Health sector should top RBZ forex priority list

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ZIMBABWE has been hit by a severe shortage of life-saving medications, putting at high risk the lives of millions of people. The critical drugs situation, caused by foreign currency shortages, has seen most pharmacies running out of essential drugs, including medications for chronic diseases which are responsible for at least 50% of total deaths that occur worldwide.

Candid Comment,Faith Zaba
fzaba@zimind.co.zw

The foreign currency shortages have forced major pharmaceutical wholesalers in the country, who import between 70-90% of their raw materials and drugs, to suspend operations indefinitely on Monday.

It is shocking that the government has allowed the pharmaceutical wholesalers to temporarily shut down when the country is just coming out of a cholera outbreak, which has claimed more than 50 lives and infected over 7 000 people.

The outbreak of cholera, a medieval disease, coupled with the shortage of essential drugs, is a clear reflection of a failed economy and leadership bankruptcy.

The outbreak and shortages are some of the many indicators showing that the economy is almost grinding to a halt.

What is even more shocking is that while all this is happening, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube announced this week that the economy will grow by 6% and President Emmerson Mnangagwa also claimed that the economy is expanding. He said per capita income in the country has increased in the eight months since he assumed office from $900 to $1 500.

His government is also claiming that the country is getting billions of dollars in investment. However there is no evidence of this whatsoever. It would appear quite clearly that those in the ivory tower see things differently from ordinary suffering Zimbabweans.

Otherwise how would one explain this different view of the same environment?

The drug shortages tell a story of an economy in deep distress despite utterances to the contrary. Investigations by the Independent show many pharmacies have run out of essential drugs for epilepsy, hypertension, diabetes, heart and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, the pharmacies have also run out of allergy medicines and basic drugs like pain killers and antibiotics.

This has put at risk the lives of millions of Zimbabweans suffering chronic diseases.

Just to show the impact of these shortages on people’s lives, it means that 4,5 million hypertensive people and over 1,5 million diabetic patients are at high risk if the government does not urgently avail the required foreign currency to import the life-saving drugs.

In Zimbabwe, the prevalence of hypertension is currently estimated at 30% of the total population, which is higher than HIV and Tuberculosis and of diabetes 10%.

There is a priority list at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and health should be on top of that list. Drugs are essential, they are about preserving people’s lives. They are as essential as water to chronic patients as it is a matter of life or death.

At this rate of deterioration, the situation is going to get worse. The sooner the government rolls up it sleeves to turnaround the economy, the better for ordinary Zimbabweans.

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