Regina Kikuli, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare
The government has allayed public fears over the reported shortage of anti-malaria drugs Artemether Lumefantrine (ALu ) and Quinine in health facilities in the country.
Regina Kikuli, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare said in a statement yesterday that health centres have enough stocks of the drugs and that the Medical Store Department (MSD) continues distributing the drugs across the country.
The government was yesterday prompted to issue the statement following claims raised mid this week by a non-governmental organisation, where Sikika executive director Irenei Kiria said that hospitals and health centres were running short of first line anti-malaria drugs.
Kikuli said last month a consignment of drugs with 2,400,000 anti-malaria doses for childern was received, noting that this is enough to cater for demands of five months. As for adults treatment, a total of 5,688,720 doses (tablets) were received to meet the demands for 14 months, she said.
Another consigment of drugs is expected in the country next month, she further noted, recalling that until December last year, hospitals and health centres had 1,315,967 doses of ALU for children to meet the demand for two months. Similarly, there were 2,283,610 doses of ALU for adults to meet the demands for two and a half months.
Speaking to editors at midweek, Kiria said the government had shown reluctance in utilising data obtained through an established monitoring tool (SMS for Life) meant to monitor routien availability of Artemether Lumefantrine (ALu ) in various health centres, hospitals and dispensaries around the country.
SIKIKA , a non governmental organization monitoring education and health service provision among others issues, said there was little evidence that the authorities were fully utilizing the data to ensure that areas or facilities which run out of the drugs are re-stocked in a timely manner.
Kiria said ALu , the main drug in the fight against malaria, was reported as being unavailable in many public health facilities.
"We have been monitoring ALu availability using the tool for two years now and we have not seen the required progressive and durable improvements. We have only noticed momentary improvements often tied to public outcries or media coverage," Kiria was quoted as saying.
He cited results of current data from the SMS for Life monitoring tool covering 5,080 health facilities in 22 regions, where about 1,300 health facilities (25.59 percent) reported complete stock-outs of ALu (zero stocks).
“Whilst this is the overall average there is a wide variation between regions and between districts, for example in Dodoma region only three percent of facilities reported zero stocks of ALu, Singida four percent, Manyara six percent and Kilimanjaro 10 percent compared to Mwanza region where 57 percent reported having no stocks, Ruvuma 53percent, Mara 46 percent, Kigoma 43percent, Shinyanga 42 percent and Tabora 41 percent,” the director noted.
Kiria said the picture was even bleaker when the same data was analyzed per district in the worst hit regions, citing Mwanza’s Ukerewe district with 88 percent of its facilities reporting zero stocks, followed by Sengerema at 80 percent, Geita70 percent and Misungwi 65 percent.
“The situation has been like this for a considerable time. In fact, since 2009 facilities have been experiencing recurring shortages of this vital drug. All this has been happening despite extensive structures and resources put in place to facilitate the fight against malaria.
“Our own internal data (survey conducted in March 2012 in 54 hospitals all over the Mainland) confirms this perennial shortage / stock of anti-malarial drugs. It was seen that 43 percent of the hospitals did not have quinine (drug of choice for treating complicated malaria cases), whilst 19 percent of the hospitals did not have ALu,” said Kiria.
When approached, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare admitted that there was a shortage of Alu, but said supplies have already been sent to health centres.
The ministry’s Public Relations officer, Nsachris Mwamwaja said the shortage was due to distribution delays and not the absence of the drug.