Government has disclosed that it loses about US$ 11 million (over MK7 billion) per year through theft of drugs.
According to Dr MacPhail Magwira, Principal Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, a study carried out in 2013arrived at that figure.
Magwira was speaking at Bingu International Conventional Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe during the launch of two campaigns to fight drug theft in the country; The Global Fund campaign, ‘I Speak Out Now’ and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) campaign, ‘Make a Difference’ (MAD).
“We have put a number of measures in place, we have a Unit on Drug theft investigation which comprises with officer from the Malawi Police, the ministry and auditors, these are the people who will be going out in all the health facilities to inspect and verify the availability of drugs in the health facilities,” said Magwira.
He said another research results is yet to be released, and the latest which he said he does not have the figures yet shows that not much has been improved which means the trend is still going on.
U.S Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer said when lifesaving drugs are stolen and not available to sick people who need them, people die, people are unable to support their families or fulfill their work obligations and Malawi becomes not only less healthy but less productive.
“Theft of medicines, just like the theft of property is a crime. So we’ve done what you do in response to a crime … we’ve called in the police and they are responding,” Palmer said, adding, in response to the theft of lifesaving malaria and other medicines we are launching these campaigns.
She said these campaigns encourage Malawians to report suspected theft or illegal storage or sale of medicines and other health commodities by telephone or email.
Palmer said other individuals in health facilities across the country are intentionally stealing huge quantities of drugs from clinics and selling them elsewhere, including across borders.
“They are doing this to profit personally, they are stealing from government of Malawi, they are stealing from U.S government and most seriously they are stealing from the people of this country who need these lifesaving drugs,” said the Ambassador.
To report stolen anti-malaria medicine, government and U.S government have established the toll-free hotline 800 00 847 for land lines, 847 for mobile phones or send an email to [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected]