Government surrenders provision of drugs to donors

The government last bought drugs in 2008

By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
02 April 2014

A senior official has revealed that government has failed to provide adequate medical drugs for six years, with 98% of the supplies coming from donors during that period.

National Pharmaceutical Company managing director Florah Sifeku said the government last bought drugs in 2008 during the Zim dollar era. Sifeku told journalists in Harare this week that almost 98 % of the medicines in public health institutions have been supplied by donors and only 2%, mostly ARVs, by the National Aids Council.

According to a NewsDay report, Sifeku said a correct scenario would be for the national drug supplier to have at least 60% of the drugs from government, with the donors chipping in with the remainder.

Sifeku said the pharmaceutical company needs at least $120 million for recapitalization to forestall a potential crisis in the event of donors pulling out. The need comes at a time when the company is owed over $12 million, a debt which has been accumulating since 2009.

Out of a requested $15 million for recapitalization the government allocated the national drug supplier a paltry $2.5 million and that amount has yet to be disbursed. Sifeku said if they had been given the requested amount they would have ‘done a lot of things’ with it.

The MDC-T Shadow Minister for Health, Dr Ruth Labode, told SW Radio Africa that the country was sitting on a health time bomb and unless the government takes the decision to correct the situation, catastrophe was in the offing. She said: ‘It is evident that if donors decide to pull out tomorrow institutions will close and the people will die.’

Labode’s comments come at a time when the donor community is increasingly seen to be adopting a cautious approach towards Zimbabwe, with some sectors going unfunded since the disputed 2013 election.

In January, Auditor General Mildred Chiri told Parliament that some hospitals in Matabeleland North and Hauna in Manicaland provinces were holding medicines which expired between 10 to 20 years ago.

Dr Labode, who chairs the parliamentary portfolio committee on health, said if those drugs are not destroyed they may find their way onto the black market. She said her committee is currently touring health institutions around the country to investigate the drug situation and would be moving into Matabeleland ‘very soon.’

For years the government has been criticized for underfunding the health sector. Out of total budget of $4.4 billion, the ministry of health was allocated just $337 million in 2014. In 2013 the ministry was allocated $407 million out of a total budget of $3.8 billion.

According to health experts these allocations fall far short of what is stipulated by the 2001 African Union Abuja Declaration. Zimbabwe is a signatory to the agreement under which governments undertook to ensure that 15 percent of their annual budget goes towards the improvement of the health sector.



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