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Preserving effectiveness of antimicrobials through safe, prudent use


Antimicrobials are essential in treating human and animal infectious diseases. However, misuse and overuse of antimicrobials result in Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) which make them less or ineffective at treating diseases.  AMR has now been recognized as a significant threat to global public health, food security, and the global economy by the United Nations, the World Bank, and heads of States and Governments.

In June 2015, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) passed a resolution on AMR at its governing Conference. This followed the adoption of resolutions on AMR by The World Organization for Animal Health and the World Health Organization in May 2015, and marked the beginning of a joint effort by the three organizations to combat AMR globally.

In September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly passed a political declaration, to which Ethiopia is a member, to fighting AMR in a coordinated manner across sectors and countries.  The annual World Antibiotics Awareness Week (WAAW) is one of the concerted efforts to increase the understanding of the general public and professionals on AMR, encourage prudent use of antimicrobials, and promote best practices globally.  This year, the world commemorated WAAW from 13 – 19 November 2017 with the theme:  “Seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional before taking antibiotics”.

In Ethiopia, WAAW 2017 is being commemorated for the third time.  As one of the prominent contributors of the effort to combat antimicrobial resistance in the country, FAO Ethiopia has contributed to a series of events that bring together government, UN and non-governmental partners[1].  One of the activities of the week was a panel discussion jointly organized by partners on 23 November 2017 at the Ethiopian Public Health Institute. The discussion focused on preventing and containing AMR through One Health collaborations; the global magnitude, impact and evidences of AMR; AMR prevention and containment in Ethiopia; and AMR surveillance.

Dr. Scott Newman, Team Leader of the Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) within the FAO Ethiopia Representation, congratulated Ethiopia on the multi-sectoral collaboration and implementation of the one health approach to fight against the national and global threat of AMR in his key note speech. During his presentation entitled, “One Health Approach to Combat AMR,” he said that “FAO looks forward to continuing to work closely with the multitude of partners in Ethiopia and abroad, to mitigate the current and potential impacts of indiscriminate, misuse and overuse of antibiotics.”  He added, “If we look at the problem from a food chain perspective, if antibiotics are used indiscriminately to grow crops or livestock feed, people can eventually consume residues and the ecosystems we live in will also undergo significant changes from persistent levels of antibiotics.”

FAO plays an important role in the reduction of the impacts of AMR in the agricultural system by providing the necessary support to governments, producers, traders and other stakeholders to ensure the responsible use of antimicrobials.  Since AMR is a long-term threat, it requires long-term strategies to address the complex set of factors contributing to the problem. In 2017, FAO has started implementing an AMR project entitled, “Engaging the Food and Agriculture Sectors in Ethiopia in the Global Efforts to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance Using a One Health Approach,” through the generous support of the Fleming Fund.  The project, which is part of the FAO-ECTAD Ethiopia Program is supporting an update and revision of the One Health Antimicrobials Resistance Prevention and Containment Strategy for Ethiopia to address livestock production, aquaculture and the environment.  Furthermore, the project is engaged in a baseline assessment on antimicrobials use and resistance in Ethiopia and reviewing the current AMR legal frameworks.  FAO-ECTAD Ethiopia will also be developing guidance, advocacy and awareness information for good practices with government counterparts as part of this project.

FAO strongly supports combating AMR and reducing the threats that AMR causes to humans, animals, plants, biodiversity, and ecosystems. This effort contributes to ensuring sustainable livelihoods, food security and continued economic development, especially within the livestock sector here in Ethiopia.