A United States-based organization, Americares, has given Malawi drugs worth K175 million (about 460 thousand dollars), as congestion in the country’s referral hospitals reach crisis levels.

Minister of Health, Catherine Gotani Hara, received the drugs on Tuesday at Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) in the capital, Lilongwe.

The donation comes as the country has been hit by an acute shortage of drugs in public hospitals, putting pressure on referral hospitals especially like Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in the capital and Queen Elizabeth Central (QECH) in the commercial capital, Blantyre.

Doctors in these referral hospitals have confirmed that patients are dying of treatable diseases such as Pneumonia and Malaria due to lack of essential drugs.

It is reported that at least three to four sick children are being forced to sleep at a single bed due to lack of space at Kamuzu central hospital

Speaking after receiving the drugs at Central Medical Stores in Lilongwe, Minister of health Catherine Gotani Hara said the donation comes at a critical time when the country is in dire need of drugs.

She said the drugs had come at a time when the CMS was operating at “approximately 95 per cent stock-outs of medicines and supplies.”

“This means we only have five per cent of all the needed medicines and supplies for our public hospitals. For us to reach this level, there have been a number of factors that have created and culminated into this situation.”

The medicines and supplies, which comprise antibiotics, cardiovascular and diabetes drugs and also IV fluids would be donated to Malawi’s four Central Hospitals namely Kamuzu, Mzuzu, Queen Elizabeth and Zomba, Gotani said.

Hara said government was doing everything in its power to address on-going drug shortage being experienced in the country’s hospitals.

Malawi has not had any large scale procurement of drugs since the last one in October 2009, a situation Hara said had impacted on stock levels of medicines and supplies at Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST).

From January 2012, government with the help of its cooperating partners in the health sector, mobilized resources and started an emergency drugs kits project aimed at addressing severe shortages of drugs at primary health care level.

Hara said: “You might wish to know that the Malawi Government is taking this issue very seriously. The government knows that every time drugs are not available, many people suffer as a result.”

“The CMST is in the process of floating another major tender for medicines and medical supplies for the year 2013. This will enable us to create a buffer stock and ensure that drugs are available at all times.”

The minister then disclosed that the donation was made possible through the personal intervention of President Joyce Banda who appealed for help from Americares, adding “this is the first consignment and other huge consignments are on their way.”

Chief Executive Officer of CMST, Feston Kaupa, said his organization was ready to restock hospitals with drugs as it awaited “approval from the ODPP [Office of the Director of Public Procurement] today [Tuesday] or tomorrow [Wednesday]”.

Kaupa said they would instantly start the procuring process from suppliers some of whom, he said, had already assured CMST that they had the drugs in stock.

He said he expected that his organization would have restocked the country’s public hospitals with drugs within eight weeks, adding that a comprehensive procurement plan is being developed to solve the problem once and for all.

Malawi has for long grappled within the shortage of drugs in public hospitals, resulting in some patients being sent back without getting treatment.

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