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The BBC's Raphael Jesurum
"The authorities say the death toll could still climb"
 real 56k

Monday, 20 November, 2000, 12:43 GMT
Kenya's 'shameful national disaster'
Nairobi hospital
More than 400 drinkers have gone to hospital
There is growing criticism in Kenya at the government's failure to stem the number of deaths of drinkers consuming an illicit, alcoholic spirit.

Almost 130 have died in the past week after drinking chang'aa, and police expect the number to rise as people in Nairobi are still buying it.


Kenyans are turning to deadly, cheap brews because they are too poor to afford normal liquor.

MP Simeon Nyachae
Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper reports that protesters are angry at what they say is government inaction at curbing the consumption of the deadly drink.

Several MPs and church leaders have joined in a chorus of complaints over the continuing deaths.

And six opposition MPs say they will introduce a motion in parliament on Tuesday to discuss the tragedy.

On top of the deaths, another 512 people have been admitted to hospitals, many of them in a serious condition and at least 20 people have gone blind.

It is reported that 45 new patients were admitted on Sunday.

The police say they believe the chang'aa has been mixed with poisonous methanol in an attempt to make the drink stronger.

National disaster

Presbyterian Church of East Africa Moderator, the Rev Dr Jesse Kamau, demanded that the government should halt the illegal trade.

Victim being taken to hospital
Poor people drink chang'aa because it is cheap
He said the deaths were "a shameful national disaster."

MP Simeon Nyachae said growing popularity of the drink was a symptom of a disintegrating economy and increasing government corruption.

"Kenyans are turning to deadly, cheap brews because they are too poor to afford normal liquor. They are drinking poison for beer because they have been impoverished by a few greedy people in the government," he said.

Arrests

A total of 58 people have been arrested for distributing the brew, including chemical company director Samuel Njoroge Karanja, which is suspected of manufacturing the methanol.

relatives await news
More victims are expected to die of poisoning
Chang'aa, known locally as "kill-me-quick" because of its potentially lethal properties, is brewed in hundreds of illegal drinking dens in Nairobi and across Kenya.

At about 10 cents a shot, the drink offers a much cheaper way of getting drunk than highly taxed legal beers and spirits.

In August 1998 more than 80 people died in Kenya after drinking chang'aa laced with methanol.

The drink is often made by widows who depend on the trade for their livelihood.

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See also:

16 Nov 00 | Africa
Kenya's poison brew toll rises
18 Feb 00 | South Asia
Illegal alcohol deaths
09 May 99 | South Asia
Deadly whisky claims 113 lives
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