Countering the harmful effect of unrecorded alcohol in Haiti

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Alcohol consumption is classified into recorded consumption monitored by governments and unrecorded consumption.  In Haiti, “kleren” or “Clairin” in french is a spirit that comes from sugar cane following a traditional (rudimentary) distillation process leading to a product like rum but less refined. It’s sold in bulk and its consumption is wide and largely unrecorded. Consumption of unrecorded alcohol can be as high as 40% in low income countries.

In 2011, a dozen people lost their lives and 20 more were blinded and paralyzed after consuming Kleren and again in 2016 over 20 people died and many others suffered disabilities. The “Kleren” was found to be mixed with methanol instePHOTO: Haiti - Clairin vs Methanolad of the regular ethanol. Methanol is a toxic substance used as an industrial
solvent or antifreeze. It’s similar to ethanol in odor and appearance and may be inadvertently introduced into the mixture or can be used as a low-cost substitute to increase profit. Unfortunately, alcohol poisoning and its effects have not been measured in Haiti therefore the problem is likely greatly under-reported.

The production and sale of “Kleren” constitute the main source of livelihood for many small-scale farmers, distillers and tradesman and many are afraid that those deaths will scare costumer away. The consumption of “Kleren” is strongly entrenched in the culture of the country and it’s used in religious ceremonies, to treat illness or for simple celebrations. It’s more often sold and used by persons of lower socioeconomic status and the deaths and disabilities that result have further catastrophic consequences for their loved ones, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Policies on alcohol production and sale in Haiti should be developed and potential implementing agencies like the “Office of quality control and consumer protection” of the Ministry of Commerce need to be strengthen for effective enforcement.

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One Response to “Countering the harmful effect of unrecorded alcohol in Haiti”

  1. jyoon Says:

    Very interesting read. Weak regulatory systems are still prevalent in developed countries (given the fact that counterfeit/falsified drugs and substances are accessible) but the problem is far worse for developing countries where there are more opportunities for Substandard, spurious, falsely labelled, falsified and counterfeit (SSFFC) medical products or locally produced substances to flourish. The fact that “Kleren” is entrenched in the culture of Haiti, I am sure it is difficult to regulate the consumption. I wonder if Office of quality control and consumer protection can embed Community-based or Community-directed Treatment to prohibit the consumption of “Kleren?” One can only imagine what else is being consumed with no record of harmful substances.

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