A consignment of antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs weighing 63 tonnes arrived at Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International Airport from Uganda on Thursday night. ARVs are used to suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of HIV disease.
Axel Tibinyane, the acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Social Services, said the ARV supply would last at least six months. It cost the Namibian government about N$63 million (or N$1 million per tonne) to procure. He said the consignment is quite large and would replenish the supply chain.
New Era recently reported that there was a short supply of ARVs at Robert Mugabe Clinic and Katutura Hospital, after a number of patients were allegedly turned away and told to return on another day to get their ARVs, because the medicine was allegedly out of stock.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services issued a press statement immediately after the New Era report, saying ARV medicines at both health facilities were in adequate supply.
Ministry of Health and Social Services spokesperson Ester Paulus said in the same statement the ministry was experiencing problems with local suppliers on tender unable to provide “certain medicines”, which they have tendered for due to the volatile currency exchange rates.
“We are, however, in contact with international suppliers and manufacturers, as well as the tender board to ensure there is a constant and adequate supply of the required pharmaceuticals for all public health facilities,” Paulus explained.
On Friday Tibinyane admitted there was a short supply of ARV drugs prior to the arrival of the medicine from Uganda on Thursday. He blamed the shortage on the supply chain, also arguing that currency fluctuation contributed to the delay in purchasing the ARVs.
“The problem is not just one challenge. We have challenges within the whole supply chain. Our main interest is to make sure we take care of our patients,” he said.
He said another consignment of ARVs, supplied by the Global Fund to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, would arrive in two weeks. “It’s being cleared in Johannesburg and will be transported by road,” Tibinyane said.
He added that the medicines that arrived last week are registered, as they are approved by the World Health Organisation (WH). They would, therefore, not need to be registered through the Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council, which does not have a council.
The medicine was on Friday transported to central medical stores, from where it would be sent to various medical stores and health facilities in the regions.
Tibinyane also called for factual reporting from the media. “We appreciate the media when you bring out things that are not correct. It is good for us, so that we can improve and address the situation. One thing we are asking is factual reporting,” he stressed, pleading that the story about the arrival of the ARVs not go unreported.
Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Bernard Haufiku recently said government would be purchasing ARVs from Uganda, as they are cheaper compared to Asian countries where the Namibian government previously purchased them.
Haufiku has also expressed the view that Namibia needs to set up its own ARV plant.