Swaziland / eSwatini which has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world has only four months stock of life-saving ARV drugs, as the health system in the kingdom continues to disintegrate.
The government of the kingdom ruled by absolute monarch King Mswati III has not paid drug suppliers because it is broke.
The shortage was revealed to members of the Ministry of Health Portfolio Committee when they toured the kingdom’s Central Medical Stores (CMS) in Matsapha which houses Swaziland’s medical supplies.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Simon Zwane, said ARVs were available but not in adequate supply. They preferred to have stock for seven months.
The Times of Swaziland reported CMS Deputy Director Themba Motsa said government allocated about E270 million for ARVs supply, but the Ministry of Finance released only E68 million which was paid to the various suppliers.
The newspaper added, ‘He said the paid amount did not even cover the E100 million owed by the Ministry of Health to the suppliers. This, he said meant that the ministry was able to use the available resources to partly pay the suppliers, but there was still no funds to beef up the supply of ARVs.’
Chairman of the Ministry of Health Portfolio Committee, Mduduzi ‘Small Joe’ Dlamini said the Ministry of Health also suffered fuel shortages.
Swaziland Positive Living (SWAPOL) Director Siphiwe Hlophe said, ‘This is a disaster.’ She said Swaziland must prioritise buying ARVs. She added she had received reports that some clinics were allegedly rolling out expired ARVs to patients, especially those who were ignorant.
Hlophe said, ‘Does the country want us to die because if the shortage continues, a number of people will relapse.’ She said Swaziland would go back to a time where funerals were being held in every corner.
Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world. As of 2017, 27 percent of the population, or 210,000 people, were infected. There were reportedly 7,000 new infections in that year.
Swaziland’s health system is in meltdown mainly because the government, which is not elected but appointed by King Mswati III, has not paid suppliers.
Medicines of all sorts have run out in public hospitals and health clinics across Swaziland. Local media reported in the past that many people, including children, have died as a result.
Hospital equipment, including at intensive-care units, has not been maintained and cannot be used. In September 2018 it was reported Mbabane Government Hospital was unable to feed its patients because it had no money. There are 500 beds at the hospital. Hlatikhulu Government Hospital faced a similar problem in February 2019.
In June 2018 it was revealed there were only 12 working public ambulances in the whole of Swaziland because the government failed to maintain them. It had bought no new ambulances since 2013.
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