Collaboration key to fighting drug resistance Delivering a lecture on climate-smart agriculture to members of the defence forces at the Zimbabwe National Defence University, Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Dr Anxious Masuka said Zimbabwe is now food self-sufficient following climate-smart agriculture interventions that were implemented by the Second Republic.

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke-Senior Health Reporter

African countries have been encouraged to strengthen multi-stakeholder collaboration to address the growing threat of drug resistance to human, animal and environmental health.

Stakeholders are gathered in Harare for the World AMR Awareness Week commemorations which started on November 18 and will run until November 24.

The awareness week is a global campaign that is celebrated annually to improve awareness and understanding of AMR and encourage best practices among the public, One Health stakeholders and policymakers, who all play a critical role in reducing the further emergence and spread of resistance.

Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Development Dr Anxious Masuka, who was represented by Deputy Minister Vangelis Haritatos, said AMR was a complex issue that demanded unified action.

“It is a One Health issue, encompassing the interconnectedness of human health, animal health, environmental health, and agricultural practices. We must recognise that AMR affects not only human health, but also the health and well-being of our animals and the environment we share. 

“To effectively combat AMR, we need a concerted effort from various sectors, with human health and environmental conservation, and agriculture leading the charge. We must work together across disciplines and boundaries to develop strategies that promote responsible antibiotic use, strengthen infection prevention and control measures, and preserve the effectiveness of these life-saving medications,” he said.

AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.

Dr Masuka said the One Health approach in combating AMR resonated with the whole of Government approach, which had been adopted by Zimbabwe where every arm of Government was involved in the national socio-economic developmental agenda to ensure no one and no place is left behind in the attainment of Vision 2030.

“We will continue to promote responsible antibiotic use in agriculture, strengthen surveillance systems to monitor AMR in animals, and encourage the adoption of sustainable farming practices that reduce the need for antibiotics. Together with our partners in the health and environmental sectors, we will strive to create a future where antibiotics remain effective tools in treating diseases, both in humans and animals,” he said.

Health and Child Care Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora said it was critical to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policymakers to minimise the emerging, re-emerging and spread of drug-resistant infections.

Zimbabwe had just finalised the second review of the country’s AMR One Health national action plan, which would be launched soon.

“Owing to the support availed under the Fleming Fund Grant, the Ministry of Health and Child Care has and continues to scale up the capacity of the seven human health laboratories mandated to analyse target pathogens,” he said.

Other activities that have been implemented since the launch of the National Action Plan in 2017 include human resource technical capacitation, review of the infection, prevention and control policy, inclusion of antimicrobial resistance modules in the nursing curriculums and the establishment of One Health structures among many others.

“The health and social well-being of citizens remains high on the agenda of the Government of Zimbabwe in line with Vision 2030, as outlined in the National Development Strategy, the National Health Strategy (2020-2025) and at the global scale, the Sustainable Development Goals. 

“In the spirit of leaving no one behind, the Government Zimbabwe and my Ministry will continue to put in place the necessary policy operational framework and interventions for the prevention and control of antimicrobial resistance,” said Dr Mombeshora.

World Health Organisation assistant regional director Dr Lindiwe Makubalo said the global body was committed to supporting its member states in the fight against antimicrobial resistance and working collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure sustained momentum that prioritised building resilient and equitable health systems.

“As a people and as a global community, it’s our responsibility to preserve antimicrobial medicines’ efficacy, regardless of our location or background. This responsibility demands that we take concrete actions and demonstrate unwavering commitment. We need to strengthen our One Health collaborative approach to prevent the rise and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as much as possible. While the task is enormous, we can overcome it, together,” she said.

United Nations resident coordinator Mr Edward Kallon who was represented by World food Programme country representative Ms Francesca Erdelmann said the threat from AMR in Sub Saharan Africa was mostly due to the growing un-regulated and inappropriate use of antimicrobials across sectors as well as the lack of policies to guide procurement and use of medicines.

This, he said, had led to the proliferation of substandard and falsified medicines.

“These negative antecedents, put at risk, several sustainable development goals (SDGs 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 14, and 15) related to health, agriculture, animals, the environment, and food security,” he said.

He urged governments to prioritise research and development for new antimicrobial therapies, diagnostics, and alternatives to antimicrobial use including use of vaccines for infectious vaccine preventable diseases.

Mr Kallon also called for the reinforcement of surveillance systems to monitor resistance patterns, enhance regulatory frameworks, and promote education and awareness campaigns to empower individuals with the knowledge needed to take action.

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