While drug shortages in health centres across Malawi may have been alleviated by the intervention of emergency drug kits, some centres now complain of excess drugs that they hardly use.
A visit to several centres in the Southern Region by journalists on a media tour to appreciate the impact of the kits revealed that health facilities are laden with drugs they would do without instead of those in demand.
Officers-in-charge for Mapelera Health Centre and Ngabu Rural Hospital in Chikhwawa; Neno District Hospital, Ligowe and Magaleta Health Centres in Neno; Mbela and Chiendausiku Health Centres in Balaka all said they have stacks of medicines that have been idle for a long time with new supplies still coming in each month.
District health officer (DHO) for Neno Jones Masiye, while commending the programme for improving the availability of drugs that are delivered on time, said it would be ideal for relevant officers on the ground to be consulted on the specifics of the drugs their health facilities need.
“For Neno, we have drugs such as promethazine and magnesium tablets that are in excess. The common ailments here are malaria, typhoid and diarrhoea. We get medicines to treat these in the kits, but they run out quickly as they are in high demand,” said Masiye.
The in-charge of Ngabu Rural Hospital Prince Katchika, who was not aware of the programme ending next month, was surprised by the development, saying it would worsen the situation in a catchment area of 73 244 people.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali said since the kits are pre-packaged, the ministry was aware that some drugs would not suit a particular area, but would be useful elsewhere.
He said the ministry recommend to DHOs to exchange the drugs with their counterparts in areas that need particular drugs more than others.
The emergency kits have been distributed to health centres for 18 months. The process was implemented in two phases. The first phase ran from January to March 2012 whereas the second stage rolled out in April 2012 and will run up to June 2013.
Both consignments were funded by Britain, Germany and Norway at a cost of K5.4 billion (about $13m).
The programme is being implemented by Unicef and Usaid in collaboration with the government of Malawi, CMST and the Christian Hospitals Association of Malawi (Cham).