DAYSTAR UNIVERSITY PSYCHOLOGY (PSY 111T) GROUP PROJECT: CHANG’AA – THE DEADLY KILLER. PRESENTED BY: ANGELA OMONDI & KEVIN CHAVERA CHANG’AA: THE DEADLY KILLER. 1. Introduction Chang’aa is a popular alcoholic drink commonly found in Kenya and it was once illegal, but was recently legalized. According to online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the literal meaning of chang’aa is ‘kill me quick. ’ It is a clear liquor which announces itself with a fierce burn and an after taste of soil when consumed.
Chang’aa is distilled from grains like maize and sorghum. Other additives that are usually added to the drink during its preparation to make it have a more lasting effect on the drinker are the ones which make it lethal. This paper will discuss the reasons why people drink chang’aa, its effects and finally propose possible solutions to avert the effects of chang’aa drinking. 2. Reasons why people drink Chang’aa. People drink chang’aa because of a number of reasons, which are often intertwined.
According to the Kakuma News Reflector, “Belinda”, who owns a chang’aa brewery in Kakuma Refugee Camp, observes that people drink chang’aa in order to keep themselves busy and reduce the stress of life. She also notes that people who drink chang’aa are usually hopeless towards their lives. Korogocho is one of the sprawling slums in Nairobi and the ‘Grogon den’ is one place where drinkers usually assemble to have their fill. Michael is one such drinker, and he says he knows chang’aa is dangerous but it is all he can afford.
He further admits that he likes to drink and needs chang’aa because he has a lot of problems. He drinks in the morning before he goes to work and when he leaves, he feels the drink has given him courage to do anything. People also drink chang’aa out of despair and hopelessness. During a parliamentary debate on Thursday, 24th June 2010 regarding The Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill, a Member of Parliament, Gitobu Imanyara, remarked that on any weekend if you go to any market centre in Kenya, you will see large numbers of unemployed youths walking aimlessly in a trance ecause of the effects of alcohol and drug abuse. Such youths, because of their idleness find themselves spending in chang’aa dens, consuming illicit liquors as they waste the day away. Humphrey Mungapak is one drinker who was interviewed in the Daily Nation. He is a 45 year old drinker and he says he drinks because there are no jobs. He does casual jobs once in a while and when he is idle, he finds friends who buy him several glasses of his favorite drink, and this relaxes his mind for the day. The relatively cheap cost of chang’aa is also a reason why people, especially slum dwellers, consume it.
A glass of chang’aa costs only Sh. 10 which is affordable to slum dwellers. The Economist notes that alcohol was widely consumed in pre-colonial Africa and was closely bound up with ceremonies from births, to marriages and death, in many cultures. Therefore, a drinking culture tends to persist in many African cultures. 3. The effects of chang’aa. As mentioned earlier, certain additives put into the drink during its preparation are the ones which make chang’aa lethal. For example, the rate of fermentation of maize and sorghum is sometimes increased by adding jet fuel or battery acid.
The drink is also sometimes contaminated with methanol, and faeces are also used to contaminate water for making the drink. According to a reporter, Daily Nation, Monday June 28, 2010 page 4, When 13 people in Shauri Moyo, Nairobi were killed after consuming illicit liquor in late May 2010, some of the chemicals found in the drink were methanol, propanol, and ethanol. These chemicals are usually used in industries for industrial purposes and when they are added to chang’aa it is not surprising to see that they evoke some very fatal effects on the drinkers.
The Economist also reports that when the police recently carried out raids on chang’aa dens in Nairobi, decomposing rats and women’s underwear were found in servings of chang’aa. The writer adds that the price and the potency of the drink are more tempting than the heavily taxed bottles of beer that are the staple of richer Kenyans. The effects of chang’aa are varied. They include blindness, psychological effects, loss of control, rampant spread of HIV/AIDS, poverty, and in extreme cases, death. Methanol in the drink is believed to be the one that causes blindness.
