Alcohol and drug abuse is the greatest threat facing the youth and the community at large in Kenya today. It has crept into our homes and affected the family unit where men and women can no longer provide for their families. Children bear the brunt of substance abuse and miss out on growing up in a family set up.
Alcohol abuse has led to closure of early childhood centres, divorce, falling enrolment in primary schools and maternity inactivity at health facilities. The situation has been compounded by the high unemployment rate, with the youth falling victim.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics states that the unemployment rate is 40 per cent, or 16 million Kenyans, with 64 per cent of them being youth.
Alcohol and drug abuse continues to cripple young people’s talents and drive and should be designated a national disaster affecting the youth. Thanks to President Uhuru Kenyatta, a crackdown on illicit brew is being carried out countrywide, but more needs to be done.
The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse is losing the fight due to graft and boardroom fights.
Gone are the days when a neighbour could discipline a wayward child because society expected them to be their brother’s and sister’s keeper.
Nacada needs to revise its programmes and target the population if long-lasting solutions are to be realised. It can start the Nyumba Kumi drug and alcohol abuse initiative by channelling more resources into it to make it active and operational.
According to a survey by the Kenya Alcohol Policy and Control Alliance, half of all alcohol and drug abusers in Kenya are aged 10-19, with 31 per cent of them aged 14-17. This calls for a radical change in which the Nyumba Kumi drug and alcohol abuse initiative starts to impact children aged 7 and above.
Nacada can structure the Nyumba Kumi drug and alcohol abuse initiative to be implemented nationwide with the support of representatives of Nyumba Kumi, chiefs, community elders, county and national governments and the private sector.
The national and county governments as well as the private sector can spearhead this fight by providing resources. Incentives and rewards will be awarded by the President annually to the county governments leading in the fight against alcohol and drug abuse.
For the Nyumba Kumi drug and alcohol abuse initiative to be effective, the members can allow officials from Nacada, local chiefs and community elders to visit them to offer prevention and awareness information. Family members in need of counselling can receive the services and addicts receive rehabilitation care offered by the government and private sector.
Not only will this intervention bring sanity to homes affected by drug and alcohol abuse, it will enable everyone to be productive members of society.
For there to be lasting change, stakeholders need to work together in harmony. For example, Nacada should first resolve the differences within its board and ensure there is transparency and efficiency in its operations. Parliament should make laws to strengthen and enforce its oversight over manufacturers of alcohol and spirits.
The judiciary can impose hefty penalties on manufacturers for every life lost through illicit brew. The Kenya Bureau of Standards should carry out frequent monitoring and evaluation of licensed firms to ensure they comply with quality standards.
The provincial administration can deal with enforcement through the county governments and residents to ensure the Nyumba Kumi drug and alcohol abuse initiative is implemented.
It is imperative that Kenya engenders a progressive culture of collectivism and a need for all stakeholders to work together to fight alcohol and drug abuse. As a result, Kenya will turn the situation around and our children will have a future to look forward to. Change starts with you and me.
The writer is head of the Programme Management Office at World Youth Parliament. firstname.lastname@example.org.