Former Malawi president Joyce Banda is among seven African heads of state in Lome, capital of Togo, participating in aa summit against fake drugs which is under the aegis of the Brazzaville Foundation an independent NGO based in London which Banda belongs.
The two-day conference runs through Saturday and is expected to lead to a “Lomé Initiative” to end the illegal trafficking and use of fake drugs.
Togo President Faure Gnassingbe is hosting Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Gambian President Adama Barrow, along with presidents Denis Sassou N’Guesso of Republic of Congo and Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger.
The Brazzaville Foundation is teaming up with Initiative Lome to address the problem of fake drugs which is a big public health issue in sub-Saharan Africa.
In her remarks at the summit, Banda said with her colleagues at Brazillian Foundation they have been working on creating the momentum to tackle a critical and urgent crisis which has gone unchallenged and under-reported for too long.
Banda said the summit is a “ground-breaking moment” of a wider program to ensure access to safe and effective medicines for all people.
“This is a critical first step in not only ensuring access to safe and effective medicines for all their citizens, but more significantly, it will mean saving lives of men, women and children who would otherwise needlessly die at the hands of heartless criminals who facilitate importation of fake medicines into the African continent,” said Banda.
Banda said she is proud that the continent leaders have taken a bold stand against a scourge that costs hundreds of thousands of African lives each year.
“Indeed, although the trafficking of fake medicines is a global issue affecting about 10% of all medical products worldwide, it disproportionately affects our communities here, on the African continent, including in my home country of Malawi,” said Banda,who governed Malawi between 2012 and 2014, but dedicated her life entire adult life to improving the livelihood of the poorest including women, and of children.
Her Joyce Banda Foundation alone has reached 1.3 million Malawians in 23 years.
During her time in power, Banda made a public statement banning the fake medicine being dumped Malawi and poisoning citizens.
She pointed out that the HIV medication being dumped into Malawi was so bad that it would deform people.
“You could physically see the treatment breaking them down. But through my political engagement, we brought it to an end. The deformities have stopped,” Banda stated.
Banda urged regional, continental and global bodies including SADC, ECOWAS, COMESA, the African Union, the African Development Bank, the WHO and other UN family organs to support the initiative to fight fake drug menace.
“The challenge ahead of us will not be simple. The organised criminal networks that smuggle this poison across our border are rich, experienced and incredibly hard to counter. They use their huge profits to bribe their way into state medical stores, evade justice systems, and – worse still – finance the terrorist organisations that spread violence and destruction across our continent and the globe,” said Banda.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates a US$30 billion trade in fake drugs, based on data that shows that 10.5 percent of the drugs tested in low- and middle-income countries are fake or substandard. The research was based on more than 48,000 samples taken from 88 countries.
Also attending in Togo are WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
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