Ksh1.1 billion HIV drugs consignment donated by USAID hoarded at Port of Mombasa

HIV medicaton. [Photo: Verywell Health]

A major row is simmering as a consignment of crucial HIV and tuberculosis donated by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) worth Ksh1.1 billion lie at the Port of Mombasa over tax

USAID says the consignment arrived in the country on January 18 but has remained grounded due to a Ksh90 million tax imposition to Chemonics, a US firm which shipped the medical consignment on behalf of USAID.

Kenya insists that tax for such consignment are only waived if they work through government-to-government meaning, Chemonic was a private entity liable to tax.

If the US government shipped the consignment, Kenya Revenue Authority would not be demanding importation tax.

“USAid kindly requests your urgent intervention and assistance in clearing these obstacles with Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) Import declaration Form (IDF)/import permit applications and tax and duty waivers,” says a letter to the Ministry of Health (MoH) signed by USAid mission director Mark Meassick dated January 29 according to Business Daily.

Besides ARVs held at the port, the consignment also had testing kits for HIV, reagents, TB medication and diagnostic equipment.

USAid had pledged to donate ARVs worth Ksh7.6 billion to the Ministry of Health.

The agency in the letter to MOH said it has become difficult to obtain necessary permits from the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) which will allow for the importation of the rest of the consignment.

USAID was to ship this consignment in October 2020 but did not prompting the MOH to write to the agency asking about it.

There was no response until January when USAID wrote back to MOH an informed it that Chemonic had imported the medical consignment and requested for tax waiver for the third party.

National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV and Aids in Kenya (NEPHAK) has asked the government to address the standoff soon as thousands of people who depend on the hoarded medication could lose their lives.

“We understand a shipment of ART (antiretroviral therapy) from the US government is sitting at the port under unclear circumstances,” NEPHAK director Nelson Otwoma said in a letter to Health ministry.

There are about 1.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya according to the Kenya Population-based HIV Impact Assessment 2018.