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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
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.

AppleAndroid