Moses Emorinken, AbujaThe World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that if left unchecked, antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which already leads to 700,000 deaths globally each year, could potentially cause up to 10 million deaths annually by 2050.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, who disclosed this on Wednesday at a press conference for the World Antibiotic Awareness Week, said that: “AMR endangers health security and our progress towards universal health coverage, by threatening to reverse medical advances of the twentieth century. It reduces our ability to treat diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea and cancer. AMR also threatens our ability to conduct surgeries and to care for premature babies.”
This year’s theme – ‘handle antibiotics with care’, emphasizes the need to use antibiotics safely and responsibly across sectors, from agricultural and livestock production to public health, and also stresses the need to mitigate the impacts of antimicrobial pollution contaminating water and soil.
Dr. Moeti further added: “We are seeing high resistance to common pathogens such as 98 per cent fluoroquinolone-resistant Escherichia coli, meaning there are limited treatment options for people that get this infection.
“Key challenges in combating AMR include: weak regulatory systems facilitating proliferation of substandard and falsified medicines; limited implementation of standards for clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and to prevent and control infections; and a lack of reliable data.
“WHO and partners are working with countries to address these challenges by implementing ‘One Health’ national action plans. These plans bring together different sectors and disciplines to build stronger regulatory systems, to improve surveillance, and to develop policies to promote appropriate antibiotic use among humans, and in livestock and agriculture.
“In the African Region, nine of 47 countries now have functioning multisectoral working groups on AMR and 19 countries have enrolled in the Global AMR Surveillance System (GLASS).
“Twenty-four countries have legislation on the prescription and sale of antimicrobials for human use and six have national monitoring systems for consumption and rational use of antimicrobials in human health. Together, we need to accelerate action to reduce the increasing prevalence of drug-resistant infections”.
According to the Officer-in-Charge, WHO Nigeria, Dr. Clement Peter, “Patients should only use antibiotics prescribed by a certified health professional. The government has regulation in terms of dispensing and prescription of the medicines, however, they need to be enforced.
“We need to promote standards, especially among health workers in terms of prescribing and dispensing antibiotics to patients, especially when they are needed. We also need to make sure that the services are available at the Primary Health Care (PHC), our community insurance scheme is working, and we need to make sure that patients have access to medicines.
“70 per cent of health challenges in Africa is as a result of our behaviours and attitudes. Once we can modify our behaviour, we can reduce exposure to disease by 70 per cent. We need to have a healthier population to drive our economy”.