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Drugs shortage crisis! – do not play politics with the lives of the people, ignore not calls to declare perennial shortage of medicines a state of emergency, says Dr Canisius Banda

By BUUMBA CHIMBULU

GOVERNMENT should resist the temptation of playing politics with the lives of the people by ignoring calls to declare the perennial shortage of medicines and other medical supplies a state of emergency, Dr Canisius Banda has said.

Calls for the government to declare the persistent and critical shortage of drugs in the country an emergency are intensifying with the latest emanating from a public health specialist, Dr Banda.

Dr Banda has appealed to Government to immediately declare the critical shortage of medicines and other medical supplies in hospitals across the country disaster requiring immediate and effective measures of averting a calamitous health situation.

Yesterday, the Zambia Medical Association demanded that Government should declare drugs shortage in the country a state of emergency and save citizens from mass deaths for failing to access medicines which the government is failing to procure and supply.

 The Parliamentary report on the status on the shortage of drugs in the country was however rubbished and rejected by the ruling party in Parliament.

Yesterday, Dr Anna Chifungula, the board chairperson of the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA) confessed that there indeed is a shortage of drugs in the country and that they were doing everything possible to normalise the situation.

“The reason people have governments is that in an orderly, reliable and predictable manner, their livelihoods must be improved and safeguarded. This goal of citizens is felt or noticed by the citizens when both the quality and longevity of their lives improve. Presently, this is not the case. As the Zambia Medical Association has observed, as a consequence of the perennial drug shortages, many Zambians are needlessly dying. And for those that survive, the quality of life that they lead is very poor indeed. All this is happening under the watch of the United Party for National Development (UPND). This state of affairs is a reflection of failure,” Dr Banda said.

Dr Banda stated that the Parliamentary Committee responsible for Health and Social Services had rightly observed that causes of the health crisis was the UPND’s own ill-inspired and not-well-thought-through action of hastily cancelling the nine framework contracts which were running at the time with no alternatives in place.

He said the firing of competent procurement staff in critical health departments and the erroneous perception that every procurement process corrupt with suppliers being linked to Patriotic Front had exacerbated the dire and critical shortage of drugs in hospitals.

Dr Banda who is also a PF member of the central committee explained that the cancellation of the contracts had led to the total collapse of the supply chain of essential medicines and other medical supplies, which collapse he said was now responsible for the health crisis. 

This non-partisan parliamentary Committee, recognising the seriousness and urgency of this crisis, acting to stem the needless loss of lives as observed by the ZMA, recommended that stop gap measures be put in place to immediately ensure the availability of drugs, medical, surgical and laboratory supplies. 

“The Parliamentary Committee even recommended the reinstatement of some of the nine cancelled contracts. If declaring a State of Emergency is what is now required to save the lives of Zambians, as the ZMA is now demanding be the case, it is the responsibility of the UPND in government to immediately do so. Governments exist to both improve and the save lives of the people that form them. Any measure that can save a life should now be resorted to by President Hakainde Hichilema and his team to do so,” Dr Banda said.

Dr Banda cautioned that failure to act as citizens were demanding could lead to the collapse of Zambia as a nation, and the subsequent decimation of citizens as a result of the never-ending shortages.

Dr Banda noted that merely increasing resource allocation of funds to the Ministry of Health was not enough but should be coupled with wise, prudent and judicious use and administration of the resources.

“At a time when the high cost of living prevailing in Zambia has destabilised families and is creating more diseases, it is a terrible double tragedy that Zambia’s health facilities which ought to save the already frail and beleaguered citizens, are presently grossly ill-equipped to do so. When medical doctors call for emergency interventions, as the ZMA has done, being Zambia’s frontline health security guards, domiciled right in the same ailing health facilities, the government must listen to them and act,” Dr Banda said.

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