Adapted from coastweek.
Kenya is among countries in Africa where there
IS AN INCREASINGLY high rate of alcohol consumption
SPECIAL REPORT BY XINHUA CORRESPONDENT BEDAH MENGO
NAIROBI (Xinhua) — Seven-year-old Brian Kimaru lives with his parents in Kariobangi, a low-income settlement in Nairobi, Kenya.
In this densely populated commercial and residential estate, a day does not end without Kimaru seeing people fight, getting arrested, at times being gunned down and drunkards engaging in various antics.
These are incidents that Kimaru is used to. Often, he makes part of the crowd that gathers to witness the confrontations.
Things are not any different at home for the class three pupil. His father who is an alcoholic often abuses his mother in the presence of Kimaru and his siblings.
“My father habitually beats my mother in the evenings. Sometimes she even throws her out of the house. My two brothers and I always run out of the house to avoid his wrath,” he says.
Like Kimaru, many other children in Kariobangi and adjustment informal settlements are accustomed to such violence both at home and in the community.
Sadly, these children in Kenya and other countries in Africa who experience such traumatic experiences are likely to become alcoholics.
Researchers warn that children who are physically abused, experience violence or are raised in households with food insufficiency will possibly end up as alcoholics.
According to the researchers, living in an abusive environment makes children have harrowing experiences that lead them into alcoholism when they reach teenage.
Kenya is among countries in Africa where there are high rates of alcohol consumption.
Recently, the country’s president, Mwai Kibaki sanctioned a law that legalized illegal brews. Consequently, this has scaled up consumption of alcohol.
In the study by a team of scientists from Kenya’s African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC), the researchers studied the association between adverse childhood experiences and drunkenness among 9,189 adolescents living in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Malawi, and Uganda.
In particular, they examined four unpleasant childhood experiences in relation to drinking among teenagers aged between 12 and 19 in the four countries in a period of one year.
These experiences are living in food insecure households, living in households that suffered due to an adult member having alcohol or drug problem, having been physically abused and having been coerced into having sex.
Focusing on a period up to 10 years, the researchers used the following questions, “How often did your family not have enough food to feed everyone?”
“Did your household suffer because someone drank too much alcohol?” “Did a parent or other adults living in your home ever hit you hard enough to leave marks or cause injury?”
“Thinking about the first time you had sexual intercourse, would you say you were very willing or not willing at all?”
Nine percent of the respondents who reported frequent food shortages at home said they had drunk alcohol in the 12 months.
Equally, a sizeable number of those who said they had lived in a household with an alcoholic during their childhoods reported being drunk in the same period.
“Fourteen percent of respondents who had lived in a household with a problem drinker reported being drunk compared to 6 percent of those who were not exposed to this adverse event,” say the researchers.
Familial alcoholism, they observe increases chances of alcohol use in adolescents because family members with drug and alcohol problem serve as role models to members of a household.
“Teenagers will start to drink since they believe it is right having seen their parents do it,” says Dr Caroline Kabiru, the lead researcher.
In addition, alcoholic family members may also store drugs in the house therefore readily making it available to other members.
More importantly however, the researchers warn alcohol dependant parents may transit to their children genes that predispose them to alcoholism.
Physical violence and coercion into first sexual intercourse, the study reports too increases chances of teenage alcoholism.
Nairobi Women’s Hospital, an institution that caters for rape victims in Kenya, reports that at least three people, who include children, are raped in Kenya every minute.
In the study, those adolescents who said they had been coerced into their first sexual intercourse reported they had been drunk in the past year.
“Respondents who had been coerced into their first sexual intercourse reported that they had been drunk compared to their counterparts who did not report coerced first sex,” the study say.
However, according to the researchers, coerced first sex leads to alcoholism more in females than in males. This is because in most societies, many young girls are sexually violated than boys.
On the positive, the study identifies school as a tool to reduce chances of teenagers becoming alcoholics in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Given high levels of unemployment in many countries, most young people who are out of school are either jobless or are forced to take up low-paying informal jobs.
“Consequently, being out of school may involve a lack of activities, income, and structure that predisposes adolescents to substance use,” they say.
The study titled Self-reported drunkenness among adolescents in four Sub-Saharan countries: an association with adverse childhoods adds that teenagers in urban areas are likely to start drinking early than those in rural areas.
This is because of challenges that arise as a result of urbanization in many African countries.
Dr Kabiru calls for early treatment of childhood harrowing experiences to stem possibility of future drinking among teenagers.
SAGALA LODGE – TSAVO
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SAGALA LODGE – TSAVO
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“Early treatment of traumatic childhood experiences may be an essential component of interventions designed to prevent alcohol abuse among adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa,” she says.