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Woman arrested as home-brew kills 17 in Kenya

A woman has been arrested after 17 people have died and a dozen more were blinded by drinking home brewed liquor sold in Kenya’s biggest shanty town.

Medicals warn that the number of victims from the batch could still rise.

Poverty is still a huge problem in the east African country where many people drink home-distilled liquor because they cannot afford shop brands.

Police said that the home-made booze may have contained traces of methanol, which is also used as car fuel, glue and anti-freeze.

Many of the victims were found in their homes in the Kibera shanty town, in the capital Nairobi. Some were taken to hospital but died when they got there.

A woman accused of making the liquor, which locals call changaa, was arrested and was being questioned by police.

Police have sent samples of the liquid for tests, to try to find out if the poisonous chemicals in it were made by accident in the distilling process or were added intentionally maybe to make the batch go further.

Hundreds of people die every year in Kenya from poisoned liquor often sold from the brewer's home, according to the BBC. Most people there are too poor to afford legally made alcoholic drinks, so thousands of people opt to drink changaa.

But the problem is not just confined to Kenya.  About half of all the alcohol drunk in sub-Saharan Africa is produced illegally, according to figures from The World Health Organisation, which says 85 per cent of alcohol drunk in Kenya and 90 per cent in Tanzania comes from the ‘unrecorded’ market.

The ‘informal’ brewing market in Africa is worth about £2.1bn ($3bn) a year, according to figures from the BBC. Thousands of Africans have been killed, blinded or left infertile by drinking these deadly brews accurately called  names such as ‘Kill me quick’, ‘The dog that bites’ and ‘Goodbye Mum'.

Brewed in secret stills in shantytowns and backyards everywhere, it is often spiked with toxic additives to make it more powerful. It is often made with filthy water and the alcohol content turbo-charged with anything from embalming fluid to stolen jet fuel.

And for the poorest Africans, living on a couple of dollars a day, it is often the only way of numbing their problems. 

Hayley attribution