Zimbabwe: Govt, Partners to Boost Drug Stocks

(File photo).
15 October 2018

Government is working on foreign currency swap arrangements with development partners operating in the country to boost national drug stocks. The country is facing drug shortages attributed to lack of foreign currency and imports most of the drugs.

In an interview with The Herald last week, Health and Child Care Secretary Dr Gerald Gwinji said Government was working on recapitalising the local pharmaceutical industry to substitute imports.

"Partners bring in foreign currency and part of the money is to fund local activities like training, monitoring and evaluation," he said.

"We, therefore, ask them for a swap where we give them our local currency to cover their local activities and they allow us to access their foreign currency to cover importation of medicines."

In addition to foreign currency allocations from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Dr Gwinji said the measures were anticipated to improve drug availability in the public health sector.

He said the public sector required $2,8 million a week to procure drugs. The RBZ has pledged $4 million a week.

"From the RBZ Monetary Policy Statement, allocations for medicines from January to June 2018 were $40,67 million against a pledged total of $104 million for the period at the rate of $4 million per week," said Dr Gwinji.

Last week, Government, through Vice President Kembo Mohadi, committed to avail foreign currency towards the health sector.

The prevailing situation has seen some service providers refusing to accept medical aid cards demanding payment in US dollars only.

For those who are still accepting bond notes, costs have gone up dramatically depending on the form of payment one is using.

For example, Benylin 4 Flue now costs US$10, $50 in bond notes and $55 for those using debit cards.

Drugs for treating chronic diseases have also disappeared from pharmacies.

Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe chief executive Mrs Shylet Sanyanga said unless member subscriptions were increased or paid in US dollars, there was no way medical aid societies could cushion members from the current inflationary environment.

"Medical aid societies' source of revenue is member subscriptions, unless subscriptions are also paid in US dollars, there is no way medical aid societies can cushion providers from the inflationary environment even if it was possible to review subscriptions frequently," she said.

"Member societies are, therefore, monitoring the situation with a view to engaging employer organisations for subscriptions to be paid in US dollars."

Mrs Sanyanga said to mitigate the current challenges in the pharmaceutical sector, the health sector must be on the priority list for foreign currency allocations.

"If the pharmaceutical sector receives an allocation, this will ease the shortages and should eliminate the price hikes which are necessitated by the need to source foreign currency on the black market," she said.

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