EIGHT more people have been reported dead and another eight hospitalised across the country as a result of drinking a poisonous brand of waragi (local gin). This has brought the number of deaths attributed to drinking the poisonous liquor to 16 in two wee
EIGHT more people have been reported dead and another eight hospitalised across the country as a result of drinking a poisonous brand of waragi (local gin).
This has brought the number of deaths attributed to drinking the poisonous liquor to 16 in two weeks.
Three people died last week at Kyamukerege village in Nyabukara parish, Kabarole district. They were identified as Bashir Kugonza, Tom Businge and Yorokam Nyakebwa. They died on Thursday, allegedly after taking the liquor from a â€œsmall barâ€ at the village the previous day, according to the local authorities in the area.
Four of their colleagues with whom they shared the liquor were hospitalised in private clinics in Fort Portal but were later discharged after they improved.
Their symptoms, according to local authorities, included vomiting, diarrhoea and swollen stomachs. However, no postmortem examination was carried out.
â€œThe residents became irate and wanted to lynch the bar owner. But we stopped them,â€ said an LC1 official. â€œInitially, we thought they had eaten poisoned food but we realised they shared symptoms of those who died due to poisonous waragi.â€
Another four deaths occurred in Kammengo sub-county, Mpigi district, in the past week. Two of these died as they were being taken to Mpigi health centre. The others died in the health centre, according to Dr. Godfrey Kaggwa, the district health surveillance focal person.
Kaggwa said four people had been admitted at the centre but three were discharged over the weekend after they recovered, while the fourth became blind.
However, the patients whom The New Vision found languishing in pain in the health centre claimed that over 15 people had died, with the majority of the deaths occurring in Musa village, Bukabi parish.
The patients, who included Yoanina Nnyinakabulahe, Matia Ssekamwa and Noah Kaburani, complained of chest pain and blurred vision.
Dr. Kaggwa explained that several examinations carried out by the district medics failed to establish the exact cause but he could not rule out poisonous waragi.
â€œThe condition is funny. People come in with some elements of fever, chest pain, blurred vision and later become blind.
This is related to poisonous alcohol,â€ he noted.
â€œThe health ministry and WHO are aware of the problem. We shall team up to arrest the situation.â€
The health ministry reported on Friday that five had died in Ibuga and Mubuku in Kasese district.
The district secretary for health and social services, Rehema Muhindo, however put the number at six, four of whom were prison warders at Mubuku prison.
Muhindo said the victims had presented severe headache, loss of sight and oozing saliva after drinking a poisonous gin, codenamed â€˜Rio Vodkaâ€™, which costs sh100 a sachet.
A source at the District Criminal Investigations Department said the office was waiting for results from samples sent to the Government chemist in Kampala. The health ministry suspects that the deaths are due to drinking alcohol containing methanol, a form of alcohol used for industrial and automotive purposes. When consumed, methanol breaks down and releases toxic substances.
â€œThe only alcohol that is for human consumption is ethanol. If alcohol is not properly distilled or if it is adulterated with other chemicals, it becomes poisonous. We cannot identify which brand but our investigations are still ongoing,â€ Dr. Kenya-Mugisha, the director of clinical services in the health ministry, said yesterday.
It takes between 12 to 24 hours after consumption for a person to develop the symptoms of poisoning, which include headache, vomiting and blurred vision, according to Dr. Sam Zaramba, the director general of health services.
He said the poisonous waragi may also lead to blindness, drowsiness, fits and eventually coma.
Difficulty in breathing and suffocation may also occur. However, the ministry has not blacklisted any specific brand.
In September 2006, at least 40 people died in various parts of the country, including Kampala, after drinking alcohol laced with methanol.
A year later, 49 people died of alcohol poisoning in the districts of Kampala, Mukono and Mubende, according to a report by the Uganda Youth Development Link, a local NGO. The alcohol was contaminated with methyl spirit.
In 2005, the World Health Organisation ranked Uganda as the leading consumer of alcohol in the world.
Per capita consumption was at 19.5 litres, according to WHO, closely followed by Luxembourg and the Czech Republic.
Health experts say excessive consumption of alcohol has increased the burden of mental illness in Uganda.
(Compiled by Francis Kagolo, Hope Mafaranga, Richard Olwenyi & John B. Thawite)
Waragi kills eight more