Subsidized Medicine Is Being Smuggled To Congo While Lebanese Struggle With Shortage

Kamal Amer | Myriam Asmani

A new scandal has come to reveal more negligence in the management of the country’s affairs, which heavy consequences fall as usual on the people of Lebanon. And as usual, those in charge don’t seem to know the how and the who.

This time it’s about Lebanon’s subsidized medicines being sold in the capital of the Congo, Kinshasa, while the people in Lebanon are suffering from a shortage of meds and hundreds of pharmacies have already shut down.

A Lebanese expat in the Congo, Kamal Amer, found Lebanon’s subsidized Atacand, a drug against hypertension, being sold in a pharmacy in Kinshasa.

Since that medicine has become difficult to find in Lebanon, he bought several boxes to send them to impoverished families who need it in his native village in South Lebanon.

The Atacand boxes Amer bought which clearly have Lebanese labels. 
Photo from Kamal Amer’s Facebook page.

He shared on LBCI News that he bought each box for $20, while it is being sold in Lebanon for 22,000 L.L., which equates to almost $2 at the black market rate.

“I bought 10 boxes today for $200. In Lebanon, I could buy 90 boxes with that money. Instead of helping 10 families, I could have helped 90,” Amer said.

Smuggling is certainly not new to Lebanon, but this left people questioning how it is possible that these boxes went through Beirut’s airport unnoticed when they are extremely difficult to find in Lebanon.

With the story making the news, the Lebanese community in Kinshasa teamed up with Lebanon’s ambassador to the Congo, Haitham Ibrahim, to conduct their own investigation, the ambassador told Annahar.

They found out that these subsidized medicines are being brought into the African country mostly by some companies that are “buying them from pharmacies and distributors.”

“90% of them are smuggled through the Lebanese border crossings,” he added. He assured that he will involve the local authorities to investigate the types and quantities of medicines entering the Congo from Lebanon.

Karim Jebara, president of the union of drug importers, revealed to Annahar that no pharmacy across Lebanon has bought more than 70 boxes of the subsidized Atacand from the supplier in a month.

That stipulates that no Lebanese pharmacy is involved in this smuggling. Jebara believes that these drugs were bought in small quantities from different pharmacies.

As for the officials in Lebanon, the caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan submitted a request for investigation to the Justice Ministry. In turn, caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm requested from the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation to open inquiries.

Lebanon’s airport security officials affirmed in a statement that they have been duly implementing the law and preventing smuggling to and from Lebanon.

They also revealed that they have stopped so far, since the pandemic outbreak, over 30 attempts of smuggling and that most of these arrested smugglers were not Lebanese nationals.

It remains that it took one expat to expose the stealing of meds from the people of Lebanon in smuggling operations gone unnoticed by the Lebanese authorities.

Just this week, more of such cases were brought to light, with subsidized cheese found in Nigeria and earlier in Kuwait, and more so in Turkey. And smuggling operations continue openly by land into Syria.

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