Over consumption of alcohol causes trouble for South Sudanese

beer2It might be in its nascent stages with only one factory to show, but business in South Sudan's brewing industry couldn't be more brisk. Located at the foot of Jebel Kujur on the western flank of the capital, South Sudan Beverages Limited brews White Bull lager.

There is also the traditional cottage brew commonly known as Suku-Suku or Siko and Aregi, affordable to the average South Sudanese.

Of course there is competition among the two brews for the domestic market, but White Bull and Siko are by no means competing on even footing. The latter is domestically produced in small quantities by women, white White Bull is mass produced by South Sudan Beverages Limited.

Still, both have a steady market in South Sudan where any attempt by the authorities to legislate the control of alcohol consumption is quickly dismissed as reminiscent of the Islamic Sheri'a Law enforced in the North. And to their undoing, South Sudanese are increasingly drawn to the bottle.

"Alcohol is a substance that people use as food, but too much of any food can be also dangerous to health," Dr Kazimoro Kenyi, Head of the Psychiatric Unit at the Juba Teaching Hospital warns, noting that people give in to alcohol for various reasons.

"Some are inclined to drinking because they have got the appetite for it, but others take alcohol to escape from personal worries," he points out. "Still, others take to drinking out of frustration. They have no work and no education, but would resort to whatever means to get a drink, unaware that they are sliding into a dangerous cycle."

Not everyone, though, is into alcohol abuse. Juba resident, Isaac Alebe considers himself an occasional drinker.

"I drink at leisure just to refresh myself, and two bottles are usually enough for one day," he says, emphasizing the need to keep one's expenses in check. "It doesn't affect my family budget. And I would sometimes go for months without a drink and not feel the impact."

Still, other residents are way across the other side of the pond. Anthony Khamis does not consume any kind of alcoholic drink. To him, drinking leads to family neglect and loss of self-esteem.

"Money that is supposed to be to cater to the family is diverted to drinking. Consequently, children don't get proper care, and are unable to attend school," he argues.

Recently, concerns were raised in Eastern Equatoria about the toll alcoholic drinks was taking on consumers in the state.

"The effects of alcohol depend on the quality and the percentage of the drink itself," Dr Kenyi explains. He warns that unlike the lighter lagers such as Tusker and Pilsner, the local and much stronger Siko gin can, in the long run, lead to health problems, including weight loss. "Other types, like what is brought in from East Africa in small sachets, are very dangerous. Many people have died from drinking them."

The danger posed by alcohol prompted the Governor of Eastern Equatoria State, Louis Lobong to issue an order prohibiting the storage and sale of alcoholic drinks which fall in the category of ‘liquor'. These include such brands like Empire, Chief Warragi, Simba, Challenger, Royal Vodka, Uganda Warragi, Tiger Gin, Striker Gin, Lira-Lira, Guu among others.

But the Governor's injunction would be of little effect if proper border controls are not put in place. Also, the Bureau of Standards would have to take up its role fully, to keep these liquors from creeping into the country from the neighboring East African states.

By Radio Miraya Journalist Emmanuel Levai

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