Amhara region faces critical shortage of condom
The price of condoms saw a four-fold increase since last month, costing as high as 40 birr a piece in pharmacies.
The price surge is partly caused by the fast depreciating birr, which has increased the procurement cost of condoms.
But industry insiders blame the Ethiopian Pharmaceutical Supply Agency (EPSA) for failing to stabilize the market by supplying and distributing the product without any interruption.
The spike is feared will jeopardize the safety of low-income households, who are struggling to survive the rising costs of living.
The price differs across the city with areas like Haya Hulet, charging as high as 40 birr and vendors in the areas selling the product for 50 birr. However, around bole neighborhood, some pharmacies sell it for 25 birr, which is still twice the price registered last month during the same period.
“There is no enough supply and the wholesale price has more than doubled in a matter of a month,” said a pharmacist working around Bole.
The shortage is severe in Amhara region, particularly in areas where there was fighting by the end of last year.
“Since the federal government stopped supplying condoms to our region for the last four years, international donors were given the task to do so. However, they have stopped distributing condoms since the fighting started, a situation that may jeopardize the safety of citizens living in the region,” said Wudineh Geremew, director of HIV prevention at the Amhara Health Bureau.
While the shortage is also evident in other regions, it has coincided with a growing concern that the number of people infected by HIV is increasing, as the public continues to avoid prevention measures.
Even though the prevalence rate of HIV in Ethiopia is almost at one percent, it stands at four percent in the capital city.
The federal government last year dissolved the Federal HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office (HAPCO), an entity that was successful in reducing new infections in the 90s and early 2000s, after the rate reached as high as 15 percent.
Employees of the office were transferred to the HIV/AIDS directorate of the Ministry of Health but little is being done in creating awareness and reducing the number of new infections.
Kifle Mitiku, former director of Multi- Sectoral Response at the office, and now staff at the Ministry of Health, says the shortage is caused by delays in procurement of the item.
According to Kifle, there are three major suppliers of condom in Ethiopia. The first one is the Pharmaceutical Agency, which is supported by the Global Fund and distributes the condoms for free to health centers across the country. The second supplier is DKT Ethiopia, which supplies condom at an affordable price, and the third are private companies that import luxury condoms.
Last year, DKT revealed that the volume of condoms supplied to the market dwindled by 20 percent in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Fiteh Tola, its public relations and media manager, claims there is no shortage in the market now, though the reality on the ground is to the contrary.
“We are supplying enough volume of condoms to the market and there has been no supply cut on our side,” said Fiteh.