20 September 2012

Nigeria: Irregular Drug Supply Leaves Women Vulnerable

Medicine providers in Nigeria have failed to ensure adequate supply of essential medicines, thus leaving millions of women and children without access to life-saving commodities, health authorities admitted today.

Minister of State for Health, Muhammad Pate said in spite of the threat to the lives of women and children, "little attention is paid to addressing constraints that interrupt the availability of medicines and medical consumables that support the provision of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) services."

He told a conference assessing the availability of health commodities in the country that smooth supply of medicines lacked coordination in spite of efforts for harmony across different levels of government.

The lack of coordination affects how the drugs are bought, stored and distributed.

"Despite several efforts by various actors to reach the National Drug Policy's Goal of ensuring uninterrupted supply of essential medicines, there continues to be a fragmented, uncoordinated and sub-optimal supply chain and distribution system between federal programs, states and facilities for the procurement, storage and distribution of essential medicines and medical supplies," said Pate.

Life-saving services

The minister went on, "We continue to hear stories such as that of the woman who, just after child birth, dies from excessive bleeding because the health centre is stocked-out of the medicine to save her life; the child with a simple case of pneumonia who cannot be treated because the needed antibiotic is not available; and the 45-year old woman who finds out she is pregnant for the seventh time, after almost dying the last time she gave birth because she does not have access to modern methods of family planning."

He said a stark reality was that many of the deaths in the country could be prevented by increasing access to basic health interventions and ensuring they are used.

Eight interventions under the MNCH services include routine immunization, elimination of mother-to-child HIV, scaling up access to essential medicines and commodities, improving child nutrition, promoting technology in healthcare, and strengthening medicine supply chains.

Authorities target to save one million lives by 2015, but components targeting women and children could save up to 700,000 lives by 2015 alone.

Among them are "16,800 maternal lives, 180,800 neonatal lives, 465,300 post neonatal," said Pate.

But MNCH commodities running out of stock continues to be a problem.

Recent checks, in collaboration with US Agency for International Development, have noted funding gaps despite a 300% increase in domestic funding for reproductive health commodities over the next four years--from $3 million to $8.35 million each year--a total $33.4 million.

Authorities hope to shore up health services by providing more skilled health workers with funding from the Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme, and providing cash incentives for women, especially in northern states and rural areas, to visit clinics for antenatal care.

The subsidy fund will provide $100 million each year over four years, separate from a total $68 million committed to polio and routine immunization.

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