Lilongwe, 13th December 2011: The Governments of the United Kingdom, Norway, and Germany are pleased to announce a grant of USD 33 million for emergency procurement of selected essential primary health care medicines and supplies for Malawi to supplement the Government of Malawi’s purchases over a period of 18 months. The project is a result of joint collaboration between the Government of Malawi, the U.S. Government through USAID, and UNICEF.
Of the nearly USD 33 million being made available, the United Kingdom through the Department for International Development (DFID) will contribute about USD 16 million, while Norway and Germany will add USD 10 million and USD 7 million, respectively.
The aim of the grant is to avert shortages of essential drugs over the next 18 months and to ensure that the downward trend in morbidity and mortality among children and pregnant women is maintained. It is also intended to prevent the health gains Malawi has made in recent years from being undermined by the unavailability of essential medicines and supplies in its hospitals and health centres.
“I am pleased that DFID is a partner to this project which will reduce the needless loss of life due to the national shortage of drugs, which I saw for myself during a recent visit to a hospital in Blantyre,” said Sarah Sanyahumbi, DFID Head in Malawi. “There are complex reasons for the lack of drugs – but most of these are solvable. Hence the Government’s and Central Medical Stores’ commitment to improving the national procurement and distribution system is so important.”
Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi Asbjørn Eidhammer said his country’s support to the health sector has been a priority since the Embassy was opened in 1999.
“Norway has been a pool partner to the Health Sector Programme of Work from its beginning in 2004. We had to withhold funding to POW from November 2010. We are pleased that we are now able to redirect our POW funds to directly support emergency procurement of drugs and medical supplies for all Malawians. We are also pleased to see that the Government of Malawi and Central Medical Stores have shown a commitment to improve procurement and logistics.”
The Head of German Development Cooperation, Hanspeter Schwaer added, "The aim of our development cooperation is to sustain and improve the livelihoods of Malawians. With the emergency procurement of drugs, we have acted swiftly on an immediate demand and in order to protect and save lives."
The Minister of Health Hon. Dr. Jean Kalilani expressed her appreciation of the initiative as it would complement the current drug stock that has been under pressure due to the ever-increasing demand for drugs and other supplies in hospitals.
“This is a clear testimony of the good relationship that has existed over the years between the Ministry of Health and its partners. Meanwhile, efforts will now be intensified to strengthen the Central Medical Stores to ensure that the procurement and supply chain management systems are efficient and effective,” she said.
The medicines and supplies under this procurement will, among other interventions, enable health authorities to treat up to 1.5 million episodes of diarrhoea, 1 million episodes of acute respiratory infections, and 264,000 episodes of malaria during the 18 month period. These three diseases, it has to be noted, account for more than half of all child deaths in Malawi. In addition, up to 600,000 pregnant women will be supplied with micronutrient supplements and medication to enable them to have a safer delivery.
By providing medicines and supplies, the grant will free up resources of the Government of Malawi and Central Medical Stores to bolster on-going efforts to reform and strengthen the national supply chain for essential medicines and medical supplies to avoid future shortages of the kind that have been seen in recent months.
Under the collaboration, UNICEF will procure the medicines in two phases, with the first consignment expected in the country in January 2012. USAID through the DELIVER PROJECT will manage in-country storage and distribution of the medicines to as many as 620 hospitals and health centres throughout the country.
The Ministry of Health will approve the distribution plans and the quantities of medicines to be procured and will work closely with District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) and the Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) to establish and maintain a system for monitoring stock levels and promptly addressing any imbalances to avoid stock-outs. The medicines and supplies will be delivered to facilities in the form of standard kits on a monthly basis, so districts will have a role to play in ensuring that stock imbalances are corrected by moving commodities as needed from low-volume to high-volume facilities.
The Central Medical Stores will establish a system for “topping up” medicines in health care facilities that run out of particular commodities and will continue to be the principal supplier of commodities to central and district hospitals. In addition, as the kits will supply only a basic package of essential medicines and supplies, primary health care facilities will continue to order some commodities through the Central Medical Stores.
The Government, through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, has decided to invest the funds freed up by this project into the Central Medical Stores to support on-going reforms.
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Hon. Dr. Ken Lipenga, MP, thanked the cooperating partners for this timely support which will go a long way in assisting the people of Malawi. The Minister said that it was remarkable that despite the economic crisis currently facing the world and in particular the Euro zone, the UK Government, the Government of Federal Republic of Germany and the Royal Norwegian Government had come forward with this generous contribution for the procurement of essential drugs.
“This kind of generosity will not go unnoticed by the people of Malawi,” said Minister Lipenga.
With the grant, all government and most CHAM rural health facilities will receive supplemental stocks of essential medicines and supplies from late January up to mid-2013.