A hidden killer: how does illegal alcohol affect the developing world?

Many cultures have an age old tradition of brewing or distilling their own alcoholic beverages. In the developed world, this has largely been replaced by commercial operations, which are monitored and regulated, however, in parts of the developing world, alongside a legitimate and well regulated commercial sector, there is also a large informal and usually illegal sector.

Without the equipment needed to create the alcohol safely, the products made are often dangerous and can have tragic consequences, ranging from the loss of sight and organ damage, to death. People are drawn to these products because they often cannot afford the commercial alcohol.

In April 2010 in Uganda, scores were killed by illegal banana gin: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8640731.stm

Mudslides in Uganda lead to planned mass migration: a natural or man made phenomenon?

In early March 2010, a series of landslides in the hilly Bududa region of Uganda caused devastation: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8545005.stm.

Whilst the landslides themselves were triggered by heavy rain, it is thought that the removal of vegetation by human activity, e.g, clearance for farming, has contributed to the vulnerability of the slopes. Some areas were descried as being like giant cemeteries after the mud swept through: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8549909.stm

The landslides were big enough to be seen on satellite images: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=43130

This radio report helps explain the grief people are experienceing: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/2010/03/100305_uganda.shtml

The government thinks that the area is too dangerous to live in and intends to resettle half a million people: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8556669.stm. It will remain to be seen whther this is a better response than trying to make the area less vulnerable to landslides in a country with a growing population and pressure on land.