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Malawi loses K900 million to drug theft

By Mandy Pondani:

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has interdicted 31 health workers implicated in suspected drug theft across the country, a vice which authorities say costs the government K900 million annually.

MoH spokesperson, Joshua Malango, said the government continues to put stringent measures to curb the malpractice.

“Although the cases of drug pilferage in public hospitals are high, the are not as high as they were before 2016. Initial investigative audits conducted in 2016 showed that there was a loss of at least K1.6 billion compared to the loss of K900 million noted in 2018,” Malango said.

This comes a week after health activist George Jobe of Malawi Health Equity Network observed that cases of drug theft were still on the rise in the country.

The audit, Malango said, covered 90 percent of all district hospitals, 45 percent of all health centres and 40 percent of central hospitals.

He said the introduction of Drug Theft Investigations Unit had helped in the fight against drug theft, with about 223 cases reported to the police and the courts.

“As I speak, 31 people will be probed because we, as a ministry, appreciate that drug pilferage and theft of medical equipment rank among the serious challenges leading to deteriorating health service delivery in the country,” he said.

Malango assured that the ministry was championing enforcement of new legislation in which stiff penalties were being encouraged for culprits.

But Jobe said there was need to ensure that the government’s actions translate to quality health service delivery.

“We need to stop theft. People are stealing medicine and medical equipment from national to district level.

“Our systems require tightening for investments being talked about by the ministry to translate into improved healthcare,” he said.

So far 50 cases are still in court, 167 culprits have been convicted while six suspects were acquitted.

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