Ten milliliters of methanol can burn the optic nerve and the higher the dose, the more fatal the effects. Because of excessive drinking of chang’aa, the drinkers often lose control of themselves and engage in sexual relations without protection, thus facilitating the spread of HIV/AIDS. Chang’aa drinking also contributes to poverty because the drinkers do not look after their families and the little money they get, they spend on the drink. Joy Wanja reports that the women in Murang’a are deeply saddened by the harm that cheap liquors has caused to their sons and husbands.
Money earned by the young men hardly reaches home because they spend their wages on alcohol, leaving their children and wives in hunger and desperation. Some high octane fuels added to chang’aa are very potent. For example, lead, found in the fuels usually does irreparable damages to the drinkers. Dahn Batchelor, a Canadian Newspaper columnist and Lawyer, in his article ‘The Dangers of drinking homemade alcoholic brews,’ notes that Lead poisoning results in blood-pressure increase and damage to vital organs, especially kidneys, hearts and brains.
The victims of lead poisoning eventually die, and if not, they suffer from mental retardation. Ethanol is very toxic; it causes blindness and death. When consumed in chang’aa, it causes damage to anyone who has it inside his or her body. The brewery owners also experience some indirect effects. They cannot sleep because the chang’aa customers are always coming and they are usually very noisy when drinking. 4. Possible solutions to chang’aa drinking. As seen above, the effects of chang’aa on its drinkers are very lethal and need to be averted in any way possible.
Some solutions to this vice can be proposed as follows: Police have often carried out raids in chang’aa dens, many litres of chang’aa are usually destroyed and the brewers charged in court. But still, chang’aa drinking has proved to be hard to control. The raids are sometimes not successful because of corruption. In a recent development, Members of Parliament in Kenya proposed a law, the Alcoholic Drinks Control Bill, aims to legalize traditional drinks, including chang’aa. The Bill requires that the drinks be professionally brewed, distilled, packaged, and sold at licensed places.
Chang’aa shall only be manufactured, packed, sold and distributed in glass bottles of 250ml. Hopefully, this legalization will ensure the drink is prepared well for human consumption. Our focus should be lifting people out of poverty by enhancing learning opportunities and employment opportunities, which will make the youths productive people in the society. Greater accessibility and availability of learning institutions will ensure idleness is tackled so that people will not waste away in the drinking dens all day because they will be busy expanding their knowledge.
Once the people have acquired relevant skills for various professions and roles, and obtain opportunities to practice them, they will earn a source of income and poverty will reduce. Thus they will no longer find time to dwell in the drinking dens. 5. Conclusion. As seen above, there are various reasons why people drink chang’aa and tackling these reasons is the key to ensure the effects of chang’aa drinking are dealt with. All these efforts, alongside with the enactment and enforcement of tighter legislations, will ensure our country comes out of this chang’aa drinking scourge.
Below is a picture of a man who had consumed chang’aa. [pic] Residents carry a man who had taken an illegal brew in Shauri Moyo, Nairobi to hospital. Photo/James Njuguna. Source: www. nation. co. ke REFERENCE LIST. 1. Batchelor, D. The dangers of drinking homemade alcoholic brew. Wednesday, December 3, 2008 retrieved on July 17, 2010 from: http://dahnbatchelorsopinions. blogspot. com/2008/12/dangers-of-drinking-homemade-alcoholic. html 2. The Economist. African moonshine, Kill me quick: Kenya’s lethal brew deserves its name. April 29th 2010, retrieved on July 3rd 2010 from: http://www. conomist. com/node/16018262? story_id=16018262&source=hptextfeature 3. Kakuma News Reflector. Illegal chang’aa a fact of life. January 31st 2009, retrieved on July 10rth 2010 from: http://kakuma. wordpress. com/2009/01/31/illegal-changaa-a-fact-of-life/ 4. Howden D. Foreign Correspondents Association of East Africa. Why Africans are dying for a drink. May 14, 2010, retrieved on July 10th 2010 from: http://www. fcaea. org/aid=516. phtml 5. Wanja J. Daily Nation. Women in Murang’a worried that there will be no generation to leave behind. June 28, 2010, p5.