BY CHIKA OKEKE, Abuja
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has trained 899 Nigerian youths as Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Ambassadors and were fully equipped to serve as advocates against the threat posed by AMR in their communities.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti disclosed this in her message on Monday to commemorate the 2023 World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) with the theme: “Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together.”
Annually, the international community observes the World AMR awareness week from 18 to 24 November to raise awareness of the risks posed by the inappropriate use of antimicrobial medicines in humans, animals, and crops and encourage their responsible use to reduce the emergence and spread of AMR.
AMR occurs when disease-causing germs stop responding to frequently prescribed antimicrobial medicines.
This jeopardises the ability to treat common infections, increases the cost of treatment, and disrupts the progress made in combating diseases, while threatening the communities, health systems, and economies.
Moeti promised to continously mobilise the youths to join in the fight against AMR, adding that resistance to commonly used antimicrobials, including antibiotics is a global health challenge that poses grave risks to the public.
Moeti noted that the theme of this year’s celebration called for urgent multisectoral action in the context of the One Health approach to preserve the efficacy of antimicrobial medicines.
She said that antimicrobial-resistant infections caused 1.27 million deaths globally in 2019, more than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.
Moeti added: “We need to take urgent action and address the main causes of AMR, which include misuse and abuse of antimicrobial medicines, lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and poor infection prevention and control practices.
“Also, inadequate use of vaccines to decrease infections; inadequate laboratory capacity including equipment and reagents to guide proper treatment; poor waste disposal practices; and the presence of antimicrobials in food-animal production and crop protection as well as the environment and water bodies.
“Through a strong collaboration with quadripartite partners (FAO, WOAH and UNEP), we have strengthened governance to combat AMR in the WHO African Region.
“Currently, 46 countries have developed and costed national action plans detailing an agreed course of action. Twelve countries have strengthened their capacity for a multisectoral approach to implement One Health National Action plans for greater impact.
“The capacity to generate evidence and demonstrate the burden, guide resource mobilization, and summon political commitment is topical.”
Currently 38 of WHO Member States have enrolled in the global AMR and the evidence generated informed decision-making and amendment of policies in 17 countries.
In Ghana, the integrated surveillance under the One Health approach highlighted the interrelatedness, with resistant bacteria spreading from the environment to the food chain and causing human infections.
The regional director stated that plans are underway to optimize antimicrobial use in the healthcare facilities through integrated Antimicrobial Stewardship (AMS) programs.
She maintained that a standard Regional AMS Training Package developed and piloted in DRC, Ghana, Nigeria, and Zambia was used to train multidisciplinary teams of over 70 health personnel from the four countries, thereby implementing practical, cost-effective, and sustainable antimicrobial stewardship programs in healthcare facilities.
While appealing for increased political advocacy to highlight the threat of AMR, she pleaded with member states to increase and sustain domestic funding, meant for the implementation of AMR National Action Plans focused on infection prevention and control, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene in the communities, as well as establishing multisectoral coordination mechanisms to counter the risks.
Others are to: “Support the building of resilient health systems by maintaining the critical balance between addressing AMR and maintaining access to vital medicines.
“Strengthen surveillance and laboratory capacity for prevention, detection and response to AMR through existing global and regional strategies, policies and guidelines.
“Ensure nationwide targeted AMR awareness campaigns involving various sectors to promote capacity building of professionals on AMR and behavioral change of health workers and community.
Strengthen collaboration among stakeholders, which is key to success in combating AMR.”
She hinted that African countries must unite to implement tailored national action plans, share best practices, and coordinate efforts to strengthen antimicrobial stewardship.
The regional director for Africa highlighted the need for member states to collaborate with international partners, civil society organisations, and the private sector to leverage resources, knowledge, and expertise.
“We all have a role in containing this global threat by improving our health-seeking behaviour, seeking professional advice in the event of illness, and ensuring that any prescribed treatment courses are completed.
“Let us seize this opportunity during World Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week to reaffirm our commitment to addressing AMR together,” she added.
BY CHIKA OKEKE, Abuja