Drug abuse is increasingly becoming a challenge in central Kenya. Dozens of women have called on the government to intervene as families suffer. However, victims blame rising unemployment and other socio-economic challenges.
While several substances are abused in Kenya, data from the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA), a semi-autonomous state corporation, shows that alcohol is one of the most abused. The society further states that alcohol consumption among Kenyans begins as early as age 10, peaking at the most productive ages between 15 and 35.
Alcoholism has hurt families in central Kenya and threatened the livelihoods of many people. Men are the main consumers of alcohol. In the village of Kabuku, located in Kiambu County in Kenya, a significant number of worried married women are pleading with the government to intervene and save their husbands from alcoholism. Women claim that alcohol abuse affects men’s productivity and they are unable to engage in economic activity, let alone perform marital duties.
Mary, a mother of two whose husband is an alcoholic, says the last time her husband worked was five years ago. “When he started drinking after the birth of our twins, I thought he was partying. But he didn’t stop, then he lost his job. Now he sleeps almost all day because of hangover. When he wakes up, he goes to the mall to beg for money to drink more. He doesn’t even shower and barely eats. It’s embarrassing,” she said.
To fill the void left by their men, women like Mary must step in and become breadwinners. Mary says she works six days a week and comes to work as early as 6 a.m. Since their twin daughters turned three months old, she drops them off at a local daycare center as early as 5 a.m. are late, and we have to leave them at the door to rush to work,” she adds.
Several other women in Kenya are in a similar situation like Mary. Recently, women in central Kenya staged a protest to force the government to pay more attention to the challenge of drug addiction. Attacks and destruction of illegal drinking establishments by frustrated women have also been reported.
NACADA states that substance abuse is driven by several risk factors such as idleness, unemployment, peer pressure, and work-related issues. He reports that there are dozens of young men sitting or standing idle, watching people and the world go by with glassy expressions in many small shopping malls in central Kenya.
These drug addicts have turned to begging. They give several excuses to explain their addiction. One of these drug addicts says that “there is no job”. However, he lives in a neighborhood of many large tea and flower farms. A farm manager says that “there are jobs, but these young men don’t want hard labor and they demand more wages than we give them. Women work very hard, as do male workers in some parts of the country, such as western Kenya.
Ciku Kimani-Mwaniki is a Kenyan author based in Nairobi.