Malawi and US governments have joined hands to fight rampant drug thefts in Malawi which is costing both governments about US$11 million (over MK7 billion) per year.
Speaking at Bingu International Conventional Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe alongside the launch of two campaigns to fight drug theft in the country. The Global Fund campaign, ‘I Speak Out Now’ and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) campaign, ‘Make a Difference’ (MAD), both principal secretary for Health Mac Phaire Magwira and US ambassador to Malawi Virginia Palmer said the campaign launch was a start to the end of drug theft.
“In 2013, a study was conducted which revealed that drug theft is costing us. US$11 million. A recent study whose results will be made public soon shows things are not changing at all,” Magwira said.
He said the government has since formed a Drug Theft Administration Unit which has also the police as members who will be inspecting drug availability in public hospitals.
“We have put a number of measures in place, we have a Unit on Drug theft investigation which comprises with officer from the Malawi Police, the ministry and auditors, these are the people who will be going out in all the health facilities to inspect and verify the availability of drugs in the health facilities,” said Magwira.
US ambassador Palmer said the US wanted to stop stocking drugs in public hospitals because of rampant thefts but took into consideration the poorest of the poor who risked death if the US had withdrawn the drug aid.
“Imagine some people are sent to buy medicine just because officials have sold all the drugs. There are large sticks of drugs in markets than they are in hospitals,” she said.
She said it was disheartening when she discovered that 10 clinics were rating highly in drug thefts. The US provides 80 percent of malaria drugs in public hospitals.
“Theft of medicines, just like the theft of property is a crime,” said the US envoy.
Palmer said the campaigns will encourage Malawians to report suspected theft or illegal storage or sale of medicines and other health commodities by telephone or email.
She said other individuals in health facilities across the country are intentionally stealing huge quantities of drugs from clinics and selling them elsewhere, including across borders.
“They are doing this to profit personally, they are stealing from government of Malawi, they are stealing from U.S government and most seriously they are stealing from the people of this country who need these lifesaving drugs,” said the Ambassador.
To report stolen anti-malaria medicine, government and U.S government have established the toll-free hotline 800 00 847 for land lines, 847 for mobile phones or send an email to [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :