Distributing condoms to health clinics in countries with high rates of maternal mortality or HIV infection is a great and worthy endeavor. Except, of course, when those condoms are too small, inadequately lubricated, and riddled with holes as in the case of about a million condoms imported to Ghana from China.
More than a million cruelly ironic “Be Safe” condoms have been confiscated and impounded by Ghana’s food and drug authority (FDA), which has announced that Ghana is facing a “major public health issue” after Be Safe condoms distributed in health centers across the country were discovered to contain holes and burst easily. Health officials say that the condoms were also too small and not “adequately lubricated,” so, in other words, pretty much just garbage in condom packaging.
The FDA has issued a recall for all Be Safe condoms on the market, though it’s not yet clear how many have already been distributed in health clinics throughout the country. That uncertainty, says Faustina Fynn-Nyame, director of Marie Stopes International in Ghana, is fueling concerns that the imported condoms have already done serious damage to women who rely on contraception from health clinics to protect themselves from unintended pregnancies and HIV infection:
This is a huge, huge problem. There will be a lot of unintended pregnancies as a result of this, and that means maternal mortality and unsafe abortion. Commercial sex workers also use these products [so] the consequences could be enormous.
According to the Guardian, the condom consignment was imported by a Ghanaian company called Global Unilink Ltd., which “sourced” the condoms from an Indian company based in Kenya called Harley Ltd. Ghana’s FDA (which, as a standard practice, tests all condoms for safety) has followed the latex road of shitty condoms all the way to Henan Xibei Latex Company Limited, in Henan province, central China. None of the companies involved in this public health fiasco have spoken out about their supposed culpability, though the Guardian points out that this isn’t the first condom scare to rattle health ministries in sub-Saharan Africa: last year, South Africa recalled more than a million ANC condoms that the ruling political party had given away.
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