By Eva Mourine, Mathare
Photo credit: Sam Sturgis
The high rate of unemployment and lack of basic services in low-income neighborhoods such as Mathare has continued to influence to a larger extent alternative modes of social and economic organization amongst youth living in Nairobi’s slums. Most informal settlements in Nairobi sets a context where nothing is actually formal, there are no official roads, no basic infrastructure, no official security means, the ever ‘‘hustling’’ youth have carved out alternative niche to navigate extreme environments.
Alcoholism and drug abuse among the youth in Mathare continues to be a big disease that is causing pain and agony in many households in Mathare, this has greatly hampered development. In the heart of Mathare valley, one would be awakened by the stench of alcohol which often sends a message of despair to many.
The smoke; billowing from the chimneys smells of burnt grass of Jamaican hem. Every crack of dawn is welcomed by the bizarre of drunk walking zombies that fight themselves through the faint light as if avoiding the sun that could smoke them alive if it light bright, many homes have gained shame which in too much intensity has proven a great crack of weak point for the future leaders who swallowed by the fate of alcoholism and drug addiction.
Alcoholic drinks are gaining popularity in informal settlements; however, what is of major concern is the additives that these drinks are laced with. Many of the local popular drinks in Nairobi slums include; changaa and busaa. “Some of these drinks could either make you go blind since they are laced with deadly chemicals such as chloroform and ethanol,” this was description given to by one of the community health workers”.
All I can be sure of is that; the ghetto never lacks the class of living easy and dying fast. The youths have been trapped in the cycle of the ‘urge’ which spikes the nerves like a racing inferno which it desires can never be calmed by coffee or tea.
This is the routine caused by the outcome of addictiveness and love for anxiety in this valley of shanties. So often while traversing Mathare, I would ask myself questions, Is it the outrageous lusty appetite to feel high or just an imaginary stairs to cloud nine?
Although adolescence provides a challenging developmental period for young people throughout Mathare and the world, the difficulties faced by young people in developing countries are often exacerbated by poverty, limited access to education, and unstable social contexts.
Drug addiction, not only has it stormed many by an expected surprise, rather has it left every household with a calm demon to nurse. Many youths, in my settlement, Mathare have been enslaved by alcohol and drug abuse, leaving the affected parents; if lucky, nursing hopes with prayers of breaking the capture of their sons and daughters. Alcohol abuse has become inevitable for much as cheap liquor is at disposal for all young, middle and the aged residents.
In recent turn events, President Uhuru Kenyatta in reaction to the silent slogan, “we are a drinking nation” issued a directive on the destruction of all second generation alcohol. This directive has so far seen the banishing of illegal drinking dens in Mathare. This directive may be considered a knee jack reaction; however, it has created the much needed debate on building a sober citizenry that is focused in building better communities.
Alcohol abuse has had a devastating effect in Mathare. Alcohol has been abused to the extent that the consumers, whom most are the youth as well as their families, have suffered a great deal from its adverse effects. Many youths under the influence engage in hazardous behaviors’, notably crime to sustain these habits, unsafe sex, fights which they would otherwise not engage in.
Milkah Njeri, a resident of Huruma in Mathare constituency, believes that the directive by the president to declare war on illegal brews is just but the beginning, “The war against killer brews is necessary to protect the youth to enable them be part nation building,” she said.
The Mathare community has sustained efforts to help support alcohol and drug addicts by encouraging them to go to the rehabilitation centers and “mend” their lives. The community has also enhanced “the ka sober” campaign (Stay sober) to sensitize and educate communities on effects of drug and alcohol addiction. Muungano network in Mathare in efforts to ensure the youth to beat alcoholism and drug abuse, the federation has continued to engage the youth in cleanups and organising them in savings schemes which has greatly assisted them to start their own businesses and ventures. For all said and done, the slums are still fading in the languishing state of the current emergence of alcoholism addiction and other vital drug abuse.
Silence is golden but either way… languishing is paramount…