How Families in Kenya Support Problem-Drinking Fathers in Eldoret and Uasin Gishu County

In Kenya, the prevalence of alcohol use disorder (AUD) is close to 6%, with men being disproportionately affected by harmful alcohol consumption. This issue has significant negative consequences for both individuals and their families. Despite the high prevalence, there is a notable treatment gap, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) like Kenya, where formal treatment options are scarce. In this blog, we explore a recent research study conducted in Eldoret and Uasin Gishu County, Kenya, examining the experiences of problem-drinking fathers and the help they receive from their families and communities. We also look at the barriers and facilitators to accepting help and discuss potential solutions to address this pressing issue.

Understanding the Problem: The study involved 31 individuals, including 11 men, 11 women (wives of the problem-drinking fathers), and 9 children from families in Eldoret and surrounding peri-urban communities in Uasin Gishu County. The average age of fathers was 38 years, while mothers were 32 years old, and children were 12 years old on average. The families reported an average income of 1,905 Ksh (~19 USD) per week. Most fathers consumed locally brewed alcohol, and their average AUDIT score was 16, indicating a high risk or harmful level of alcohol consumption.

Family Dynamics in Helping Fathers: In this study, the wives played a crucial role in providing informal help to their husbands struggling with alcohol use. They used a calm and caring approach to encourage the fathers to quit drinking for the sake of their families’ well-being. Extended family members, such as the father’s parents and siblings, also offered support in a non-confrontational manner. Community members and churchgoers stepped in to offer advice, prayer, and emotional support. Interestingly, some children also played a part in encouraging their fathers to change, though their influence was limited due to fear of the father’s reaction.

Challenges to Seeking Help: While family and community support were significant, the study also identified barriers to help-acceptance. Negative perceptions of help, especially when delivered with harsh tones or judgments, often led fathers to resist accepting assistance. Peer pressure and negative help strategies from friends, such as offering alcohol or tricking the father into drinking, were common obstacles. Additionally, the cyclical nature of casual labor and daily payments in Kenya made it challenging for fathers to break free from the cycle of drinking after work.

Encouraging Factors for Help-Acceptance: Despite the challenges, several factors facilitated help-acceptance among problem-drinking fathers. Positive perceptions of help, financial motivation to stop drinking, perceived social support from family and community, and the desire to overcome external stigma were all motivators. Fathers who received emotional and financial support from their loved ones were more willing to make positive changes. Support from community members and churchgoers, along with the belief that others had faith in their ability to change, were powerful encouragements.

Moving Forward: Community-Based Interventions The research highlights the importance of family and community involvement in supporting problem-drinking fathers. Community-based interventions that leverage existing social networks and cultural practices hold promise in fostering long-term behavior change. By recognizing the significance of family and community support, targeted interventions can be designed to help problem-drinking fathers and improve the overall well-being of families affected by alcohol abuse.

Raising Awareness and Bridging the Treatment Gap: Efforts to raise awareness about formal treatment options and destigmatize seeking help for alcohol use are crucial to bridge the treatment gap in Kenya. By engaging families, communities, and local organizations, we can collectively create a supportive environment that aids in reducing the burden of alcohol use and fosters positive transformation for fathers and their families.

Conclusion: The study conducted in Eldoret and Uasin Gishu County sheds light on the challenges faced by problem-drinking fathers in Kenya and the significant role of family and community in providing help and support. By understanding the barriers and facilitators to help-acceptance, we can develop effective community-based interventions to address alcohol challenges and promote healthier lifestyles. Together, we can build a brighter future for problem-drinking fathers and their families in Kenya.

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