Mozambique: No Shortage of Essential Drugs, Says Minister

Maputo — Mozambican Health Minister Nazira Abdula on Wednesday denied claims by the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) that health units in the northern province of Nampula have run out of essential drugs.

Mentioning specifically the Nampula districts of Rapale, Mogincual, Nacaroa and Monapo, the MDM claimed that the health units "even suffer from a lack of paracetamol".

Speaking in a two day question and answer session between the parliamentary deputies and the government, Abdula replied that "one of the indispensable questions for good provision of health services is the provision of medicines for the primary health services which cover 80 per cent of the pathologies in the country".

A constant supply of these medicines has been guaranteed in recent years, she stressed. Each health received a kit of essential medicines programmed for 1,000 consultations, and each contains 5,000 paracetamol pills.

When stocks of any essential medicine ran low, the health unit concerned just asked for more, from the district medical stores. In all the districts mentioned by the MDM, "we can prove the existence of the medicines", said Abdula.

As for anti-malaria medicines, Abdula said the central medical stores currently have a stock of 6.5 million treatments for this disease. In the Nampula provincial stores, there were 307,705 treatments for malaria, and, in the places mentioned by the MDM, there were 7,980 in Rapale, 8,910 in Mogincual, 8,070 in Nacaroa and 15,000 in Monapo.

If malaria cases increased because of the two recent cyclones in central and northern Mozambique, said the Minister, "there are sufficient stocks to treat this disease and other common illnesses throughout the country".

There were also complaints about malfunctioning equipment. The MDM said the X-ray machine in Monapo hospital was not working, for instance. Abdula recognised there had been a breakdown, but the machine had now been repaired.

It was also true that there were cases of poor patient care and illicit charges in the hospitals - but Abdula said this was abnormal behaviour by a small number of health workers. "We shall continue fighting to identify these workers, and to hold them responsible", she added.

MDM deputy Silverio Ronguane replied to Abdula on Thursday, but seemed not to have listened to a word the minister said. Shouting down his microphone, he demanded that the government resign.

"The people can't stand any more", Ronguane said. "The people can't stand the exorbitant electricity bills, the impassable roads, the illicit charges, and the hospitals without medicines. The people can't stand any more the living conditions imposed by a tired and disoriented government".

The MDM had also protested at the cost of electricity charged by the public company EDM. The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Max Tonela, replied that for several years the prices had been frozen, damaging EDM's economic and financial situation, and causing it to run up serious debts with its suppliers.

This was an indirect criticism of the previous government, under President Armando Guebuza, which had a policy of indiscriminate subsidies, which proved ruinous.

Electricity prices had to rise, said Tonela, so that EDM had money for investment. But the poorer strata of the population were protected, since the "social tariff" for low-income families who consume very little electricity had been left unchanged.

He pointed out that, under the present government, the electrification of the capitals of all 154 districts has been completed.

Tonela added that no further increases in the EDM tariffs are planned.

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