Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) says the money President Joyce Banda is spending to distribute maize and flour could rescue the country’s hospitals and serve millions of Malawians.
There have been no clear details on how much the president is spending in such trips.
But Mhen says its sources in government put the cost of one presidential trip at about K13 million while the president is donating items worth about K3 million.
At that rate, the president may have blown over K70 million in the past few weeks alone in the food distribution exercise.
Mhen Executive Director, Martha Kwataine, said the money being used for the trips could save millions of lives in the hospitals across the country.
“The money can do a lot to health service. For example, a central hospital: At an estimated monthly cost of MK28 million, it can buy drugs for 4 months and benefit thousands of patients,” observed Kwataine in a presentation she made to Members of Parliament last week.
The money could also pay for water, fuel and electricity costs for a district hospital for one full year.
Kwataine observed that it was costly to have the President, the First Gentleman, cabinet ministers, council chief executive officers, party followers, television crew and Members of Parliament in distributing flour worth about K3 million.
Kwataine asked MPs to join the civil society to advocate for implementation of austerity measures.
She also said cutting salary by 30 percent is nothing as that can be recovered from travel through allowances.
She was referring to the recent announcement by the Presidency that the President and the Vice President would cut their salaries by 30 percent as a demonstration of their commitment to the Economic Recovery Plan.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali confirmed in an interview that various hospitals across the country were facing the problem of shortage of funds to run day-to-day activities.
“We know of this issue. We have been getting reports from District Health Officers. But we have advised them to work within the budget.”