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Published February 01, 2023 / Public Health

UNODC Report: Alarming figures on medicines that kill in Sub-Saharan Africa


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a report on Tuesday 31 January on trafficking falsified and substandard medical products in the Sahel countries (Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger). The findings demonstrate the need for inter-ministerial action at the government level and coordinated national plans between the public and private sectors and civil society actors to effectively combat trafficking. These results confirm the methodological approach adopted by Brazzaville Foundation since April 2022.

Cover of the report on trafficking falsified and substandard medical products in Sahelian countries, @UNODC.

- Every year, 270,000 people die in sub-Saharan Africa from taking substandard and falsified antimalarial drugs.

- Up to 50 percent of medicines in Sahelian countries are substandard or falsified.

- At least 605 tons of falsified or substandard medical products were seised between 2017 and 2021 in the region.


The drugs involved are being diverted from the supply chain from Europe and to a lesser extent from China and India. They often pass through the seaports of Guinea, Ghana, Benin and Nigeria before being transported to the Sahel.


To learn more, check out the infographic "the effects of corruption on the supply chain" mapped by Brazzaville Foundation.


The vulnerability of Sahelian countries to this trafficking also stems from the high import rate of medical products and the lack of local pharmaceutical industries. Of total pharmaceutical spending in sub-Saharan Africa in 2019, imports accounted for up to 70-90%. The establishment of the African Drug Agency, based in Rwanda, is one response to this health and security challenge.


On January 18, 2020, in Lomé, Togo, the Republic of Niger committed itself to the fight against trafficking by signing the political declaration of the Lomé Initiative against medicines that kill. The signatory countries of the initiative (Congo-Brazzaville, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Uganda) as well as the Brazzaville Foundation and its partners continue their efforts to put an end to this deadly scourge.


In 2022, the Republic of Togo has volunteered to launch a pilot project to develop and implement a national plan to fight against FSM and to model the development methodology in order to adapt it in other countries involved in the initiative.