Those who are not press addicts have some snippets of information indicating that “odontol”, this famous traditional drink, apparently killed dozens of people in the Eastern region. Indeed, hospitals in the Abong-Mbang arrondissement were overwhelmed during the 4 November weekend. This was following a massive case of intoxication, caused by the famous odontol also known as Arki or Fôfô. This beverage is made from palm wine or maize juice and distilled with an alcohol level of 5 to 95° depending on the order. After a field visit, the governor of the Eastern region reported 27 deaths and 47 admitted to hospital following the tragedy which occurred in his administrative constituency.
During celebratory ceremonies which took place in several Abong-Mbang towns during this fateful weekend, we learn that the victims drank this highly sought after “poor man's whiskey”. Unfortunately, that time, their odontol cups had a high level of methanol (a type of alcohol) which resulted in deadly symptoms. “Symptoms which appeared in the in the first 24 to 48 hours were somnolence, headaches, nausea, vomiting, loss of sight, nervousness, breathing difficulties, restlessness and death”, lists Dr Joseph Mebouinz, Director of the Abong-Mbang District Hospital, interviewed by the daily Mutations.
We can very well imagine that this incident will not stop drinkers from going for the alcohol. Especially as with less than FCfa 1,000 someone “parched” can buy one litre of this wine; much more raw and alcoholic than the “white man's whisky”. Odontol was however banned in the 70’s in Cameroon. But in these days of “administrative leeway”, everything is obviously allowed to stave off hunger and thirst.
Monique Ngo Mayag