FAO in Mongolia

Mongolia at the Crossroads for Antibiotic Resistance


There is no doubt that antimicrobial resistance is a growing problem in Mongolia and the rest of the world. In fact, Mongolia is the most prolific user of antimicrobial according to a recent WHO study that surveyed 65 countries (source). Nevertheless, the problem goes beyond the human health sector: In the animal health sector, antibiotics are commonly purchased over-the-counter without prescription from a qualified animal health professional or veterinarian. Accordingly, the proper selection of the right antibiotic for the specific disease in question and its dosage and correct application remain largely questionable. In the best-case scenario, the herder is lucky that it worked and the animal is doing better. In the worst however, the animal remains sick and ends up being slaughtered without consideration of the withdrawal period. These ‘withdrawal periods’ specify the number of days that must pass after the last treatment before the animal can enter the food supply (e.g. by milking or slaughtering for meat). These periods can range between a few days and several weeks but depend largely on the drug used and the animal species. A study conducted by the State Central Veterinary Laboratory has shown that this is indeed a problem in Mongolia as they sampled meat products sold at consumer markets and found concentrations of some drugs which were 6-7 times higher than the permissible level.

The authorities are aware of the issue in both human and animal health and took action already in 2017 by setting up an ambitious multisectoral National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (available here in Mongolian). This plan is ambitious and highlights well the priorities including more coordination across sectors, joint surveillance, drug registration and handling as well as awareness-raising among the public and herders.

However, the plan is stuck and reminds of the situation during a typical working day morning at a random crossroad in Ulaanbaatar: Everybody wants to do something and go somewhere but nothing moves as cars are blocking each other despite having the traffic rules at hand that suggest doing otherwise.

What to do? Will Mongolia be able to find its way out of the crossroads and finally bring this plan into use? Promising activities took place during the #WorldAntibioticAwarenessWeek (read more about this here). It started in Mongolia with a joint press conference on Monday, 18 November that flagged the challenge again to higher levels (source). Additionally on 21 November, over 100 participants came together from ministries, institutes and international organization in charge of health, food and agriculture to draft recommendations jointly. All participations across sectors used the chance to call for joint action and stopping misuse and overuse of antibiotics (see photo and here). 

FAO and WHO supported their national counterparts in these events by participating and setting an example of multisectoral collaboration at global level, regional and national level.