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Still struggling with drug shortages
Janaury 11, 2013
of generic and antiretroviral drugs, stock-outs, high medication
costs, and long distances to clinics are some of the hurdles people
face in their quest to access essential medicines in Zimbabwe.
At any given
time, public health facilities in much of Zimbabwe have in stock
only half of a core set of critical medicines, according to findings
from civil society groups working to improve access to medicines
in Southern Africa.
still recuperating from a drastic decline in health services caused
by sub-optimal investments in healthcare and an unprecedented economic
crisis in 2008, during which the local currency crashed.
To make matters
worse, over 80 percent of the country's drugs are externally funded.
A poorly resourced
local pharmaceutical industry can barely provide the country with
its essential medicine requirements, and government-backed institutions,
such as the National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (NatPharm),
which is mandated with securing drugs and healthcare products on
behalf of state institutions, are struggling to survive.
is government funded, and we are supposed to procure medicines for
onward supply to health institutions, but this is not happening
because our shareholder, the government, has not been able to fund
us lately," NatPharm director Charles Mwaramba told IRIN/PlusNews.
"We just woke up one day in 2009, and we did not have any
money for operations."
government has not been able to pay NatPharm. In the 2013 national
budget, NatPharm did not even get an allocation, and has been forced
to make ends meet by storing medicines for NGOs and other clients
for a fee.
the executive director of the Community
Working Group on Health, a network of civil society organizations,
warns that depending on donors to supply the country with medication
sector is severely crippled by all sorts of problems, not least
of them poor government funding and skewed priorities. Where is
our voice as civil society when NatPharm is not being funded? We
need a strong voice in the health sector because health is a fundamental
human right. We must not be cowed into silence, fearing authority
will come down us," Rusike said.
ailing pharmaceutical sector is not alone.
conducted by the Southern Africa Regional Programme on Access to
Medicines and Diagnostics (SARPAM) in the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) region have found evidence of market failures resulting
in uncompetitive drug pricing and unstable availability of medicines,
which compromise the health and well-being of people living in the
groups are hoping the roll-out of the Tendai - an acronym for Tracking
Essential National Medicines and Diagnostics Access Initiative -project
will monitor the availability of medications at healthcare facilities
and gradually bring about some improvement. Under the initiative,
community health workers from a network of civil society partners
use mobile phones to collect data on the availability of medicines
at points of access in participating countries, which include South
Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.
the data collection using customized open-source survey software.
The software allows monitors to capture many types of instantly
accessible data, including digital surveys, voice recordings and
photos that provide insight into real issues at the community level.
The data can be shared immediately with social networks and mailing
is an epicentre of illnesses, yet policymakers and governments are
still not prioritizing medicines," said Daniel Molekele, the
SARPAM civil society coordinator.
is still in its infancy, data generated in the pilot stages have
been helpful in identifying problems, monitoring interventions,
building awareness and adding to the dialogue around access to medicine,
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