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New UN report calls for urgent action to avert antimicrobial resistance crisis

The United Nations Ad Hoc Interagency Coordinating Group (IACG) on Antimicrobial Resistance has warned that drug-resistant diseases can cause 10 million deaths each year globally by 2050, if urgent action is taken.

Jose Graziano da Silva
Jose Graziano da Silva, Director General of the FAO

The UN, international agencies and experts on Monday, April 29, 2019 released a groundbreaking report demanding immediate, coordinated and ambitious action to avert a potentially disastrous drug-resistance crisis.

It noted that the report reflected a renewed commitment to collaborative action at the global level by the World Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organisation.

UN ad hoc Interagency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, which released the report, warned that “if no action is taken’’ drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and damage to the economy as catastrophic as the 2008 to 2009 global financial crisis.

It said that by 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty.

“Currently, at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases, including 230,000 people who die from multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis.

“More and more common diseases, including respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections, are untreatable; lifesaving medical procedures are becoming much riskier, and our food systems are increasingly precarious.

“The world is already feeling the economic and health consequences as crucial medicines become ineffective.

“Without investment from countries in all income brackets, future generations will face the disastrous impacts of uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance,’’ it said.

Recognising that human, animal, food and environmental health are closely interconnected, the report called for a coordinated, multi-sectoral “One Health” approach.

The agencies called for immediate coordinated action to avert a global potentially disastrous drug-resistance crisis and prevent staggering number of deaths each year.

José da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said the report’s recommendations recognised that antimicrobials were critical to safeguard food production, safety and trade, human as well as animal health, “and it clearly promotes responsible use across sectors”.

He said that all countries could foster sustainable food systems and farming practices that reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance by working together to promote viable alternatives to antimicrobial use as laid out in the report’s recommendations.

Amina Mohammed UN Deputy Secretary-General and Co-Chair of the IACG, described antimicrobial resistance as one of the greatest threats facing the global community.

She said that the report reflected the depth and scope of the response needed to curb its rise and protect a century of progress in health.

“It rightly emphasises that there is no time to wait and I urge all stakeholders to act on its recommendations and work urgently to protect our people and planet and secure a sustainable future for all.’’

Mohammed urged that the recommendations required immediate engagement across sectors from governments and the private sector to civil society and academia.

Monique Eloit, Director-General of World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), said that antimicrobial resistance must be addressed urgently through a “One Health” approach involving bold, long-term commitments from governments and other stakeholders, supported by the international organisations.

She said that the report had demonstrated the level of commitment and coordination that would be required as “we face this global challenge to public health, animal health and welfare, and food security.’’

“We must all play our part in ensuring future access to and efficacy of these essential medicines.

Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation and Co-Chair of the IACG, said the report had made concrete recommendations that could save thousands of lives every year.

He said that the global communities were at a critical point in the fight to protect some of our most essential medicines.

Ghebreyesus said the report highlighted the need for coordinated and intensive efforts to overcome antimicrobial resistance, a major barrier to the achievement of many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Convened at the request of world leaders after the first ever UN High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance in 2016, the expert group brought together partners across the UN, international organisations and individuals with expertise across human, animal and plant health.

Others are from the food, animal feed, trade, development and environment sectors, to formulate a blueprint for the fight against antimicrobial resistance. 

By Hawa Lawal

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