Tanzania battles national malaria drug shortage

Some anti-malaria drugs on display. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The number of Tanzanians dying from malaria could rise due to a critical shortage of the main drug used to fight the killer disease, a local non-governmental health lobby group has warned.

Tanzania is reeling under a countrywide shortage of Artemether Lumefantrine (Alu), the drug recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the new first-line treatment for malaria, the executive director of Sikika lobby group, Mr Irenei Kiria, said yesterday.

“The government has failed to respond to the shortage experienced countrywide. It does not want to admit it but we are losing ground in this fight,” he said at a press conference in Dar es Salaam.

However, in a quick reaction, the ministry of Health and Social Welfare admitted that there was a shortage of Alu, also called Dawa Mseto in Kiswahili, but said supplies have already been sent to health centres.

The ministry’s public relations officer, Mr Nsachris Mwamwaja, told The Citizen newspaper yesterday: “The shortage was due to distribution delays and not the absence of the drug. The situation did not bring about any negative consequences.”

But Mr Kiria yesterday said latest data from the SMS For Life monitoring tool used to provide information on the availability of the drug at primary care level across the country showed that 26 per cent of all health facilities were reporting complete stock-outs of Alu.

A significant number of dispensaries have been without stocks for over three months, sparking a public health crisis, the NGO revealed.


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