Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
VICE-PRESIDENT Constantino Chiwenga has bemoaned corruption at the National Pharmaceutical Company of Zimbabwe (NatPharm) which he said was hindering the availability of affordable medicines, especially those which are beyond the reach of many, including diabetes and cancer patients.
The alleged corruption, he said, was also making the country lose millions of dollars through shady import deals.
VP Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health and Child Care, said there was a lot of corruption and fights over tenders when importing essential drugs.
He said the health ministry was working to put an end to the corruption.
The VP was speaking during the World Diabetes Day belated commemorations which were held in Gweru yesterday.
The day is commemorated on November 13 every year but because VP Chiwenga had other pressing Government commitments, the commemorations were moved to yesterday.
He said the country was losing millions of dollars through importation of drugs, some of which could be locally produced.
“This business of importing drugs must come to an end. We have been facing a multitude of problems when importing these drugs. There are other companies trying to help, manufacturers like Novo Nordisk (a company from Denmark that manufactures around half of the world’s insulin). I think they were offering us medicine for diabetes and for cancer drugs for US$1, but our people at NatPharm refused that cheap deal because they were not getting any kickbacks, no money was getting into their pockets,” he said.
Vice-President Chiwenga said his Ministry is working together with the Higher and Tertiary Education Ministry and local universities to produce medicine and other essential drugs locally, so as to tame corruption and price distortions when importing drugs.
“The thrust is let us make our own medicines, this business of importing (drugs) must come to an end,” he said.
VP Chiwenga said the country has enough expertise and knowledge to produce its own drugs that were affordable to many.
He said unprocessed herbs were also readily available and need to be taken to local laboratories for processing.
“What is only needed is for us to take these herbs through to our innovation hubs, remove the impurities and then we have our locally produced drugs,” he said.
Vice-President Chiwenga said his ministry has engaged China for the production of traditional medicines — a partnership he said will soon start bearing fruit.
“We have just opened a traditional medicines school with the Chinese and we are going to be producing traditional medicines on our own,” he said.
He said research and innovative procedures will be done at universities as the country moves to produce locally.
The triple helix which I announced two months ago is going to take effect where we are going to be working with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation Science and Technology Development on one hand and Industry and Commerce Ministry on the other hand and ourselves as the Ministry of Health and Child Care, we should be able to come up with medicines for Zimbabwe,” said VP Chiwenga.
On diabetes, VP Chiwenga said the disease accounts for many deaths adding that one in every 20 deaths in Zimbabwe was attributed to diabetes.
“Today we are celebrating World Diabetes Day but we have other non-communicable diseases to take note of. We, however, have disturbing statistics showing that diabetes will be the seventh leading cause of death by the year 2030.
A recent study which was done at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals shows diabetes is the major cause of stroke but large cases of diabetes are preventable simply by way of lifestyle and presenting ourselves for screening and testing,” he said.
VP Chiwenga said this year’s World Diabetes Day was also commemorated in recognition of the sterling works of nurses who always provide the front-line health services.
“This year’s edition of the World Diabetes Day is commemorated under the theme: ‘Diabetes, Nurses make the difference.’ The aim is to raise awareness on the crucial role that nurses play in supporting people living with diabetes. May it be known that nurses currently account for over half of the global health workforce. To be precise, they account for 59 percent of the health workforce,” he said
Speaking at the same occasion, World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative, Dr Alex Gasasira said Zimbabwe was in the right direction towards working to revamp the health delivery system as espoused in the National Development Strategy launched by President Mnangagwa on Monday.
“We commend Zimbabwe for its efforts to promote and improve the wellbeing of all in Zimbabwe. Honorable Vice President, allow me to congratulate you and the Government of Zimbabwe on the launch of the National Development Strategy 1 2021-2025 which put the health and well-being of the people of Zimbabwe as one of the priorities,” he said
Zimbabwe Diabetes Association president Mr David Lehobo said, as an organisation, they do not underestimate the need to enhance awareness, management, monitoring and diabetes prevention.
He said diabetes prevention is a dimension that needs to be enhanced because a lot of Zimbabweans are not aware of their status and sometimes become diabetic unknowingly.
“A lot of people that get into the diabetes condition do so unknowingly, for example eating a big portion of isitshwala before one goes to sleep, that is simply putting an application for the disease to visit you. We can safely claim that out of four funerals, two or three were diabetic and two of those might not have known that they were diabetic. This is one of the non-communicable diseases we must be on the look out for,” said Mr Lehobo.