Uganda short out of malaria drugs

Conan Businge | 21 Nov 2008
New Vision
Uganda is running out of malaria drugs in public hospitals, after having lost $9.4m (about 17.7b) from the Global Fund over failure to meet the accountability procedures.

Uganda also missed out on Round 8 funding from the Fund, since it did not apply for them.

In Uganda, malaria is the leading cause of death, killing close to 320 people everyday - mostly pregnant women and children under five.

The country's monthly stocks of around 1.5 million doses of artemethenin based combinations (ACT- Coartem) are dwindling fast.

According to ministry and Malaria Control Programme sources, this is because there were no funds to replenish stocks.

National Medical Stores chief Moses Kamabale, explained: "national stores have malaria drugs for the next two months. The standing stock should be four months, active (set for distribution) stock three months and buffer stock one month," he said.

The Director General of Health Services, Dr Sam Zaramba, said: "The Government availed money and we are buying drugs from Quality Chemicals. The first batch has arrived." Quality Chemicals' Emmanuel Katongole said the Government had placed an order for HIV/AIDS and malaria drugs.

Acting assistant commissioner for health services, Martin Oteba, said Government had put together resources as required by Global Fund procedures and delays were in procurement. He said disagreements with the Fund had largely been resolved and the remaining problems were small.

Out of the $23m which was allocated to Uganda in 2004 for malaria, $2m (about sh3.7b) has not been disbursed, according to the Fund's website. The money was withheld because the Fund was not satisfied with the way the first installments were used.

ACTs like Coartem typically cost between sh12,000 for children and sh18,000 for adults per doze at private clinics, far beyond the reach of about 8.4 million people, who live on less than a dollar a day.