FAO Moves to Mitigate Rising Threats from Antimicrobial Resistance

James Emejo in Abuja

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Country Representative to Nigeria, Suffyan Koroma, said Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) remained a global threat to human and animal health, and needed a united response to subdue.

He said the organisation had on its part outlined an action plan for 2016-2020 to support the food and agricultural sectors in implementing the Global Action Plan on AMR to minimise its impact.

According to him, AMR endangers modern human and veterinary medicine as well as undermines the safety of food and environment as the misuse of antibiotics in agriculture contributes to the spread of AMR and further undermines the efficacy of veterinary and human medicines.

Speaking at the opening of a workshop on AMR and associated legislation in West Africa, which was organised by FAO and funded under the NORAD project of the Norwegian government, he said it had mapped out a five-prong approach to tackle the menace including increased awareness about the problem, increase surveillance and monitoring and its use in food and agriculture, animal and human context, strengthen governance related to AMR use and promote good practices in food and agriculture and prudent use of antimicrobials.

Represented by Hiver Brussini, he said the meeting aimed to address the issues according to the needs and priorities of countries and regions in Africa and assess current mitigation strategies that would pace the way for development and active implementation of adequate approaches to address AMR and antimicrobial use (AMU).

Koroma, however, said solving the problem required high level political commitment by governments.

He said:”As we conclude these meetings, and return to our respective countries, let us out extra energy at changing all behaviours that lead to abuse of antimicrobials including pest residues in agricultural products for human consumption.

“As the world enters the ambitious era of sustainable development, we cannot lose the hard-earned gains that your governments and your people achieved so admirably during the MDGs era. “

FAO AMR Regional Project Coordinator, Sub-Saharan Africa, Irene Quoba said mandate of the organisation was to help address AMR in food and agricultural sector.

She said:”Whatever is related to food, whether in agriculture it animal health, it is our mandate. But you see we cannot work alone which is why we have the initiative to organise this regional workshop by inviting other sectors including human sector, environment and aquaculture among others, because AMR does not know borders, doesn’t know sector. When you start with one sector, it can contaminate the others.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) focal person on AMR, Mr. Omotayo Hamzat said addressing AMR in the country would require concerted efforts of multiple stakeholders, expressing satisfaction that the National Council for Disease Control (NCDC) had been designated as the coordinating arm of government in current efforts.

He said:”The implementation has begun though slow, but we are gradually gathering efforts and momentum to tackle this particularly in the human health aspect where antibiotics are misused or abused and rational use of antibiotics is very poor: surveillance is also very poor in the country but NCDC has come up with activities aimed at supporting surveillance.

“As we speak, we are collecting data from some sentiment sites to analyse and see what is the trend of antibiotic resistance in the country.

But burden is huge, if you look at our environment, as human beings, when you are sick, what do you do? You ask your friend, perhaps you should take these drugs- and it is an abuse.

“This same thing happens in the animal environment that for growth hormones and other things, you use antibiotics inappropriately within this animal. And these animals when they are killed, human beings eat them and they carry the resistant antimicrobial into their own body because it is the same drugs they are resistant to: you transfer that to yourself and when you use antibiotics eventually to treat subsequently, you find failure.

“Most of the scenarios we see and which we call fake drugs are actually due to resistance to that antimicrobial agents that people have abused over the years.”

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