While the recent scandal in Zambia’s health ministry where unsafe condoms and other essential medicines were distributed to health facilities has resulted in the sacking of the minister responsible for health, people believe more needs to be done in order to ensure justice prevails.
While applauding the firing of the health minister, stakeholders said attention should be shifted to all people who were subjected to the unsafe condoms and other health kits, with some proposing that the affected people should sue the government for subjecting them to the unsafe condoms.
The Medical Stores Limited, a government agency that stores and distributes medicines across the country revealed recently that some medicines and condoms distributed between September last year and January 2021 supplied by a local company, Honeybee Pharmacy Limited, were found not to be safe following tests done.
Investigations have since been instituted to establish how the company was given the 17-million-U.S. dollar contract.
While the country’s medicines regulator, the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA), says the said condoms and medicines have been recalled, people feel that the fact that the said condoms and medicines were used by people raise a lot of questions.
One of the issues being raised is the negative effects of using unsafe condoms and medicines on people, forcing some sections of society to demand compensation for the victims.
“We are urging all young people who may have used the condoms between September last year and January 2021 to consider going for voluntary testing for HIV because the Honeybee scandal must not be downplayed,” Rudolf Mwanza National Coordinator of the Youth of Substance, a youth-led-organization, said.
He said all those who will test positive will have every right to sue the government for endangering their lives by exposing them to unsafe condoms and medicines.
He said despite reports that the unsafe condoms and medicines have been recalled, it is possible that some people used the condoms hence endangering their lives.
For the Resident Doctors Association, while removing the health minister is welcome, justice must be done to ensure that health care workers and people who were subjected to the sub-standard medicines.
Isaac Sakala, the association’s president said there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the health ministry to ensure the quality of service, adding that subjecting people to substandard medicines should not be condoned.
The Human Rights Commission says the revelation of the distribution of substandard health kits and condoms is a serious indictment on the government and undermines its obligation to ensure that citizens enjoy the highest attainable standard of health.
The human rights body said in a statement that the right to health is a fundamental right and an important part on the right to life.
It adds that the distribution of defective condoms directly impacts on the enjoyment of sexual reproductive health rights, adding that the government must compensate the victims.
Hakainde Hichilema, Zambia’s leading opposition leader says it was unfortunate that the distribution of unsafe condoms and medicines went ahead even after they failed quality control tests.
The scandal has not only put the lives of people at risk but resulted in people losing confidence in the country’s health system, he said.
“The sad situation that has now been created is where citizens are losing confidence in our country’s health care services. This loss of trust subsequently endangers the lives of our citizens as they resort to seeking healthcare from unregistered and unregulated medical supplies,” he said in a release.
According to him, the scandal was not only criminal but amounts to crimes against Zambians.
But the company that supplied unsafe condoms and medicines has denied supplying the defective drugs to risk the safety and health of Zambians.
In a statement, the company said all its medical supplies to Zambia are of high quality and in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) standards.
“Therefore, the faulty kits in question have no evidence that it is linked to our supplies. The products that were so-called discovered to be substandard should be available for testing at a laboratory with both parties present,” the statement said. Enditem