Health facilities face Shortage of Essential medicines: UHCC study shows

By Chisomo Phiri

Malawi is currently faced with an acute shortage of essential medicines, putting lives of many poor and marginalized groups such as women and children are risk of dying from curable diseases.

According to the recent study conducted by the Universal Health Coverage Coalition ( UHCC), it shows that there is acute stock outs of essential medicines across the sampled districts of Nsanje, Mchinji, Chikwawa, Mzimba South, Mzimba North, Lilongwe, Dedza, Neno, Karonga, Mangochi and Dowa. The study further shows that the stock outs of essential medicines for non-communicable diseases such as High Blood Pressure is also worrisome in the country.

In Balaka district, a UHCC member, Development Communication Trust( DCT) traced access to medicines at Chiyendausiku Health Centre and established acute stock outs of hypertension and diabetes drugs. In addition, DCT found that stock cards were irregular and not updated as required by 2003 National Health Commodities and logistics manual.

Maziko Matemba

At the same facility of Chiyendausiku, the UHCC has found 4000 Glibenclamide were not utilized and cannot be traced after February as the stock at the hand slows only 1000 tablets in April,2021, a worrying trend that may encourage drug pilferage.

In Mchinji district, at Mkanda Health Centre, the coalition discovered that a pharmacy technician was caught red-handed breaking into a drug store at night to steal drugs, he was arrested, charged and sentenced. Prior to the Universal Health Coverage Coalition’s study, Mkanda Health Centre and other facilities in Mchinji were facing stock outs of essential medicines.

It is estimated that Malawi loses about 30% of the national drug budget to pilferage. The surdy also found that drug pilferage can occur during transportation from the supplier or manufactures to the national warehouse such as Central Medical Stores.

In the study, the UHCC wanted to understand perceptions in terms of drug supply. The study further found that 57% of respondents saying Central Medical Stores Trust ( CMST) is ineffective and 29% lament incessant stock outs of essential drugs to be a key challenge with the trust.

In his comment, Health activist and National Community Health Champion for Malawi Maziko Matemba agreed with the study results saying the issue of stock outs of essential medicines in the facilities has been one of the set backs to health care delivery for many years.
He said, Central Medical Stores does not have enough capital or funds for them to satisfy the requirements to purchase all the needed or essential medicines on time as it is required .