Swaziland’s health crisis has deepened as the kingdom’s main supplier of medicines has run out of stock because the government has not paid its bills.
Among drugs in short supply are those to treat HIV and cancers.
Swazipharm has written to all its clients saying it could not buy new stocks because the Ministry of Health had not paid its bill, the Times of Swaziland reported on Friday (6 July 2018).
Swazipharm describes itself as, ‘Swaziland’s largest distributor of pharmaceutical products and medical equipment to the healthcare system of Swaziland, including government hospitals, private hospitals, local government, clinics, humanitarian organisations, private organisations, missionaries, pharmacies and chemists.’
Swazipharm said it had only about two weeks of supplies left and was talking to the Ministry to try to get payment.
The Times reported, ‘Most pharmacies and hospitals revealed that they feared that the issues would not be sorted anytime soon and patients seeking such services would be greatly affected.’
Swazipharm Sales and Marketing Manager Cindy Stankoczi confirmed it had cut the supply of drugs to local health institutions.
The Times added, ‘Ministry of Health Director, Dr Vusi Magagula, who did not confirm or deny that his ministry owed the company, refused to comment and said he was not in a position to do so as it was a sensitive and private matter between the company and the finance department.’
Long before Swazipharm’s announcement medicines, including vaccines against polio and tuberculosis had run out in many government hospitals and clinics because drug suppliers had not been paid. In June 2017, Senator Prince Kekela told parliament that at least five people had died as a result of the drug shortages. About US$18 million was reportedly owed to drug companies in May 2017.
In his budget speech in March 2018 Finance Minister Martin Dlamini said Government owed E3.1bn (US$230 million) in total to its suppliers for goods and services.
In June it was reported that children collapsed with hunger in their school because the government had not paid for food for them. The kingdom had previously been warned to expect children to starve because the government had not paid its suppliers for the food that is distributed free of charge at schools. The shortage was reported to be widespread across the kingdom.
Meanwhile, King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as one of the world’s last absolute monarchs wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds weighing 6 kg, at his 50th birthday party in April. Days earlier he took delivery of his second private jet, a A340 Airbus, that after VIP upgrades reportedly cost US$30 million. He received E15 million (US$1.2 million) in cheques, a gold dining room suite and a gold lounge suite among his birthday gifts.
Seven in ten of Swaziland’s 1.1 million population live in abject poverty with incomes less than the equivalent of US$2 per day. King Mswati has 13 palaces, two private jets and fleets of top-of-the-range BMW and Mercedes cars.
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