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World loses 700,000 people yearly to drug-resistant diseases

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Human existence is under threat as respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections become untreatable, lifesaving riskier food systems increasingly precarious. This was the conclusion of a new report by the United Nations Ad hoc Interagency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (IACG).

The document warned that drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths yearly by 2050 if unchecked. Released yesterday, the report noted that by 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty.

It revealed that currently, at least 700,000 people die every year due to drug-resistant ailments, including 230,000 people who lose their battles to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

The information noted that the world was already feeling the economic and health consequences, as crucial medicines become ineffective, exposing countries in all income brackets and their future generations to disastrous impacts of uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance.

Recognising that human, animal, food and environmental health were closely interconnected, the report called for a coordinated multi-sectoral “One Health” approach. UN Deputy Secretary-General and co-chair of IACG, Nigeria’s Amina Mohammed said: “Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats we face as a global community. This report reflects the depth and scope of the response needed to curb its rise and protect a century of progress in health.

“It rightly emphasizes 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.”

Convened at the request of world leaders after the inaugural UN High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance in 2016, the expert group brought together partners across the UN, international organisations and individuals with expertise in human, animal and plant health as well as the food, animal feed, trade, development and environment sectors, to formulate a blueprint for the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

The document reflects a renewed commitment to collaborative action at the global level by the World Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Director-General of the FAO, José Graziano da Silva, said: “The recommendations recognise that antimicrobials are critical to safeguard food production, safety and trade as well as human and animal health, and it clearly promotes responsible use across sectors.”

His OIE counterpart, Dr. Monique Eloit, noted: “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.”WHO’s DG and co-chair of IACG, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, submitted: “We are at a critical point in the fight to protect some of our most essential medicines.”


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