BY REX MPHISA
Many Zimbabweans who are on self-administered medical drugs requiring refrigerated storage are going through a torrid time as crippling power outages continue unabated.
Drugs that require storage in cold conditions include insulin, antibiotic liquids, injections, eye drops and some medical creams.
These drugs are normally supposed to be stored under temperatures between 2ºC and 8ºC.
“I have had several requests from some of my customers asking that I store their drugs for them, but my operating hours and days may not necessarily match the drugs administrative timetable,” a Harare pharmacist said yesterday.
“Some of these drugs may be needed as and when someone is under attack and such time cannot be predicted. This load-shedding is hitting them hard,” the pharmacist said.
“I have been advising many to buy cooler boxes and ice for storage. They have to regularly replenish the ice which is cumbersome and not easy on the pocket. Because of ever-rising prices, people stock more drugs than in the past. This increased stocking is also necessitated by the need to reduce trips for supplies as fuel prices have also been unkind of late.”
A refrigerated and associated drugs manual says: “A digital minimum/maximum thermometer is recommended, as use of mercury thermometers is not recommended. Only medicinal products are to be kept in the refrigerator/freezer, alternative storage should be found for pathological/ food items. The medicines refrigerator must maintain temperatures between 2°C and 8ºC.”
The integrity and effectiveness of the drugs is affected by unrecommended storage, further stated the manual.
Veteran journalist Geoff Nyarota, who refrigerates his drugs said the current load-shedding had seriously affected him.
“Type B diabetes patients like myself and many other people that I know, who inject themselves daily with insulin have been prejudiced because of the failure by Zesa to provide a regular supply of electricity,” Nyarota said.
“The insulin needs to be constantly refrigerated to the extent that it is packed in ice on the short trip home from the pharmacy,” he said.
Zimbabweans have been enduring long hours of power outages attributed to low generation at the Kariba Hydro-Power Plant owing to depleted water levels in Kariba Dam.
Although the reduced volumes in Lake Kariba have been attributed to poor rainfall, it is also believed that during the expansion of the hydro power generators at the dam, a lot of water was reportedly accidentally lost.
A Zesa employee who asked to remain anonymous said the error by Chinese contractors dearly cost the country.
“Remember it is the same river which has the Cahorra Bassa and this problem has not been experienced there,” the source said.
Thermal power supplies from Hwange have also been reduced due to ongoing maintenance of machinery that has affected generation. The government has turned its eyes on renewable energy sources and several licences have been issued to potential players in that field.
In a recent interview in Beitbridge, Vice-President Kembo Mohadi said renewable energy was now the in-thing.