Long-term solutions crucial for Zim crises

HARARE - The deepening cash crisis seems to be hitting hard all facets of Zimbabweans’ lives. 

And their health has not been spared.

Yesterday, we published a story warning that an acute drugs shortage looms as pharmaceutical companies are now struggling to secure foreign currency to import medicines, even the basic ones.

Of note and great concern, the story highlighted that in the past month, prices of basic drugs have increased by at least 20 percent.

According to a snap survey by the Daily News, figures obtained from three separate pharmacies in Harare showed that widely used Ccomtrey anti-biotic, which was selling for $13 as of August 1, is now selling for $18 — representing a 33,3 percent increase.

Likewise, prices for common cough syrups such as 4Cs — used to treat children with flu and cold — linctopent and benylin have increased significantly.

A 100ml bottle of 4Cs, which cost $2,50 on August 1 now costs $3,20; Linctopent now costs $4, up from $3 while Benylyn recorded the biggest jump, from $4 to $7 over the same period.

The price of Cardura Oral drug which is used in lowering high blood pressure in patients susceptible to strokes, heart attacks, and kidney problems also rose significantly from $15 to $23 while the price of its alternative, Exforge increased from $19 in August to $24.

Without belabouring the point, this development goes to show that Zimbabwe is sinking deeper, as the country lurches from one crisis to another.

Following the death of the country’s manufacturing sector, which saw the collapse of drugs manufacturers such as CAPS Holdings — which used to supply about 75 percent of the country’s medicines — the nation has relied on imports.

The country imports over $400 million worth of basic drugs each year. That’s a huge import bill, before even including other imports like fuel.

In terms of Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe arrangements, pharmaceutical companies willing to import finished medicines or raw materials approach their banks and request payment of specific amounts to their foreign trading partner through the bank’s nostro accounts.

The bank would then request approval from the RBZ, which then does its allocations depending on the available foreign currency reserves.

But that seems not to be working.

Of late, there have been serious challenges in accessing foreign currency, despite the RBZ having the pharmaceutical industry on its top priority list.

This simply means government needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with sustainable long-term solutions, not these stop-gap measures.

It is the ordinary long-suffering Zimbabweans who bear the brunt and pain of these poor government policies.

In this case, the rich and elite will simply fly to Singapore and other countries with functional health systems to get medical attention, while the hapless masses suffer. 

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