Whatever Malawi Government is doing to deal with the current drug crisis, it is clear that it may not have resonated with some people who believe that the Joyce Banda administration has failed to rescue the situation, a Nation on Sunday survey has revealed.
In the week-long survey conducted in 20 districts, 1 025 out of 1 286 respondents said they are not happy with government’s handling of the problem. This means 80 percent of the people who expressed their views in the survey are far from impressed with government’s measures to tame the problem.
The survey comes in the wake of last week’s Nation on Sunday story which highlighted how vendors and other people are taking advantage of the situation to steal and sell drugs meant for public hospitals. The story also illustrated the difficulties rural health facilities are facing to access basic medicines.
Minister of Health Catherine Gotani-Hara recently told the media that the situation has resulted in a 95 percent drug stock-out in public hospitals.
But in an interview on Saturday, Gotani-Hara said the situation has picked up.
“About K1.1 billion has been released to pay the debts we owe suppliers and as such the confidence has been restored and they will resume supplying drugs. We also decided to increase allocation to central hospitals so that they can procure more drugs and medical supplies.
“People of goodwill have also come to assist us. A container or two are at this point at Beira and a South African firm has also given us two containers and they will arrive in the country at any point. Development partners have also given in monies to procure drugs,” she said.
Gotani Hara also said the Central Medical Stores Trust has issued contracts to suppliers to supply drugs that will take the country through a period of nine months.
“Hospitals were getting their allocation to procure drugs, but since there was a stock-out at Central Medical Stores Trust, hospitals resorted to buying drugs from private suppliers who saw the demands and hiked their prices,” she said.
In a recent interview, executive director of Malawi Health Equity Network, Martha Kwataine, said drug pilferage is one of the key problems plaguing health service delivery.
Gotani Hara agreed with Kwataine, but said systems to check the malpractice are there but need strengthening.
“We are putting emphasis on drug auditing at all levels and we are seriously looking to arrest the situation, but let me remind the general public that the issue is also their responsibility, there are people who know people who sell government drugs and yet do not report it, we need to collectively move on this one,” said the minister.
She also said a team in her ministry is reviewing the law and policy to upgrade the lenient sentences meted out to people convicted of the crime.