PARLIAMENTARIANS and Global Fund’s Zimbabwe Country Coordinating Committee(CCM) took turns on Monday to grill the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm) for misleading government claiming the country had sufficient stocks of antiretroviral treatment (ART)drugs.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
Giving oral evidence to the joint committees on Health and HIV, NatPharm Operations Manager, Mr Charles Mwaramba said the drugs warehouse had close to 100 percent stocks of 12 selected ART drugs.
This however, did not go down well with Parliamentarians who blamed the organization for politicking at the expense of human lives. Midlands Senator Lillian Timveos wanted clarity on the distribution of ART said to be at 100 percent in the last half of the year.
When we went to NatPharm it was full of drugs but when we went to the health institutions, people were getting ARVs for two weeks. Is it the distribution processes because when we go to NatPharm there are drugs.what is going on? I think we should be answered,” she said.
“I think he has clarified because when we had people living with HIV, they actually told us that wherever they go they don’t get the second line. This second line is paid for by the NAC. NAC has just told us they are having problems with foreign currency. So we cannot just say everything is well. We as parliamentarians are meant to advocate and push the executive to actually acquire the forex so that your work is easy. But when you come here and say everything is well, then what is our job? Why are we here? When we go back to our constituencies there are people suffering because they are not getting their second line.
“And of the third line, I’m actually hearing it from here because I have never heard of it. So please I want us to take this issue of life seriously. We have seen people on second line not getting it. So we need to actually help each other to push the executive to make sure they get the forex for medicines,” she said.
Weighing in on the Senator’s impassioned remarks, Gutu North legislator Dr Tichanani Mavetera reminded Mr Mwaramba that the situation on the ground was not seemingly pleasant.
“One thing I need to clarify is that the honorable presenter is speaking under oath. These things are actually quite serious. So I think we need to take these things very, very seriously especially the shortages. There are shortages of ARVs in the country and we cannot try to say otherwise. I think you need to know that you are under oath,” he said.
CCM Country coordinator Mr Oscar Mundida fervently explained that medicines take eight to 10 months to come into the country.
“Medicines are different from bananas where you can just go out and you see someone pushing a trolley and you buy and come back. The availability of medicines is not measured on a quarterly basis. You cannot say from January to March we had so much and then the following quarter and so on. These are strategic commodities,” he said.
He revealed the last CCM meeting had Pharmacy department from the Health Ministry hinting that the nation is headed for stock outs of medicines procured under the National Aids Trust Fund within the coming three months.
Mr Mundida recommended joint health facility visits including members of parliament, beneficiaries from Zimbabwe Aids Network, NatPharm, and health ministry.
“We have evidence from consumers of the commodities that they are getting supplies for two weeks. On two weekly basis. It’s not healthy. Those people need to do other domestic issues. You cannot spend most your time queuing at an outpatients department. That’s not how it should be. Getting three months’ or five months’ supply is the normal practice.
“The moment it starts going down to two weeks it means there is a challenge. And we do want to gloat over and say everything is normal. It is not normal. Mr Manenji indicated that they have not procured under the National Aids Trust Fund. So we do not expect everything to be normal because the National Aids Trust Fund has not procured their quota. So who is meeting their quota? There is a problem there. Let’s be honest,” he said.
The shortage of foreign currency has seen NAC not fulfilling the end of their bargain to provide for the second and third line ART. Further, NAC is burdened with a debt to foreign suppliers for drugs they procured over the years.