About 25 per cent of public health outlets in the country had no stocks of the anti-malaria drug ALu by yesterday, according to the ministry of health and social welfare monitoring system.
The information from the Ministry’s monitoring tool dubbed ‘SMS for Life’ indicated that up to yesterday, there were about 1,280 (25 per cent) public health facilities with no ALu at all (zero stocks).
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare disputed a recent report by Sikika, on the shortage of anti-malaria drugs (ALu and Quinine) in the country.
The ministry’s monitoring system also shows that regions that reported a shortfall in January 28, 2013 had not yet received the drugs that were said to be in the country by last Friday.
The affected regions were Mwanza (59 per cent), Ruvuma (49 per cent), Shinyanga (44 per cent), Tabora (40 per cent), Mara (38 per cent) and Kigoma (38 per cent).
When reached for comment, Dr Hussein Mwinyi, Minister for Health and Social Welfare said: “I am in a meeting so I can’t talk much…but it is true that there was shortage which had been caused by the delays to clear the drugs at the Dare s Salaam port.”
He added: “But we have made all the efforts to ensure the drugs reach the respective health centres…by the way, we have issued a statement and that is the ministry’s stand.”
According to the ministry’s statement, up to January this year there were 2.4 million doses of the drugs for children, expected to last up to May, while for adults there were 5,688,720 doses, expected to last for 14 months. However more drugs are expected to reach the country later next month.
Responding to the minister’s statement, Irenei Kiria, the Executive Director of Sikika said: “…there is difference between having consignments of ALu that are ordered and availability of such medicine in the health facilities.”
He added: “Sikika was highlighting the stock out of ALu in the health facilities while the Minister’s statement is pointing out the consignments of ALu that were shipped in the country and those expecting to be imported.”
According to him, his organisation with a nation-wide mandate in health governance, would like to believe the Ministry’s argument on the availability of sufficient stocks of ALu; however, where are they (drugs)?
Kiria further said that the question one can ask is why are they not in the 25 per cent of facilities that are completely out of stock?...“Is the Ministry telling us that its monitoring system ‘SMS for Life’ is not providing accurate data as intended?”
While trying to dispute the Alu shortage facts, the Ministry’s statement signed by Regina Kikuli Acting permanent secretary stated: ‘‘the system only provides information on the availability of two kinds of antimalarial medicines which are Alu and Quinine and not other types...‘
The Sikika director said: “We would like to remind the Ministry that since 2006 Tanzania has been following the World Health Organisation (WHO) malaria treatment guidelines that recommend the use of ALu for uncomplicated malaria and Quinine for severe malaria,” he said, adding: “Thus, using these guidelines, health facilities have been managing malaria using the two said medicines, whilst the anti malaria SP is being used by expectant mothers.”
Sikika urged government to make public the other medicines (apart from ALu and Quinine) that are being used but not reported by the ‘SMS for life’.
Kiria questioned: “Which guidelines are being followed? WHO authorised these guidelines? When were health workers trained on the implementation of these new guidelines?”
He therefore said that his NGO is calling upon the government to use its monitoring system ‘SMS for Life’ properly in order to ensure that the health of Tanzanians is protected and that frequent stock outs of ALu and other drugs do not recur.