Forex woes hit drug procurement

Source: Forex woes hit drug procurement | The Herald 31 DEC, 2018

Forex woes hit drug procurementForeign currency shortages threaten availability of HIV drugs

Walter Nyamukondiwa  in KADOMA
The National Aids Council has more than $20 million in its bank account which it is failing to convert into US dollars to acquire drugs including ARVs, threatening future availability of the HIV drugs.

Indications are that supplies would soon run out if no immediate interventions are made while donors were threatening to reduce their funding since the country was not fulfilling its promise to make contributions to the donations.

The development is threatening the use of the $500 million released under the Global Fund for HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

Addressing parliamentarians at a Parliament Capacity Building Programme here recently, NAC monitoring and evaluation director Mr Amon Mpofu said there was need to prioritise allocation of foreign currency for the provision of ARVs.

“The challenge we are facing now is we have RTGS and Nostro Accounts. We have been asking for foreign currency from RBZ and we are collecting money in RTGS,” he said.

“In recent weeks and months, allocations from RBZ have been very erratic such that most of our resources are kept in RTGS and we are unable to procure ARVs.”

Zimbabawe, Mr Mpofu said, could experience stock outs as supplies of essential drugs were now around 30 percent of requirement.

“When the Global Fund gave us $500 million to fund the national response, they actually said you (Zimbabwe) have to contribute something to show that you are serious as a Government. We said we have our Aids Levy but it is stuck in RTGS accounts. They need us to put what we have on the table,” he said.

Global Fund has threatened to reduce its contribution by the same proportion of funds that NAC was supposed to contribute.

NAC has to source about 15 percent of the country’s ARV needs while the rest is provided by the Global Fund.

He appealed to Parliamentarians to lobby for the prioritisation of the Aids Levy by RBZ in the allocation of foreign currency.

Another bone of contention has been acquittal of funds allocated as US dollars which are converted into RTGS once they enter the banking system.

Government has pegged the US$ at 1:1 with the Bond Note and RTGS.

NAC already had a delivery of $6 million worth of drugs which has not been paid for putting it on a collision course with suppliers.

The Aids Levy, he said suffers whenever the economy is facing challenges.

NAC collects about $3 million every month which is supposed to go towards the purchase of ARVs and other essential drugs but failure to convert the money into foreign currency needed by suppliers has affected supplies.

The country’s financial system has suffered numerous distortions resulting in a three-tier pricing system.

Goods and services are quoted separately as Bond note, swipe and EcoCash.

Global Fund provides medicines for about 700 000 (about 70 percent) out of about 1,3 million people living with HIV.

Government and other partners caters for the remainder raising fears that supplies could be compromised.

NAC communications manager Ms Madelina Dube said drugs ordered for 2019 were already being dispensed to people living with HIV ahead of time meaning there could be stock outs next year.

“We have $25 million parked as Bond Notes and when we got the money from Global Fund it was on the basis that we have domestic funding.

“We are likely to see a reduction of funding from Global fund. We don’t have foreign currency. The drugs that we paid for has not been paid for in 2017.

“As such we cannot get more drugs. We had purchased more under Global Fund which we are now dispensing and the impact will be felt next year (2019).”

Senate president Mabel Chinomona said the workshop would result in improved understanding and attention to HIV issues.

“We managed to hit several milestones during the 8th Parliament, including the launch and support of the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians on HIV as well as specific meetings with the health related Parliamentary Thematic and Portfolio Committees,” she said.

She urged parliamentarians to take advantage of their potential and opportunity to promote positive sexual behaviour change.