…USAID Mission Director Discloses

By: R. Joyclyn Wea

Monrovia-April-16-TNR:Jim Wright, USAID Mission Director has disclosed that an assessment done last year, showed that over 90 percent of pharmacies in Liberia sell stolen medicine.

He spoke at a one-day campaign to improve the Supply Chain for donated Medicines organized by USAID’s CSA and CSO Health Coalition.

Wright said while critical medicine is often lacking in public health facilities, the same items can easily be found in private pharmacies and that’s unacceptable.

“That means that medicine is only available to patients that have enough money to buy them.  Patients that don’t have enough money are left to suffer.  This is unfair and immoral.”

Last year, life-saving medicines and other medical supplies worth 14 million US Dollars were donated to the people of Liberia by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

These essential health products significantly reduce preventable deaths and severe illness due to diseases that can be treated or cured.  They are a vital tool in our partnership with the Ministry of Health to eliminate these deadly diseases in Liberia.

Liberia receives free of charge enough testing and treatment products to diagnose and treat every citizen who contracts HIV or malaria.

Wrights noted that this important gift of medicine and medical supplies to the Liberian Government is not a loan that needs to be repaid, instead, the taxes paid by Americans and citizens of other countries are used so that Liberians may have the medicine they need.

“Unfortunately, due to theft, fraud, and mismanagement, these donated health commodities often fail to reach the people who need them the most.  I have traveled to all fifteen counties in Liberia, and I have seen empty dispensary shelves in public health facilities across the nation. This is a serious problem.”

According to him, USAID is committed to ending corruption and mismanagement within the public health supply chain for donated medications and putting a stop to drug stockouts. But we cannot do it alone. Partnerships are the key to overcoming these challenges and every stakeholder in this room has a role to play.

Wright further disclosed that the Civil Society Health Coalition is already identifying where the problems are and helping us understand what we need to do to improve the supply chain system. We are proud to support these efforts through USAID’s Civil Society Activity.

Similarly, he urged the Government of Liberia at the community, county, or national level to work with civil society as an ally in the effort to expedite the last-mile distribution of donated health products to public health facilities, which is critical to ending drug stockouts.

To make a meaningful and sustainable impact on reducing fraud, Wright said the Government of Liberia must also assume more responsibility for ensuring accountability.

“The recent indictment of former members of the Margibi County Health Team and other complicit parties for corruption is a step in the right direction.  The next important step is prosecution.  And if the accused are found guilty, they must be punished per the law to discourage others from corrupt practices.”

He further encouraged the new Minister of Justice to move forward with investigations that target the wider networks responsible for stealing donated medicines from the people of Liberia and selling them for a profit.

“Continued corruption and supply chain mismanagement threaten the ability of USAID and other international partners to be able to provide vital health products. We must all do our part to improve the integrity and performance of the medical supply chain system.”

At the same time, Bong County Senator Prince Moyee said in the past years, they have been wondering if drugs should be made free across all clinics in the country.

Moyee emphasized the need for the Ministry of Health to adopt policies to monitor those dispensers in the facilitates from a drug store.

“Give needed support to have drug distributed, transported in whatever way to ensure drug reach the people. If this administration doesn’t do anything health should be key.”

He further stresses the need for dispensers should be banned from operation clinics or drug stores in towns or villages where they are residing.

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