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Miraa not bad for mental health, MP Mwirigi says



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An MP from Meru wants the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) to recant a study that showed miraa is bad for mental health.

Igembe South MP John Paul Mwirigi said the integrity of the studies carried out by the institute are questionable, especially after Kemri, in another study, gave the crop a clean bill of health.

Publishing data last week in a scientific journal, Kemri researchers said they found miraa to be a possible cause of mental health problems.

The scientists were citing data collected from 831 residents of Meru and Embu counties in 2015 in a study funded by the Government at Sh38 million.

The latest findings are a stark contrast of those reported in 2017 showing that miraa, also known as khat, has medicinal properties that could be a game changer in the region’s health and economic sector.

That study, funded by the government to a tune of Sh38 million, was conducted in Meru and Embu counties, and also disqualified perceptions that people who chew miraa are more susceptible to mental disorders or sexual dysfunction.

It is for this reason that the MP feels the institute is taking Meru people, especially those who grow and depend on the stimulant in Igembe and Tigania areas, for a ride.

He said there is “no good evidence of medical or social harm” caused by khat’s consumption.

“Why have contradictory reports in a span of two years? We have had the crop for ages and there are no known medical effects.  We doubt the content of the Kemri study and we want them to come out clearly on their intention about our green gold,” Mr Mwirigi said.

“Miraa is of economic and cultural significance to our Meru people.”

Kenya has been pushing the lifting of the miraa ban in the United Kingdom, one of its biggest markets. The ban, that took effect in June 2014, was meant to “protect communities from health and social harms associated with khat and ensure that UK does not become a hub for international khat smuggling”.

Mr Mwirigi explained that majority of his constituents depend on khat cultivation for their livelihood and the Kemri study was condemning them to poverty.

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