News / Africa

Malawi Public Hospitals Face Acute Drug Shortage

Malnourished Malawian children sit with their mothers at a feeding center at the Zomba Central Hospital 60 km's north of Blantyre (file photo).
Malnourished Malawian children sit with their mothers at a feeding center at the Zomba Central Hospital 60 km's north of Blantyre (file photo).
Lameck Masina
— Malawi's government hospitals are experiencing critical shortages of medicines because of theft.  Doctors are now pressuring the government to intervene.

Drug shortages in Malawi’s public hospitals are nothing new. But, health authorities say the situation has reached a critical tipping point. The majority of patients cannot get treatment at public hospitals and doctors are rationing the few medications they do have.

Doctors are now demanding the government take immediate and effective action. The medical staff at the Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe has sent an “Open Letter” to President Joyce Banda - asking her to intervene to stop public hospitals from becoming what they say are “waiting rooms for death.”

Health Minister Catherine Gotani Hara acknowledges the situation is dire, saying the country’s national drug warehouse, the Central Medical Stores, has nearly run out of all essential medicines.

“Indeed the country is experiencing acute shortage of drugs. As we are talking now, in terms of stock levels at medical stores, they are at 95 percent stock out.  We only have five percent of drugs that we are supposed to be stocking at central medical stores. So, we are indeed at very acute levels of drug shortage,” said Gotani.

Medical supplies are also in short supply - including syringes, cotton swabs and antiseptic.  

The Health Ministry’s principle secretary, Charles Mwansambo, blames the situation on what he says is drug theft by medical workers.

“I need to accept that a handful of medical workers are involved in this bad practice," he said. "They collude with outsiders to deprive Malawians of the medicines. So as a ministry we are looking into this issue seriously and also we are calling upon the general public to help us apprehend some of these culprits because they are staying out there in our midst and we know it, we see it and we don’t come forward to report.”

Police have arrested two Central Medical Stores officials for allegedly misappropriating drugs meant for Salima district hospitals and a medical technician at the Chiradzulu district hospital for allegedly forging documents and misappropriating drugs worth thousands of dollars.

Central Medical Stores officials say they are undertaking major reforms to improve security to curb drug theft.  Feston Kaupa is its chief executive officer.

“We are improving security our warehouses, procurement and distribution systems [to avoid] cases where the whole truck would go missing with drugs," said Kaupa. "Now the systems that we will be installing will enable us track all our delivery vans wherever they are going. They will be on a kind of under-surveillance systems.”

However, Kaupa says it will still take a while before drugs are restocked to the required levels - citing lengthy procedures required in drug procurement.

“If we talk about 100 percent capacity of stocks in our warehouse, it will take a bit of time. But, the steps we are taking like the international bidding is for nine months consumption," said Kaupa. "So, at least when we will have all the deliveries made which we expect to be done immediately, contracts are being awarded, we expect the deliveries to be done within 12 weeks.”

President Banda told parliament earlier this month, that her government inherited a slew of problems with drug distribution to the public hospitals from the previous administration.  She sought to assure lawmakers her government is working on plans to decentralize operations in the state hospital and Central Medical Stores systems and  increase the budget for the Ministry of Health. She also says, in the short run, her government will start purchasing drugs directly from the manufacturers without involving the vendors - to decrease the opportunities for theft.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid