlier in March, Principal Secretary in the Interior Ministry Karanja Kibicho blamed counties for a rise in licensed bars as they seek to increase their revenue streams.

Poverty amongst low-income earners in the capital and an increase in disposable income led to up-surge in alcohol abuse in Nairobi,” the state agency says.

The reasons behind the upsurge of alcohol abuse in Nairobi region is of the high population of government employees who have a higher disposable income level the largest population of informal settlements in Kenya, according to the state agency.

Kamenderi furthers says that in increase in returns from sale of miraa has contributed to higher disposable incomes among the locals in Eastern, leading to the rise in consumption.

The alcohol tragedy bedeviling the nation is exemplified by its staggering rate of related disorders.

At least 2.8 million Kenyans are battling alcohol-related disorders or a prevalence rate of 10.4 per cent, double the number affected by tobacco and miraa at 1.8 million and 0.8 million respectively.

An even bigger concern is the high number of people suffering from alcohol disorders is the productive age, mainly university graduates and workers at the peak of their careers in the 25-35 age bracket.

They make up 12. 8 per cent of those affected, threatening the nation’s endeavor to realize the 2030 development goals through depriving it of the much-needed workforce.

According to the Interior Ministry, the country is losing at least 5,000 people to alcoholism every year.

Coincidentally, Nairobi has the highest cases of alcohol-related disorders at a rate of 18. 4 per cent followed by Western at 13.1 per cent, while Eastern is at 10.6 per cent.

Central has the second lowest rate at 8.3 per cent with North Eastern the last at a paltry 1.4 per cent.

Alcohol consumption in rural Kenya has been on the rise, with a prevalence rate of 29.6 per cent compared to 31.7 per cent in urban areas.

The increase coincides with the establishment of devolved governments in 2013, which created more jobs across the counties, leading to an increase in disposable income amongst citizens.

In March, the government announced a four-month crackdown on illicit brews in 25 regions, with the exemption of North Eastern which is the least affected by alcohol consumption.

The government has in recent months intensified its war against the alcoholism menace, marked by high profile swoops on illegal alcohol across the country.

Illegal alcohol worth at least Sh315 million has so far been impounded in Nairobi and Kisumu.

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