By Michael Gwarisa
In a bid to capacitate healthcare workers to better deal with the rising scourge of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), has introduced an AMR module in nursing schools.
This was revealed by Dr Rudo Chikodzore, the the Director of Epidemiology and Diseases Control in the Ministry of Health uring a Press Briefing to mark World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) being hosted in Harare, Zimbabwe. The World AMR Awareness Week (WAAW) is a global campaign to raise awareness and understanding of AMR and promote best practices among One Health stakeholders to reduce the emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections. WAAW is running from 18-24 November 2023 under the theme “Preventing antimicrobial resistance together.”
Speaking during the press briefing, Dr Chokodzore said the nursing module was among other strategies they are implementing in order to equip human resources with the requisite tools and skills to address the growing burden of AMR.
We have trainings that have been ongoing. We have trainings that we have undertaken in our own staff in the healthcare sector on AMR and we have since introduced a module on AMR within our training. This is part of the strategy as the ministry to ensure information starts from training institutions for the health workers,” said Dr Chikodzore.
She added that Zimbabwe also has an essential medicines list of Zimbabwe that acts as a guide to promote the rational use of medicines within the country’s health institutions. The list categorises medicines in terms of priorities i.e. the first option and, the second option etc.
“We also have what are called medicines therapeutic committees which are across each level of healthcare and stationed in the facilities where they also discuss issues about medicines use and they also review data that they have in the health institutions which then advises different antibiotics, antiparasitics and antifungals that they use within the facility.”
She also said Zimbabwe was on a drive to improve and expand laboratory capacity to enhance early detection and surveillance of AMR in human, and animal health, as well as environmental and plant health.
To date, fourteen laboratories have been renovated and equipped with modern equipment and reagents, thanks to financial support from the Fleming Fund. The Biomedical Research and Training Institute (BRTI) and WHO were responsible for providing technical guidance during the renovation of the seven human health laboratories. Through the MPTF grant, a vaccine was also developed as an alternative to the irrational use of antibiotics for theileriosis in cattle.
Zimbabwe is pushing to have microscopy culture sensitivity at the lowest level possible in the health facilities so as to detect the sensitivity of the bacteria, fungi and parasites closer to the community.
Dr Walter Fuller, the Technical Officer of antimicrobial resistance at World Health Organisation Afro-Region said while the threat of AMR might seem to be a distant problem, data shows that an AMR health crisis may already be on the horizon.
“A study conducted in 2022 by the Graham Project in the UK found that bacterial infections alone were the cause of 5 million deaths or 13 deaths per 100,000 due to antimicrobial resistance for high-income countries and this could double for this region. By the year 2050, a total of 10 Million deaths will be as a result of AMR,” said Dr Fuller.
Meanwhile, the Government of Zimbabwe has commenced updating its antimicrobial resistance (AMR) National Action Plan (NAP) 2023-2027, to replace the previous NAP (2017-2021) which had lapsed. The process is being led by the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Climate and Rural Development and the Ministry of Environment with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The review provides an opportunity to assess the impact of activities carried out during the last five years assist with developing evidence-based policies and decisions and evaluate procedures and indicators that could be adopted to achieve strategic objectives within the new plan. Updating NAP will help determine the necessary interventions to address AMR, leaning on a comprehensive “One Health” approach and promoting cooperation and coordination between sectors at the national level.