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DRUGS SHORTAGE CRISIS IN ESWATINI

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MBABANE – Government has announced a serious crisis facing the health sector, that of a shortage of medication in the various health facilities and pharmacies countrywide.  

This challenge was communicated by the Minister of Health, Lizzie Nkosi, during a press conference at Cabinet yesterday. The shortage is not only facing public health facilities but private pharmacies as well. Some of the local pharmacies also confirmed that there was a shortage of medication from the simplest to the complex ones. These included antipsychotic and hypertensive drugs. Announcing the shortage, Nkosi stated that the ministry was aware that this was serious and threatened patient care, considering the looming third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, she said COVID-19 positive cases had shown an increase this week and the number of admitted patients had increased. In just three days, from Sunday until Tuesday, there were 63 positive cases reported, while admissions stood at 18 patients.

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Nkosi said government was working in haste with stakeholders to swiftly address these challenges. “There are a number of reasons why the country is in this unfortunate situation. The main one being the impact of COVID-19, which has affected international supply and availability of medicines,” said Nkosi. She clarified that the shortage of medication was not caused by lack of funds, but was due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had affected international supply and availability of the medicines.  The minister highlighted that many pharmaceutical manufacturers were negatively affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.  This, she said, was reinforced by the widespread lockdowns that were effected across the globe. As a result, Nkosi mentioned that the manufacturers had indicated to government that they were facing serious and unprecedented disturbances in the supply chain.

She said the manufacturers experienced shortages of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), which was the critical base for the different commodities.  According to Nkosi, negative economic effects of COVID-19 also pushed most of government suppliers to request for a price review to cushion them against the effects. This, she said, meant that they could not supply accordingly until they were awarded a price increase of 20 per cent of the tender price which, unfortunately, created a gap in the supply chain, the effects of which were currently being experiencies.  To address the challenges, the minister said, together with stakeholders, the ministry was considering pooled procurement mechanism, including acquiring the drugs from the pharmaceutical supplies platforms, which pooled commodities such as UNICEF and UNFPA.

 

 

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