AMR Threatens SDGs Attainment In Africa

By Michael Gwarisa

The World Health Organisation (WHO) data shows that Africa remains heavily burdened with antimicrobial resistance (AMR) compared to all WHO Regions. Africa also has the highest mortality from AMR despite the region having the lowest prevalence of resistance.

In 2015, after realising the need for urgent action to combat the growing scourge of AMR, the World Health Assembly adopted the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance. Over the years, AMR has been identified as a leading cause of treatment failure in several morbidities such as HIV tuberculosis (TB), typhoid, cholera, meningitis, and gonorrhoea among other diseases causing pathogens.

Sustainable Development Goal number 1 (SDG 1) speaks on Ending Poverty, Goal 2 focuses on ending hunger and Goal 3 prioritises good health and wellbeing. However, with AMR in the picture, attaining these goals among others is almost a non-event.

Dr Evelyn Wesangula, the Senior AMR Specialist at East, Central and Southern African Health Community (ECSA) told a Webinar on Demystifying AMR Reporting in Africa that AMR could derail the SDGs if not addressed as a matter of urgency.

How can we talk about health for all if we do not have effective Antimicrobials which are very expensive? To some populations, even the basic of simple antibiotics is not reachable,” said Dr Wesangula.

“The emergence of AMR is also posing a risk to medical procedures. We are now witnessing a lot of organ transplants, and a lot of patients are flying out of countries for transplants. For you to have successful transplants or even cancer chemotherapy where immunity is suppressed, you need effective antimicrobials.”

She added the AMR burden will widen the poverty gap between the have and the have-nots in Africa since most people in the region rely on out-of-pocket payments to fund their healthcare. According to a World Bank (WB) Report on Drug-Resistant Infections and their Impact on the Economic Future, AMR will negatively impact international trade, Livestock production and Healthcare Costs. The report adds that an estimated 24 Million people will be forced into poverty by 2030 and poorer countries will suffer the most.

By the year 2050, an estimated 10 Million people will be dying annually from AMR-related deaths, and almost half of the deaths (4.150, 000) will be happening in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“I can imagine with weak systems, not just health systems but infrastructure across the communities, animal health systems, and the environment and all, 4.1 Million will be dying annually in Sub-Saharan Africa due to AMR,” said Dr Wesangula.

To deliberate and find a lasting solution to the growing scourge of AMR in the world, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly will in September 2024 convene a High-Level Meeting on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) for the second time during its 79th session (UNGA 79) in New York. Experts have called on Africa to capitalise on the UN HLM on AMR and make their voices heard.

Dr. Martin Matu, Director of Programs at ECSA Health Community Secretariat said the UN HLM
on AMR presents the best opportunity for Africa to present its AMR case.

“In most situations, we find that the African voice is not heard in such kind of an important global discussion. As we gear toward the High-Level Meeting on AMR at the UN General Assembly, it is best that we rally our commitment and dialogue our positions so that our voices can be heard at the high-level meeting,” said Dr Matu.

He added that Africa needed to engage and discuss beforehand to package the message the region will present at the UNGA in a coordinated manner.

“As countries prepare to engage in meaningful dialogue and develop strategies to address the root cause of AMR, we understand that the stakes are high not only for our systems but also impacting on our food security and attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

AMR will be on the agenda at this year’s UN General Assembly. The first UN HLM on AMR was held in 2016 and countries signed up for a lot of action. The 2024 edition will reflect on the progress made since the 2016 commitment and also mark the renewal of commitments by governments around the world.







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