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Zimbabwe: Raising media awareness on the threats of antimicrobial resistance

AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi develop resistance against previously effective medicines

04 October 2016, Harare - Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has become an urgent global health threat requiring immediate international and national attention. It is estimated that 700,000 people currently die from AMR related deaths and that by 2050, if not tackled, resistance to antimicrobials could cause more than 10 million deaths annually. Most of these deaths are expected to be in developing countries in Africa and Asia.

AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi develop resistance against medicines that were previously effective in treating the infections or diseases that they cause. In recent years there has been a sharp increase in this resistance against common human and animal infections and diseases, which reduces treatment options, and affects the health systems and economies of nations.

To raise awareness on antimicrobial resistance, its risks and mitigation measures in Zimbabwe, the Food and Agriculture Organization in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the Government of Zimbabwe conducted an AMR media sensitization and briefing breakfast in Harare on 27 September 2016.

International and national media that attended the briefing were provided with information and knowledge that would help ensure accurate reporting as part of raising national awareness on AMR. The media briefing comes hard on the heels of a commitment by global leaders to act on AMR at the recently ended United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Speaking at the media briefing, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa, David Phiri, emphasised the importance of public education on the correct use of antimicrobials for humans and livestock. Mr Phiri said the Organization was dedicated to working with other partners to address the threats of AMR and further urged the media to communicate accurate information on the serious threat it posed to public health, agriculture and food security.

“FAO is committed to continue to work closely with WHO and OIE through the tripartite agreement, as well as with other partners, reference centres, academia and regional groups to support the country in developing its strategy to address antimicrobial resistance in agriculture, fisheries, food and livestock and to contribute to the National Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance,” he said.

Speaking at the same occasion, the World Health Organization’s Country Representative to Zimbabwe, David Okello, expressed similar concern over the rise of resistance to antibiotics in the country saying: “The high levels of AMR we see today are a result of overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals.” He also emphasized the need to use the right medicines for specific infections or diseases, by citing the case of medical practitioners who habitually “use bazookas where smaller bullets could do.”

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development, Ringson Chitsiko, called for a holistic national campaign that addresses AMR issues in the hospitals, farms and the environment. “The ramifications of the spread of AMR are too ghastly to contemplate,” he added.

AMR is getting global attention with the discussions at the High-Level Meeting on AMR during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) only being the fourth time that the UNGA had taken up a health-related issue. The other health related issues discussed at UNGA session (out of the 71 sessions held since its founding) are HIV, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and the Ebola virus. UNGA’s focus on AMR has brought more attention to the issue as a public-health issue of global concern. Leaders at the UN assembly called on heads of organizations that make up the “Tripartite” - WHO, FAO and OIE -  to collaborate with governments and other relevant stakeholders in coordinating and planning actions to fight the rise of AMR.

In Zimbabwe, FAO, with funding from the United Kingdom Government’s Fleming Fund, are working with the Government of Zimbabwe and a wide range of public and private sector stakeholders to implement a pilot project aimed at reversing the emergence and spread of AMR in agriculture, food, feed, fisheries and livestock in the country. Zimbabwe is one of the first developing countries to develop a “One Health” National Action Plan on AMR by involving partners in human and animal health and the environment sectors.

The rise of antimicrobial resistance poses a threat to the sustainable development goals and the 2030 Agenda as it affects the progress in the fight against diseases such as malaria, HIV and AIDS, Ebola and other diseases in developing countries. One of the key aspects of slowing AMR development is the minimal and correct use of antibiotics in both humans and animals, and the dissemination of accurate information to the public by members of the media is critical in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

More Information 

Watch Video: Reversing the spread of AMR in Zimbabwe

 

Contact

Leonard Makombe | FAO Zimbabwe Communications | Leonard.Makombe@fao.org

Sithembile Siziba | FAO Zimbabwe Communications | Sithembile.Siziba@fao.org

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