Condom Scarcity Hit Ethiopia: What The Government Is Doing About It

Ethiopia is taking significant steps to address the condom supply shortage that has plagued the country for the past two years. Following a suspension of imports due to quality concerns, the government has placed orders for millions of new condoms in an initiative to ensure a steady supply.

Officials from Ethiopia's Ministry of Health (MoH) and HIV Prevention and Control Office (HAPCO) have successfully resolved their differences and agreed to resume government condom imports. With over 55 million condoms already on their way, an additional 33 million are being procured at a price of just three US cents each (excluding warehouse and transportation costs).

"The government halted imports two years ago due to quality concerns, which sparked extensive debates among ministers. Consequently, a significant supply gap emerged. Eventually, we decided to resume with new suppliers," revealed an anonymous official familiar with the process, highlighting the sensitivity of the issue.

To meet the demand, Ethiopia requires 248 million condoms annually. However, only 80 million were supplied last year, exacerbating the shortage during the current fiscal year.

Condoms are distributed in Ethiopia through three channels. The government imports and distributes them for free to vulnerable groups, universities, and public places. Donor-funded social market schemes such as DKT, PEPFAR, and USAID also import condoms at subsidized prices for targeted groups. Additionally, commercial suppliers like pharmacies import condoms for profit.

The official stated that condom prices will increase "as we change suppliers to provide a higher quality product."

While the government covers 30 percent of the country's condom demand, the remainder is met by social market schemes and commercial suppliers. However, the supply from these schemes has dwindled in recent years due to various factors, including the government's decision to halt free distribution.

As condom supplies have stalled nationwide, private suppliers have taken advantage of the situation by raising prices up to tenfold, with consumers now paying 30 birr for three condoms compared to just three birr a few years ago.

"With national supply at a standstill, we have made considerable efforts to resume government imports. We are hopeful that this will become a reality once the ordered imports arrive," said an HAPCO official.

Health officials are actively working to assess issues with condom imports and implement a new system to monitor supplies throughout Ethiopia. Studies are being conducted by the MoH and HAPCO, and teams have been deployed to regional states.

Officials aim to introduce a new approach that will enable the tracking of condom imports and distribution across the entire country, ultimately restoring normal supplies and availability.

To provide a long-term solution, the Ethiopian government and aid organizations plan to establish a condom factory in the country, with the search for partners already underway.

"Manufacturing condoms in Ethiopia is feasible," believes Muhammad Dawar, DKT Ethiopia's country director. He states that this move will eliminate the reliance on NGOs and ensure efficient use of donor funds.

However, Dawar highlights the need for rubber plantations in Ethiopia, as importing ingredients could cause logistical challenges. DKT, a leading supplier of contraceptive products, currently supplies 30-40 million condoms annually to Ethiopia.

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