HARARE, The Zimbabwe government is prioritizing the importation of essential medical drugs and is working to ensure that adequate foreign currency is available for importing critical medicines, a senior official says.

Last month, the Zimbabwe Medical Association warned that the country risked running out of critical drugs owing to the central bank's failure to release foreign currency for imported medicines.

It accused the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) of sitting on requests to pay foreign suppliers of pharmaceutical products.

"Zimbabwe is on the brink of a critical drug shortage as RBZ dithers on remitting foreign payments for pharmaceutical imports. The country will run out of insulin, anesthetic and psychiatric drugs by end of January unless RBZ releases funds now," the association said at that time.

Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Aldrin Musiiwa told the National Assembly here Wednesday that the government had put in place modalities to ensure the country did not run out of critical drugs.

"We have been assured by Treasury that they are prioritizing the importation of drugs," he said.

"We have actually forwarded a list of essential drugs to Treasury and they have given us assurances."

Zimbabwe, which is using the United States dollar as its chief currency, is battling cash shortages that have been triggered by a number of issues, among them high imports and externalization.

In order to promote efficient utilization of foreign exchange and to re-orient import demand towards productive uses, the RBZ came up with a foreign exchange priority list.

Imports of critical and strategic goods such as basic food stuffs and fuel, health and agro-chemicals are at the top of the RBZ imports priority list.