FIJI DRUG SHORTAGE RAISES INFANT MORTALITY

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, September 3) – More Fiji babies below the age of one are dying in Fiji because of the "out of stock syndrome" where equipment and drugs are regularly in short supply, says the Fiji Medical Association.

The mortality rate for babies less than a year old was 16.79 per 1000 births in 1990.

By 2003, this had increased to 18.87 per 1000 births. These statistics were revealed at the FMA conference and annual general meeting in Suva yesterday.

Conference chairman Dr Temo Waqanivalu said Fiji's rise in infant mortality could be because of the lack of essential drugs throughout Fiji's health care system.

"Again it may be caused by the lack of consumables for proper infection control," he said.

"There is a communication breakdown somewhere between the suppliers and that is why we cannot get supplies on time consistently. It's always the case of out of stock' syndrome."

Dr Elizabeth Rogers, who presented a paper at the conference, said statistics indicated that Fiji's mortality rate for zero to five-year olds was 23.73 per 1000 live births in 2003 compared to 21.67 per 1000 live births in 1990.

She said Vitamin A, a micronutrient supplement, was still not on Fiji's essential drug list. The drug list has names of medicine and supplies that we order through the pharmaceutical services department.

Dr Rogers said bottle-feeding of babies was still common in Fiji even though the promotion of breast-feeding had been an ongoing campaign.

She highlighted the need to have more skilled attendants during pregnancies and the need to increase care for newborn babies. Chief pharmacist Peter Zinck, who did not want to comment on the out of stock syndrome, said while Fiji spent only $5 per capita for medicine, Samoa spent $12 per capita and Tonga $6.

September 4, 2006

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com

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