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US withholds malaria drugs

Just days after the suspension of 63 Ministry of Health workers over alleged misuse of funds meant for Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded HIV project, the US government has suspended the supply of malaria drugs and support to some 10 centres, citing theft and mismanagement.

The US, through its Public Affair Officer at the American Embassy in Malawi, Joseph Monster, revealed this on Tuesday when The Daily Times asked for more details on the HIV project where the 63 employees were suspended.

“…We have identified 10 facilities where reported cases of malaria are far exceeded by the doses of anti-malarial medications distributed and have notified the Ministry of Health that additional malaria-related medicines and supplies will not be provided to those facilities until the Ministry takes concrete steps to curb theft and mismanagement,” Monster said in an email response.

He stressed that the appropriate steps the ministry has to take before the drug supply resumes includes “both disciplinary action and prosecution where sufficient evidence exists”, which means the Ministry has to move quickly to catch the thieves or risk unnecessary malaria deaths in the 10 facilities.

Monster said the US government continues to be concerned with the theft and mismanagement of medical supplies and medicines meant to benefit the people of Malawi.

“While we are encouraged by recent arrests of individuals suspected of selling stolen medicines and supplies, we encourage the government of Malawi to identify and take appropriate disciplinary measures against civil servants who participate in or benefit from the theft and mismanagement of commodities,” he said.

Meanwhile, Monster has provided The Daily Times with details of the HIV project that got the 63 suspended at Ministry of Health.

The abused funds were, according to Monster, provided as part of a five-year agreement between the US CDC and the Ministry of Health with US$2.2 million given annually to fund management of the national HIV programme, including operational expenses of the HIV Department, national health worker trainings, routine health facility supervision and drug quantification, and HIV-related information systems and surveys.

US Ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, issued a statement on December 23 hailing the Ministry for the suspension and put hope in the resultant audit to identify culprits and hold them accountable.

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