NAIROBI, Kenya, May 9 – They sit perched on the edge of a hospital bed at the Kiambu District Hospital ready to go home after having survived what was perhaps the worst hangover of their lives.
A 20-year-old farm hand and a 41-year-old construction worker who now have in common a near death experience, after consuming a toxic brew that has claimed over 80 lives.
They also have in common the deaths of those with whom they partook in the brew and whose demise has now led them to swear off the any form of alcohol – industrial or otherwise.
“I just can’t do it anymore. Not after this. I’ll be drinking milk from now on,” the middle age Peter Kamau says right before he sticks a straw into a milk packet and takes a long swig.
He says he had no idea, when he hit the bar on Tuesday afternoon, that he’d been consuming methanol. READ: It wasn’t booze, it was methanol – Minister.
“Five of us decided to get something to drink after work in Banana and I decided to get what I always get, Sun Lemon. It comes in a 750ml bottle for Sh120.
“But after drinking it I started to feel like my abdomen was on fire, like I was being stung by needles and that’s when I decided to get medical attention,” he explains.
His drinking buddies weren’t so lucky, he says, all four of them died.
“That’s just the way life goes I guess,” he philosophises.
Twenty-year-old James Njoroge however says he knew the risk he was taking when he went out drinking on Saturday night.
“We had been attending a party at my friend’s house when we decided to go out for some cham (chang’aa). It only costs Sh400 for a kibuyu (jerrycan) and it’s cheaper than trying to get high on beer.”
“The following morning however I had to rush my friends to hospital and when one by one they started dying I thought I was going to be next. Especially as I had a severe headache and started seeing blue,” he recalls.
He lost seven friends in total, he says, with another experiencing trouble with his sight.
“I don’t think I can drink now. Not after losing all those friends to alcohol and not after what I’ve been through. You have no idea where God has brought me from,” he says.
In total his mother Margaret Wariera says they lost 13 of their neighbours, in the Nazareth area of Kiambu, to the ‘cham’.
And as her son leaves the Kiambu District Hospital not in a body bag but alive and breathing and with his sight intact, she prays he will commit to the straight and narrow path:
“He knew, they all knew the risk they were taking. I just hope he won’t have to learn the same lesson one too many times.”