Zimbabwe faces birth control pill shortage

HARARE – Zimbabwe is facing a serious shortage of birth control pills and government is seized with the matter to ensure the situation does not get out of hand.

In short supply, particularly in the rural areas, is the Marvelon tablet — a type of hormonal oral contraceptive, commonly known as a “birth control pill or combined oral contraceptives”.

The drug is taken by mouth like the control pill tablet with the objective of preventing pregnancy.

This was revealed in Parliament by Bulawayo MDC senator Siphiwe Ncube, who inquired from Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa what government was doing to address the shortages at clinics.

“We hear there is a shortage of the birth control pill that is called Marvelon. What plans do you have (to make it readily available) because a lot of women are going to the clinics and that pill is not found?” Ncube asked.

Parirenyatwa admitted that there was shortage of such pill and said the government was working to improve the situation.

“It is true that some contraceptive tablets, from time to time, we have shortages and that worries us because women get used to a particular type of tablet and it is good that continuity is there.

“In this particular case, we are in the process of making sure that the particular pill that she is talking about is made available as soon as possible because it is important that all the rural areas get the same type of tablet that is received there because a lot of our drugs come as donations and we are very careful that we have some continuity so that a woman does not jump from one tablet to another. That is why sometimes you get some of these shortages.”

Recently, government tasked the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) to investigate alleged smuggling of contraceptives to South Africa.

According to reports, there is a thriving market for the Marvelon family planning pills in the neighbouring country, where multitudes of Zimbabweans have migrated to.

Reports say dealers sell the pills to women who do not want contraceptives dispensed by South African health authorities.

North of the Limpopo River, the Oralcon pill, which is disbursed for free, is available, but most women, particularly Zimbabwean migrants, prefer the Marvelon.

The pills are smuggled out of local hospitals allegedly by staff and sold to traders at around $0,50. They are then resold for between R20 and R30 compared to the around R130 charged by South African pharmacies.

The contraceptives are also smuggled to Botswana and Namibia, according to media reports.

Parirenyatwa recently said ZNFPC — a parastatal mandated to coordinate, provide and monitor family planning in the country — was expected to give a full report on the issue, which will guide both South Africa and Zimbabwe on how to address the matter.

ZNFPC, which is battling the increased selling of family planning pills on the streets, distributes Marvelon — supplied by the United Nations Children’s Fund — to hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. – Daily News

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