TEN private clinics in Kampala have been deregistered for dealing in drugs stolen from government facilities. Some medical personnel have also been arrested in connection with the scam, where the anti-malarial drug â€“ Coartem â€“ meant for free distribution, was found in their clinics.
While this crackdown was long overdue, the Ministry of Health should be supported in their quest to restore sanity to government health units.
Theft of drugs is a big problem in all government health facilities across the country where supplies run out in just a matter of hours.
Because 95% of Uganda is endemic to malaria, Coartem, the most effective treatment against drug-resistant malaria, sells like hot cake.
Malaria is the highest killer disease in Uganda, accounting for up to 14% of all the in-patient deaths or 320 deaths daily.
Malaria takes 40% of the health facilities expenditure. On average, Ugandan families spend 10% of their household incomes on malaria treatment, with the expenditure rising to 25% in poor rural households. The poor households are therefore, worst hit by this killer disease.
While the Government is striving to improve health services, including the provision of essential drugs free of charge, this effort is being frustrated by selfish and heartless health workers and their capitalist accomplices.
This should not be allowed to continue. Uganda spends $347m (sh593b) annually on malaria control and the recent crackdown calls for a tracer study on how much of this money actually reaches the intended beneficiaries.
The Global and GAVI fund scandals are indications that we have some unpatriotic Ugandans who do not care about the sick. The big thefts should not blindfold us because Government could as well be losing billions of shillings in small thefts of drugs from its facilities across the country.
The Government and the National Drug Authority should, therefore, intensify the crackdown countrywide and ruthlessly deal with the culprits to make dealing in stolen government drugs a very risky and unattractive business.
Theft of drugs should be checked