Video message on the occasion of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18-24 November 2021)

This week, from 18 to 24 November, is the yearly World Antimicrobial Awareness Week or WAAW (WOW). It is a global and collective effort to highlight the need to act against antimicrobial resistance or A-M-R. The theme of this year’s WAAW is “Spread awareness, Stop resistance” while the slogan remains “Antimicrobials: Handle with Care.”

Antimicrobials are medicines used to treat infections caused by micro-organisms in humans, animals and plants. However, when an infection is caused by a micro-organism that has acquired resistance to antimicrobial medicines, which include antibiotics, treatment can be ineffective and expensive. The patient, sick animal or plant may die.

A-M-R has been estimated to kill about 700 000 people per year in 2014 and this toll is expected to climb to 10 million each year by 2050. We are in the middle of a growing global crisis that affects everyone everywhere, in both rich and poor countries. Everyone should be concerned.

This crisis is a silent pandemic compared to COVID-19. Because the risk of A-M-R is sometimes difficult for laypersons to understand, it receives less attention. It also affects not only humans but also animals and the environment.

Thus, it requires a One Health approach to address it. All the more that we should not neglect this issue and events such as the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week are here to remind all of us that we should act together against this One Health threat.

Globally, F-A-O is supporting the fight against A-M-R in the food and agriculture sectors, guided by the overarching F-A-O Action Plan on A-M-R, which was first launched in 2016 and revised for 2021 to 2025. The new F-A-O Action Plan is built on five pillars:

1) Increasing stakeholder awareness and engagement:
2) Strengthening surveillance and research;
3) Enabling good practices;
4) Promoting responsible use of antimicrobials; and,
5) Strengthening governance and allocating resources sustainably.

The F-A-O Regional office for Asia and the Pacific actively supports countries and stakeholders in addressing A-M-R through these five pillars, by developing tools and guidance documents, building capacities, generating evidence and coordinating efforts regionally.

We assess and support laboratories and national A-M-R monitoring systems. We develop technical guidelines for the monitoring and surveillance of A-M-R, antimicrobial use and antimicrobial residues in animals and food.

We are studying human behaviours and examining the perceptions of antimicrobials use for livestock.

We work closely with inter-governmental organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. This is essential for achieving a higher impact in the region and addressing the sustainability of F-A-O’s A-M-R efforts.

We are also developing more and more collaborations with the private sector. Early next year, a Tripartite Multi-sectoral A-M-R Partnership Platform will be launched to facilitate enable dialogue, interactions and collaborations across sectors and disciplines with the common aim of tackling A-M-R

These and many other F-A-O efforts at the national, regional and global levels have clearly advanced the fight against A-M-R in the food and agriculture sectors.

While we recognize that we are better placed today than when we started, we must also acknowledge that substantial work lies ahead and a lot remains to be done.

We remain confident that with the combined efforts of the Tripartite Plus U-NEP, countries, industries and other stakeholders in animal health we be able to move forward dynamically.

In some ways, action against A-M-R is a race against time. A-M-R is one of the threats to the achievement of several Sustainable Development Goals, such as ending poverty and hunger and promoting healthy lives and well-being.

I urge you to, please, join us in creating a broader and more united front for tackling A-M-R which will help to improve the health of all living creatures and the livelihood of about 4.4 billion people in the Asia-Pacific Region. That by itself is a grand goal well worth achieving by working together.

Thank you.