Gov’t Orders Massive Condom Shipment After Two Years Hiatus | The Reporter

Plans for local manufacturing emerge

After a two-year suspension due to quality concerns, Ethiopia is finally ordering millions of new condoms in a bid to plug the gaping hole in supply.

Officials at Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health (MoH) and HIV prevention and Control Office (HAPCO) managed to resolve their differences and agree to resume government condom imports. Over 55 million condoms have already been ordered and are en route. Another 33 million are being procured at a price of just three US cents each, not including warehouse and transportation costs.

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“The government stopped imports two years ago over quality concerns. There was a lot of debate with ministers. A huge supply gap emerged. So, we finally decided to resume with new suppliers,” an official familiar with the process told The Reporter, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Ethiopia needs 248 million condoms annually to meet demand. But last year, only 80 million were supplied, falling further in the current fiscal year.

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

The official says condom prices will rise “as we changed the supplier, to a more quality product.”

The government covers 30 percent of Ethiopia’s condom demand, while the social market scheme and commercial suppliers cover the rest.

However, the supply from the three schemes have dwindled in recent years due to various factors including the government’s decision to halt free supply.

With condom supplies stalling nationally, private suppliers have taken advantage by raising prices up to 10 times – leaving consumers paying 30 birr for three condoms up from just the three birr a few years back.

“Supply has stalled nationally. So there is none. We’ve tried hard to resume government imports. We hope it’ll resume once the ordered imports arrive soon,” said an HAPCO official.

Health officials are working to determine what went wrong with condom imports and implement a new system to track supplies across Ethiopia, according to officials.

The MoH and HAPCO are conducting studies to diagnose the problems that have disrupted condom imports. They have also deployed teams to regional states.

Officials say they aim to design a new approach that will allow them to track condom imports and distribution across the entire country. The goal is to restore normal supplies and availability.

To provide a lasting solution, the government and aid organizations have decided to establish a condom factory in Ethiopia, with the search for partners afoot.

“Manufacturing condoms in Ethiopia is viable,” says Muhammad Dawar, DKT Ethiopia’s country director. The Director believes this will stop the involvement of NGOs and enable the effective use of donor funds.

“But Ethiopia needs rubber plantations. Otherwise, importing ingredients will create hassles,” Dawar says, adding, DKT, a leading supplier of contraceptive products, supplies 30-40 million condoms annually to Ethiopia.

Malaysia and Indonesia are leading condom manufacturers due to their rubber potential.

(Ashenafi Endale and Daniel Nigussie have contributed to this story.)

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