Action on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in Latin America and the Caribbean

Communications for regional risk management

07/11/2018 - 

"The FAO project for AMR allows countries to develop appropriate National Action Plans on AMR. We acquire technical skills, and in turn, share with other countries and institutions in the face of this common issue." Stephany Beltrán, Certification Analyst, Ministry of Agriculture, Ecuador.

  • In 2017, Latin America and the Caribbean’s 8 main aquaculture producers met at a regional meeting of experts on the use of antimicrobials in aquaculture.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)–when microorganisms evolve resistance to substances like antibiotics–is a major global threat of increasing concern to human and animal health. It also has implications for both food safety and food security and the economic wellbeing of millions of farming households. The health consequences and economic costs of AMR are respectively estimated at 10 million human fatalities a year and a two to 3.5 percent decrease in global GDP, amounting to USD 100 trillion by 2050.

AMR micro-organisms can develop in our food chains and move between animals and humans by direct exposure, consumption, or the environment. Awareness about AMR risks is critical to fighting it. In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), many official health entities are ill equipped to carry out risk communication processes in a systematic, reflective and strategic manner. Even more so with technically complex topics like AMR. To address these issues the FAO project, ‘Support to the development of National Action Plans on Antimicrobial Resistance in Latin America and the Caribbean’ incorporates an awareness and advocacy component into its technical design.

With its strategy aimed at expanding human resource capacities and formulating communication tools, the ongoing project has already strengthened institutions in the area of risk communication on AMR. A pioneer in the region, the project is successfully convening actors from the biomedical sciences together with those from the sciences of communication. "We've had the opportunity to exchange experiences among countries and to acquire new knowledge about AMR as an emerging problem in our region," says Ana Galán, Chief of Communications of the Ministry of Agriculture, Cuba.

Regional results as of 2017 include effective awareness raising about AMR with the creation of guidelines for visibility design; governance of AMR and antimicrobial use through a multi sectoral analysis; and the strengthening of institutional capacities through a regional workshop that launched the project. In Ecuador, the FAO project counterpart and the official authority on Agricultural Health and Food Safety (AGROCALIDAD) recognized the need for a multi sectoral approach to tackle the threat.

"The FAO project has allowed us to connect the technical aspects related to AMR, with the area of communications, allowing for the development of joint initiatives to raise the levels of awareness of AMR," says Julia Fabara, Director of Communications of the Ministry of Agriculture, Ecuador. At the request of the Ministry of Agriculture of Ecuador, the FAO technical team initiated a series of actions to support AGROCALIDAD, paving the way for the establishment of a Committee. The Committee’s constitution was born in a national meeting held in November in Quito, Ecuador, with the participation of FAO, and where the One Health approach was set forth as a guiding principle in the fight against the AMR threat.

The recognition of communications as part of AMR risk management led to the creation of a Network of Communicators on AMR. The Network is strengthening the relationship between governments and national mass media, thus contributing to the insertion of AMR into national public agendas for solutions through the development of appropriate public policies. 

Resource partner: Belgium, Nederlands, Sweden, Switzerland through FMM 

SDGs: 2, 3

Regional Initiative: RIL2: Family farming and inclusive food systems for sustainable rural develpoment

Photo: Scientist works on rice genetic variations in lab. ©Georgina Smith