Originally published on GI-ACE
Malawi continues to struggle to ensure its citizens receive the medicines they need, and the struggle is no secret: Malawi’s major newspaper, The Nation, featured a report by the Global Fund which estimates that 23 percent of the medicines it purchases to fight HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria in Malawi ”vanish” at various levels in the distribution system. Our research is directed at this very issue.
Baseline surveys explored Malawians’ experiences with accessing their medicines. In our last post, we reported the following findings from our sample:
- 42 percent have been told in the last 3 months that their clinic could not provide needed drugs, indicating significant hurdles in obtaining these medicines;
- 30 percent observed the illegal sale of medicines, indicating that drug theft seems widespread; and
- more than 50 percent believe that theft is an important reason why their community does not receive better health care.
Some additional analysis of the survey results sheds light on why Malawians believe individuals are motivated to steal drugs. Not surprisingly, respondents believe that the benefits from drug theft are high, the probability of detection is low, and the consequences – even if caught – are slight:
- More than 80 percent think that officials can make a lot of money by stealing and reselling drugs;
- 30 percent believe that officials are unlikely to get caught stealing medicines; and
- only 50 percent believe that persons found to have stolen medicines are highly likely to face consequences.
Many Malawians indicate that their lack of knowledge may contribute to the prevalence of drug theft. Nearly 80 percent of respondents believe individuals may be motived to steal drugs because citizens do not know about it at their clinics, and that those same thieves understand that citizens have few effective means to report any diversions they might see.
We will continue to explore these data – and additional data we will collect after new programs to prevent drug theft are implemented — to understand and improve Malawians’ access to health care and life-saving medicines.
 Enumerators implemented the survey in a representative sample from areas that included 97 clinics, resulting in responses from 3,360 citizens.