Zambia’s Vice President, Mutale Nalumango, has sought to reassure the public that there is no shortage of drugs in the country, despite widespread concerns to the contrary. Speaking to reporters during an on-site visit to several health facilities in Lusaka, Nalumango explained that the issue lies not in the availability of drugs, but rather in the communication gap between health workers and patients. “There is no shortage of drugs in our health facilities,” Nalumango said. “The challenge is the communication gap between the health workers and the patients, which has sent a wrong picture to the public that the country has a shortage of drugs.”
To address this issue, Nalumango called on health authorities to work towards normalizing the communication gap and ensuring that patients receive clear explanations regarding the availability of medications. “It is important that we provide correct and clear explanations to our patients,” she said. “Transparency and open communication are essential, particularly in times of crisis.”
During her visit, Nalumango found that essential drugs are indeed available and being given to patients at the facilities she visited. The medical superintendent at Levy Mwanawasa University Teaching Hospital, John Musukwa, reported that the availability of drugs at the facility is currently at 93%. “All essential drugs are available and patients are being given the medicines,” Musukwa said. Similarly, the medical superintendent at Chipata Level One Hospital, Moses Mata, stated that the availability of essential drugs at the facility is over 75%. “All essential drugs at the health facility are available,” Mata said. “At the moment, the drug availability situation at the health facility stands at over 75% and that all patients are able to get the medicines they need.”
These reports are in line with statements made by Eastern Province health authorities in December of last year. At that time, the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA) announced that it was procuring essential drugs to address shortages in the region. “ZAMMSA has made progress in procuring some commodities that are lacking in some health facilities,” Eastern Province Health Director, Mathews Ng’ambi, said. “Surgical supplies and medical drugs will be in stock within a few weeks as the procurement process has reached an advanced stage.”
In addition to ZAMMSA’s efforts, the government has also advised district health facilities to use 30% of their operational funds to procure any necessary drugs to supplement those supplied by ZAMMSA. “Our facilities are therefore advised by the government to use up to 30% of their operational funds in order to procure the drugs that they need when there is a gap,” Ng’ambi said. He reassured the public that the government has sufficient funds to purchase medical drugs for all health facilities in the region. “The government has enough funds to buy medical drugs for all health facilities,” he said.
Despite these assurances, Ng’ambi acknowledged that some smaller facilities may experience temporary shortages of certain drugs, particularly those used to treat non-communicable diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. “Most of the time, isolated health facilities run out of drugs for non-communicable diseases like diabetes and BP medicines,” he said. However, he emphasized that these isolated incidents should not be taken as indicative of a broader problem. “The high consumption rate of some medical commodities has led to speculations of drug shortages despite the availability of certain medicines,” he said. “Some smaller facilities at times can run out of some drugs but they normally use their own funds to buy what they need or lack to cushion the shortage experienced.” Ng’ambi assured the public that the government is working to ensure that all health facilities have the necessary resources to provide quality