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UN calls for urgent action to tackle antimicrobial resistance in Africa

UN calls for urgent action to tackle antimicrobial resistance in Africa

HARARE – The United Nations, in collaboration with the African Union and Zimbabwe, has urged African countries to take urgent multisectoral action to address the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which poses a grave risk to global health and food security.

The call was made during the World AMR Awareness Week 2023, which runs from 18 to 24 November, with the theme “Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together”. The event aims to raise awareness and mobilize action against the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials, which are major drivers in the development of drug-resistant pathogens.

Speaking at the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare on 20 November, Ms Francesca Erdelmann, UN Resident Coordinator ad interim, said that AMR was a global crisis with significant implications for health, agriculture, animals, the environment, and food security. She said that AMR had been identified by the World Health Organization as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.

“Without effective antimicrobials, the success of modern medicine in treating infections, including during major surgeries and cancer chemotherapy, would be at risk. In sub-Saharan Africa, the threat of AMR primarily arises from unregulated and inappropriate use of antimicrobials across various sectors, including human, animal, and plant use. The lack of policies guiding the procurement and use of medicines has led to the proliferation of substandard and falsified drugs. These factors not only jeopardize health but also endanger several key sustainable development goals,” she said.

Ms Erdelmann also highlighted the economic cost of AMR, which results in longer hospital stays, increased expenses for medicines, and financial hardships for those affected. She said that in 2019 alone, antimicrobial-resistant infections claimed 4.9 million lives globally, surpassing the combined death toll from HIV/AIDS and malaria. Sub-Saharan African countries, with 99 deaths per 100,000 people, bear the heaviest burden of AMR-associated mortality.

She urged African countries to adopt the One Health Approach, which recognizes the interconnection between the health of people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. She said that the upcoming UNGA 2024 High-level Meeting on AMR would provide an opportunity to set new targets and practical steps to address AMR. She called for enhanced political advocacy, policy development, funding, and international collaboration to combat AMR at local, national, and global levels.

She added that the United Nations stands ready to support African countries in their efforts to prevent and contain AMR.

“May we continue to work together to prevent anti-microbial resistance and strive for a healthier and more sustainable future for all,” she concluded.