Zim livestock under threat

ZIMBABWE’S livestock production is facing serious threats from Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which kills at least 700 000 people annually.

AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi develop resistance against medicines that were previously effective in treating the infections or diseases that they cause.

In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in this resistance against common human and animal infections and diseases, which reduces treatment options, and affects the health systems and economies of nations.

Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao) Sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, David Phiri, emphasised the importance of public education on the correct use of antimicrobials for humans and livestock.

Phiri noted that his organisation was dedicated to working with other partners to address the threats of AMR and further urged the media to communicate accurate information on the serious threat it posed to public health, agriculture and food security.

“Fao is committed to continue to work closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) through the tripartite agreement, as well as with other partners, reference centres, academia and regional groups to support the country in developing its strategy to address antimicrobial resistance in agriculture, fisheries, food and livestock and to contribute to the National Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance,” he said.

WHO’s Country Representative to Zimbabwe, David Okello, expressed similar concern over the rise of resistance to antibiotics in the country.

“The high levels of AMR we see today are a result of overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals,” Okello said adding that there was need to use the right medicines for specific infections or diseases, by citing the case of medical practitioners who habitually “use bazookas where smaller bullets could do.”

Agriculture ministry permanent secretary Ringson Chitsiko called for a holistic national campaign that addresses AMR issues in hospitals, farms and the environment.

“The ramifications of the spread of AMR are too ghastly to contemplate,” he added.

AMR is getting global attention with the discussions at the high-level meeting on AMR during the United Nations General Assembly (Unga) only being the fourth time that the Unga had taken up a health-related issue.
The other health related issues discussed at Unga session (out of the 71 sessions held since its founding) are HIV, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and the Ebola virus.

Unga’s focus on AMR has brought more attention to the issue as a public-health issue of global concern.
Leaders at the UN assembly called on heads of organisations that make up the “Tripartite”—WHO, Fao and OIE —  to collaborate with governments and other relevant stakeholders in coordinating and planning actions to fight the rise of AMR.

Fao, with funding from the United Kingdom government’s Fleming Fund, is working with the Zimbabwean government and a wide range of public and private sector stakeholders to implement a pilot project aimed at reversing the emergence and spread of AMR in agriculture, food, feed, fisheries and livestock in the country.
Zimbabwe is one of the first developing countries to develop a “One Health” National Action Plan on AMR by involving partners in human and animal health and the environment sectors.

The rise of antimicrobial resistance poses a threat to the sustainable development goals and the 2030 Agenda as it affects the progress in the fight against diseases such as malaria, HIV and AIDS, Ebola and other diseases in developing countries.

One of the key aspects of slowing AMR development is the minimal and correct use of antibiotics in both humans and animals, and the dissemination of accurate information to the public by members of the media is critical in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.

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