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Global antimicrobial resistance tops agenda at UN General Assembly

By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor
15 September 2016   |   4:12 am
How to effectively tackle the global threat of growing antimicrobial resistance is top on the agenda as world leaders meet at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly ...


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How to effectively tackle the global threat of growing antimicrobial resistance is top on the agenda as world leaders meet at the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, United States (U.S.) from September 19 to 23.

The Guardian learnt that this is only the fourth time in the history of the United Nations (UN) that a health topic is discussed at the General Assembly. Before now, Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), non-communicable diseases, and Ebola were the others.

Heads of State and Government are expected to address the seriousness and scope of the situation and to agree on sustainable, multi-sectorial approaches to addressing antimicrobial resistance.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has become one of the biggest threats to global health and endangers other major priorities, such as human development. All around the world, many common infections are becoming resistant to the antimicrobial medicines used to treat them, resulting in longer illnesses and more deaths. At the same time, not enough new antimicrobial drugs, especially antibiotics, are being developed to replace older and increasingly ineffective ones.

The high-level week of the 71st session of UNGA will take the UN Headquarters in New York.

Heads of state and government from 193 UN Member States will convene to address a range of issues including progress on the Sustainable Development Goals agreed a year ago.

A high-level meeting will agree ways to tackle antimicrobial resistance. Other sessions will focus on responding to health crises; the health workforce; non-communicable diseases; nutrition; and women’s and children’s health.

The one-day high-level meeting on “Antimicrobial Resistance” would be with the participation of member states, non-governmental organisations, civil society, the private sector and academic institutions.

The primary objective of the meeting is to summon and maintain strong national, regional and international political commitment in addressing antimicrobial resistance comprehensively and multi-sectorially, and to increase and improve awareness of antimicrobial resistance.

The meeting stresses the important role and the responsibilities of governments, as well as those of relevant inter-governmental organisations, particularly the WHO within its mandate and in collaboration with Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation for Animal Health (o IE), as appropriate, in responding to the challenges of antimicrobial resistance, and the essential need for multi-sectorial and cross-sectorial efforts.

Also, the FAO yesterday pledged to help countries develop strategies for tackling the spread of antimicrobial resistance in their food supply chains, as governments prepare to debate the emerging challenge posed by medicine-resistant “superbugs” next week at the UN General Assembly.

The increased use – and abuse – of antimicrobial medicines in both human and animal healthcare has contributed to an increase in the number of disease-causing microbes that are resistant to medicines traditionally used to treat them, like antibiotics.

According to FAO’s Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance, released yesterday: “Antimicrobial medicines play a critical role in the treatment of diseases of farm animals and plants. Their use is essential to food security, to our well-being, and to animal welfare. However, the misuse of these drugs, associated with the emergence and spread of antimicrobial-resistant micro-organisms, places everyone at a great risk.”

It further recalls the World Health Assembly Resolution WHA 68.7 entitled “Global Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance” which reflects a global consensus that antimicrobial resistance poses a significant public health challenge.