Methanol homeless victims’ tragedy: A problem waiting solution

Khartoum, ( The recent case of the 71 homeless persons who died in Khartoum State of intoxication resulting from drinking methanol Spirit material- an alcoholic solution of a volatile substance- used in perfume and pharmaceutical industry, has prompted a national and international concern .

Official statistics by Khartoum State government has indicated that the number of homeless persons in the state has amounted to 9,350 persons of whom 3,200 have been given shelter, 956 were reunited with their families outside  the National Capital Khartoum  (Damazin, Sinnar, Geddarif, El Obied, and Darfur States) and 852 have been reunited with their families within Khartoum itself inside the state .

Statistics presented by Khartoum State Governor Abdel-Rahman Al-Khader to the press recently indicated that 150 grown up homeless persons were rehabilitated and that 57 female homeless have been accommodated at the Girls House in Omdurman, 19 of them were reunited with their families, eventually.

The Wali added that Tayba Children House accommodates 356 children and Al-Rashad Center in Soba area accommodates 568 adult homeless persons, adding that the number of homeless children from the southern Sudan States alone has stands at 332 .

The Spirit contains methanol, which is lethal substance regardless of the amount used. It adversely affects the liver and kidney because of the serious chemical substance it contains. Its effects on the human body varies according to the person’s immunity and quantities consumed .

Homeless persons who used to sniff on a piece of cotton saturated with benzene and other petroleum product have of recently veered to other stronger stuff with over 95% alcohol.

The Forensic Evidence Police, in the meantime, said 84 bottles of Spirit substance (each bottle contains 500 milligrams) have been confiscated adding that autopsy exams have revealed that the reason behind the death of the victims was the use of this substance .

Director of the Police Criminal Department Maj. Gen. Mohamed Ahmed Ali Ibrahim, meanwhile, stated that the biggest number of the victims was in Omdurman Locality, one of the three towns that form the national capital Khartoum, the triangle capital as it is known.

Reports claimed that the Spirit substance was leaked to the victims by perfume merchants at Omdurman market, the reason why Sudanow headed to the market to interview the merchants there .

Majdy Al-Nur, owner of Abu Sharar for Perfumes, told Sudanow that perfume processing has started since the nineties of last century and that the Spirit substance is a key material in this industry besides the aromatic oils .

He went on to say that the importance of the Spirit substance emanates from the fact that it is used as a dissolving material for the aromatic oils besides its usage in processing all types of local and imported perfumes .

 Regarding how they obtain the Spirit substance, he trustfully said they were dealing with Al-Shaeed Factories in Bahry (Khartoum North) and that he has a commercial license and a commercial name .

 However, he said that the Spirit substance started to be imported from Egypt where some importers sell the substance to people from outside the field of perfume industry, the reason why the substance found its way to the homeless persons .

He added that, on their part, they never sell the substance for any person that they are sure he is not working in the field of perfume industry .

The merchants’ statements complied with the results of the investigations carried out by Khartoum State Police on the Spirit substance, where the police authorities indicated that the substance was proved to have been imported from Egypt in barrels through Shalateen or Halfa Al-Ghadeema areas for perfume industry or medical purposes .

Dr. Jamal Yousif, Director of Omdurman Teaching Hospital’s Morgue, on his part, said that the morgue has received 38 bodies of the victims in Omdurman locality .

He said that the preliminary tests have proved that their death were due intoxication by methanol, pointing out that another number of those who drank the substance have responded to treatment and that the morgue’s final report would answer all the question marks regarding the death by methanol .

Gamar Habbany, Secretary General of the National Council for Child Welfare, in the meantime, said that the death of dozens of children by methanol intoxication constituted a serious indicator for the psychological status in which the Sudanese homeless category live, urging for the need to adopt further measures to protect the children aged less than 18 years and eliminate the homelessness phenomenon .

Director of Khartoum State Police Gen. Mohamed Al-Hafez, on his part, ruled out the possibility that the incident was a plot to destroy a specific category in the community.

He said that two committees have been formed to investigate the incident, disclosing tight measures on methanol retailers and importers to ensure that such a tragedy would not recur besides setting up a mechanism to prevent entry of the substance into the country .

On a related development, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Justice Issam-Eddin Abdel-Ghader issued a decision on formation of committees to investigate the filed suits regarding the death of the homeless persons in Khartoum State due to methanol intoxication .

The Sudanese National Assembly (parliament), on the other hand, summoned the Ministry of Interior to present a report on the incident to the assembly members .