Major Boost For Zimbabwe’s AMR Fight

ZIMBABWE has secured two flagship grants namely the Fleming Fund and Multi-Partner Trust Fund Grants to strengthen capacity through strengthening Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) detection and surveillance in the country.

By Michael Gwarisa

The two grants are being financed by the United Kingdom and the Netherlands governments. The UK is financing the Fleming Fund grant which is worth over US$5 Million and is being implemented and led by the Food Agricultural Organization (FAO).

Officiating at the launch of the two grants which also coincided with the commissioning of the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory (NMRL) AMR Unit at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital as well as the commemoration of the 2021 AMR Day, Deputy Health and Child Care Minister, Dr John Mangwiro said Microbes were at the centre of infection and the two grants would boost the Zimbabwe’s capacity to combat AMR.

We are pleased that the strides that have been made by the National AMR group program contributed to the program being recognised as one of the best AMR programs in Africa. This led to the program securing two flagship grants namely the Fleming Grant and the Multi-Partner Trust fund grant which are both supported by Netherlands and the United Kingdom.  

“The 2021 AMR day commemorations provides us with the opportunity to raise awareness of AMR worldwide as well as to encourage best practises among health workers and policy makers in order to avoid the emergence and spread of drug resistance infections. We are all aware that there is resistance and if you have an infection and there is resistance, complicated surgeries like open heart surgeries, hip replacement, cancer chemotherapy and organ transplant will be very difficult and  much riskier to do,” said Dr Magwiro.

The 2021 AMR Commemorations day theme was running under the theme “Spread Awareness to Stop Resistance,” and according to Dr Manwgiro, the theme is a commitment for all stakeholders, individuals and organisations to make informed decisions on the use of Antimicrobials. Globally, AMR related ailments have been increasing and according to the World Health Organization (WHO), by the year 2050, the world could be losing about 10 million people yearly at a huge cost.

“We need to rationally look at our prescriptions and say am I not using a sledge hammer to kill a fly. We definitely need to be rational in whatever we are doing as nurses, doctors pharmacists and as whoever prescribes, we must know. To society at large, if you are given medicines by a doctor, please finish your medications, don’t share among your community because you are not sure whether the drug you are sharing is appropriate for the illness that one is being treated for.”

Zimbabwe launched its National AMR program in 2015 when it instituted the multi-sectoral group which included representatives from the Academia, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and various stakeholders. In September 2017, the country launched the country’s AMR situation analysis and national action plan and a number of activities have been implanted under the plan.

World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative, Dr Alex Gasasira said, “…AMR is really a silent pandemic that will be responsible for millions of excess human deaths, increased healthcare costs, loss of livelihood and a threat to food security,” said Dr Gasasira adding that, “In 2019, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution on AMR that led to the political declaration of the high level meeting on the World Health Assembly on AMR.”

He added that it was encouraging to see Zimbabwe implementing the components of
the global resolution.

“AMR is one of the priorities of the Zimbabwe national sustainable development progression 2022 to 2026. The World Health Organisation and indeed the United Nations system in Zimbabwe looks forward to work with all stakeholders under the leadership of government to accelerate action and AMR is prioritized including response to COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, Fleming Fund Head, Holly Rhyner-Jones said collaboration was the way to of the world is win the battle against AMR.

“The investment from the United Kingdom’s department of health and social care will deepen and formalize our countries collaboration, reflecting our shared understanding of the importance of tackling drug resistance. The emergence of the Omicron variant in November is the latest demonstration of how infectious diseases do not respect country boundaries,” said Rhyner-Jones.

She added that the growing threat of drug resistance was being felt both in the UK and Zimbabwe and the world hence the move by UK to collaborate with Zimbabwe through the Fleming Fund. The Fleming Fund’s mission is largely to support the generation of AMR data and ensure the data gets into the hands of decision makers.

“To achieve this, the fund in conjunction with Zimbabwean partners is supporting the development of AMR surveillance systems which will enable Zimbabwe to develop and target interventions to reduce the serious costs of drug resistance.  This work will build on and complement the work of Zimbabwean health partnerships led by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the Food and Agricultural Organization, the World Health Organization (WHO) and OIE.

“One of the most important principles of the Fleming Fund is its commitment to country ownership which is why these investments are delivered in close alignment to Zimbabwe’s transnational and national policy. Over the last two years, the Fleming Fund team has been working with many agencies including the ministry of health and child care (MoHCC), the Ministry of Agriculture Mechanization and irrigation development and the Ministry of Environment Climate and water.”

Speaking on behalf of the UK Ambassador toMelanie Robinson during Grants launch, Geraldine O’Callaghan said “AMR is one of the greatest threat facing humanity. We acknowledge Zim’s commitment towards beating AMR & we must all continue working together,”

The Fleming Fund is also supporting key surveillance priorities included in Zimbabwe’s One-Health AMR National Action Plan. The fund has already contributed to a number of achievements which include the support towards strengthening the AMR CORE-Group Governance Structure, renovation of the Reference Laboratory and other laboratories in Harare including an upgrade of bacterial D-Sections and procurement of reagents, consumables and insulation of high level diagnostic equipment.

 

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